Sam Max (b. 1995, Pennsylvania) is a playwright, director, and filmmaker whose work is known for its “poetic spaces where death and dreams converge, making otherworldly encounters possible" (Suhrkamp). Their work frequently engages with topics of sexuality, gender, class, youth, violence, the film industry, and Americana.
After early projects as a performance artist which landed at Museum of Sex, Under the Radar, and other DIY spaces, Sam began directing their own work in 2019 with a production of their play Coop at Paradise Factory in the East Village. The play then held a German-language debut at the prestigious Theatertreffen (Berlin) in the Stückemarkt program. The play was called "an extraordinary debut piece [...], telling an exciting, atmospherically gripping story in a nonlinear fashion by fluidly interlacing two levels of reality: the choreographed, self-contained rhythms of everyday life with a para-real world of the subconscious" (Suhrkamp). The play later transferred to ETA Hoffmann Theater in Bavaria, where its premiere was hailed "remarkable [...], captures the monstrosity of compulsively lived heteronormativity, as well as the vulnerability of the human psyche" (Die Deutsche Bühne). The play was then also translated into Mandarin by CHEN Si'an and held workshops at Goethe-Institut Beijing in China, and published in One-Way Street Journal (Beijing). As a part of their German premiers they were also interviewed by Simon Stephens as a part of the Royal Court Playwright's Podcast.
Referred to as a new "theater anarchist" (Suhrkamp), in 2021 Sam's work for stage was acquired by Suhrkamp Theater Verlag, where they are also represented as a Director in the German-speaking regions.
In 2023 Sam was invited to be a Guest Director at Deutsches Theater Berlin, under commission to premiere a new work on the ensemble (The Holes) in 2024. They also hold a commission to premiere a new work (The Houseguest) in the German State Theaters, to be directed by Ersan Mondtag (also 2024).
In New York sam is a resident playwright of New Dramatists (2021-2029) and a frequent Directing Resident and Directing Lab mentor at The Mercury Store. Their performance work has been previously presented at National Sawdust, Abrons Arts Center, Joe's Pub, Cutting Ball Theater (San Francisco), DAGESH Transitions Festival (Vienna), among others.
In addition to their work for stage, Sam was named one of Filmmaker Magazine's "25 New Faces of Independent Film," following the Sundance World Premiere of their first film, Chaperone. They are currently working with Kindred Spirit and Cousins on their debut feature film, Baby.
Sam's artistic and producing work has been covered by The New York Times, The New Yorker, Filmmaker Magazine, IndieWire, Screen Slate, among many others.
Their critical writing has been published, or is forthcoming, in Movement Research Performance Journal, BOFFO's Talking to the Sun at Fire Island, Arcane Press, 53rd State Press's The Occasional, Suhrkamp Theater Magazin, and frequently at Culturebot.
Sam is the recipient of the 2021 Lotos Foundation Prize in the Arts and Sciences, and the 2019 Chesley-Bumbalo Playwriting Award. They were an Honorable Mention for the Relentless Award in 2019. In 2018 they were named a member of the Young & Hungry List’s “Top 100 New Hollywood Writers.”