E. M. Lewis

E. M. Lewis

E. M. Lewis is an award-winning playwright, teacher, and librettist. Her work has been produced around the world, and published by Samuel French.

She received the Steinberg Award for Song of Extinction and the Primus Prize for Heads from the American Theater Critics Association, the Ted Schmitt Award from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for outstanding writing of a world premiere play, a...
E. M. Lewis is an award-winning playwright, teacher, and librettist. Her work has been produced around the world, and published by Samuel French.

She received the Steinberg Award for Song of Extinction and the Primus Prize for Heads from the American Theater Critics Association, the Ted Schmitt Award from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for outstanding writing of a world premiere play, a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, a playwriting fellowship from the New Jersey State Arts Commission, and the 2016 Oregon Literary Fellowship in Drama. She was a finalist for the Shakespeare’s Sister Fellowship in 2014. She has worked with theater companies and arts organizations across the country on her plays, including the Lark, the William Inge Center for the Arts, the Ashland New Plays Festival, Page 73, and many more.

Theater Work:
Lewis’ play Now Comes the Night was part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival in Washington DC last year, and was published in the anthology Best Plays from Theater Festivals 2016. The Gun Show premiered in Chicago in 2014, and has since been produced in more than a dozen theaters across the country, including Coho in Portland. It has upcoming productions scheduled in Richmond, Denver, Washington, DC, and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, and will be published in the upcoming anthology The Best American Short Plays 2015-2016.

Two of Lewis’ newest plays will be on stage next year: Magellanica will have its world premiere at Artists Repertory Theater and Apple Season will have its world premiere at New Jersey Repertory Theater. Her other plays include: Infinite Black Suitcase, The Study (aka Reading to Vegetables), True Story, and You Can See All the Stars (a play for college students commissioned by the Kennedy Center). She is currently working on an intimate play set in an Oregon vineyard called Wine Country, and a big, new socio-political play called The Great Divide.

Opera Work:
Lewis is currently working with her composer partner on a full-length, family-friendly opera commissioned by American Lyric Theater called Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Fallen Giant. She has other opera projects in mind and in progress as well!

Teaching:
Lewis teaches playwriting on a semi-regular basis — most recently an Intro to Playwriting class at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She is looking forward to a five week residency in spring of 2018 at Southern Illinois State University at Edwardsville.

Other:
Lewis was born and raised in rural Oregon, and has recently returned to the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She lives on her family’s farm, where she writes full time, travels regularly with her theater work, teaches occasionally, and drives tractor whenever she feels like it.

Upcoming in 2017/2018:

MAGELLANICA: World premiere production at Artists Repertory Theater in Portland, Oregon in January 2018.

APPLE SEASON:
Workshop and staged reading in the Women Playwrights Initiative at Ivoryton Playhouse in Connecticut in March 2017.
World premiere production at New Jersey Repertory Theater in 2018.

THE GUN SHOW:
Part of the Empathy in Action Festival in Richmond, Virginia — directed by Laine Satterfield and featuring Bostin Christopher.
Production at And Toto Too Theater in Denver, Colorado — directed by Susan Lyles.
More performances across the U. S. and around the world soon to be announced!

YOU CAN SEE ALL THE STARS: A new one-act play for college performers, commissioned by the Kennedy Center, will be showcased at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festivals across the country in spring of 2017.

TRUE STORY: Part of the 2017-2018 season at Acadiana Repertory Theater in Louisiana

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE FALLEN GIANT: American Lyric Theater will present a piano vocal concert of this new family-friendly opera by composer Evan Meier and librettist E. M. Lewis at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City in March 2017.

TEACHING: Residency and playwriting intensive at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in spring of 2018.

Plays

  • How the Light Gets In
    A travel writer who never travels. A Japanese architect who can’t figure out how to build a simple tea house. A tattoo artist who refuses to draw on a woman’s skin. And a homeless girl who lives under a weeping willow tree in the Japanese Garden. A romantic comedy (of sorts) about four lonely people who find each other when one of them falls apart.
  • The Great Divide
    This is a play about the Occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon. It's a play about protest in America. It's a play about a young woman finding her voice. It's about everything that's tearing us apart... and what brings us together.
  • You Can See All the Stars
    Commissioned by the Kennedy Center, to be showcased at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival 2017. You Can See All the Stars is about a college student whose life has been shattered, and how she picks up the pieces.
  • Apple Season
    Lissie and her brother, Roger, fled their family farm when they were both still in high school. Today, they've come back for their father's funeral. When Billy -- who they both knew when they were kids -- offers to buy the farm, it sets all three of them tumbling down a rabbit hole of memory and grief, as they try to let go of a tangled past that refuses to let go of them.
  • Now Comes the Night
    After being held hostage in Iraq for eighteen months, American journalist Michael Aprés has been released by his captors. But his colleague is beginning to suspect that Michael isn't free yet. An explosive television interview puts their friendship to the test. Secrets, lies, and betrayal haunt both men. When one last opportunity to be a hero presents itself, they are determined to take it. But at...
    After being held hostage in Iraq for eighteen months, American journalist Michael Aprés has been released by his captors. But his colleague is beginning to suspect that Michael isn't free yet. An explosive television interview puts their friendship to the test. Secrets, lies, and betrayal haunt both men. When one last opportunity to be a hero presents itself, they are determined to take it. But at what cost?

    A free-standing sequel to the Primus Prize winning play HEADS.
  • Magellanica
    In 1985, an international group of scientists travel to Antarctica to find out if there really is a hole in the sky. During the eight and a half months that they spend locked in together at the South Pole research station, they work and study and love and fight... and try to figure out the life-changing implications of their discoveries.

    Magellanica is a fictional account of a very real moment in...
    In 1985, an international group of scientists travel to Antarctica to find out if there really is a hole in the sky. During the eight and a half months that they spend locked in together at the South Pole research station, they work and study and love and fight... and try to figure out the life-changing implications of their discoveries.

    Magellanica is a fictional account of a very real moment in history, when the existence of a hole in the ozone layer became the subject of international debate. At the center of the story, a Russian climatologist and an American climatologist are forced to set aside their countries' Cold War hostilities and work together to figure out what is happening. But there is more at stake than that. An African American engineer must leave behind the ghosts that followed him home from the Vietnam War in order to become a real leader to this expedition. A young Chinese-American physicist loses her way in the wake of two losses, and finds her calling. A British glaciologist finds alarming data on glacier melt and reveals long-hidden secrets about himself. A jack of all trades becomes an indispensible part of the team. A Norwegian ornithologist turns his careful gaze on the people around him. And a Bulgarian cartographer steps into the undiscovered country in order to draw his new and accurate map of the world. All of the eight scientists and engineers begin to learn, in this small, cold crucible, how much they depend upon each other for their very survival.

    This play is epic in both scope and scale. It reaches back to the heroic early Antarctic explorers, and forward to the issue of climate change that we are grappling with today. It wrestles with our historic western acts of Empire building and "manifest destiny," and our current need to create real global partnerships that are fair and balanced.

    Magellanica is about how capable we are of creating a healthier, more peaceful, harmonious global community -- while recognizing how challenging it can be. It celebrates scientific endeavor. It demands that we set aside political differences to work for the common good. It is determinedly diverse -- a representation of our world in these eight men and women that celebrates their unique perspectives, languages, and cultures. It is big and bold and theatrical.
  • Catch
    A secret from John’s past threatens to destroy his carefully constructed life. A play about friendship, baseball and accounting, for nine players.
  • Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday
    In one hour, Lynn is going to climb onto a Greyhound bus, leaving her home, her husband, her job and her family behind to work on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska; her family has decided that they’ll do anything to make her stay.

    “…the look and tenor of a domestic comedy layered on top of the emotional mysteries and unspoken threats of a Harold Pinter drama.” -Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • True Story
    Everybody knows that Donnie Lawrence killed his wife. They just think he got away with it. But when mystery writer Hal Walker is hired to ghostwrite this “story of the century," Hal is determined to discover the truth -- even if he has to grapple with all his own whiskey-soaked ghosts to do it. He wants to save Donnie's daughter, Miriam. But he may not even be able to save himself. A slick,...
    Everybody knows that Donnie Lawrence killed his wife. They just think he got away with it. But when mystery writer Hal Walker is hired to ghostwrite this “story of the century," Hal is determined to discover the truth -- even if he has to grapple with all his own whiskey-soaked ghosts to do it. He wants to save Donnie's daughter, Miriam. But he may not even be able to save himself. A slick, surprising, post-modern play about true crime and terrible consequences.

    “…a tense and riveting eighty minutes… Sly and smartly crafted.” -Simon Saltzman, Curtain-Up

    “Though EM Lewis’s 80-minute thriller TRUE STORY pays homage to Raymond Chandler’s detective-story and film-noir tradition of the 1930s and ‘40s, the play offers a more current (cell-phone era) exploration of the genre, combining the twists and turns of a gripping murder mystery with the profound human issues of coping with loss, assuming responsibility, the nature of truth, and the desire for justice. Passage Theatre Company’s world-premiere production, directed with wit and suspense by Damon Bonetti, succeeds in delivering all the surprises, humor, emotion, and psychology inherent in the script.” -Deborah Miller, Phindie.com
  • The Study (or Reading to Vegetables)
    A psychological thriller.

    Rachel, a pre-med college student, takes a job as a research assistant on a psychological experiment. When someone is badly injured, the inquiry focuses on whether she is responsible for what went wrong. Inspired by Stanley Milgram’s "obedience" experiments in the 1960’s.
  • Infinite Black Suitcase
    The story of one day in a small Oregon town and three families who are trying, in the most loving and human ways, to deal with death and dying.

    Published by Samuel French. Visit the Samuel French website to preview the play, purchase a copy, or license it for production!

    https://www.samuelfrench.com/a/288/em-lewis

  • Heads
    A British Embassy worker, an American engineer, a network journalist and a freelance photographer are held captive in Iraq; as death draws close, each hostage must decide what he’ll do to survive.

    Winner of the Primus Prize from the American Theater Critics Association

    “…provocative and wonderfully threatening.” — Edward Albee

    –Charles McNulty for LA Times * THE...
    A British Embassy worker, an American engineer, a network journalist and a freelance photographer are held captive in Iraq; as death draws close, each hostage must decide what he’ll do to survive.

    Winner of the Primus Prize from the American Theater Critics Association

    “…provocative and wonderfully threatening.” — Edward Albee

    –Charles McNulty for LA Times * THE BEST OF 2007 – Top 10 List – “EM Lewis’ beautifully acted hostage drama, set in war-torn Iraq, left out the political preaching, but slowly opened up into a metaphor suggesting both the necessity and futility of hope.”

    CRITICS CHOICE! –David Ng for LA Times
    “EM Lewis’ new drama at the Blank Theatre Company, tells a story so topical that it feels as if the play was co-written by CNN…”

    GO! –Deborah Klugman for LA Weekly
    “…the question of who we are beneath our posturing lands with such force, it jangles the nerves long after the play has ended.”

    CRITICS PICK! — Gerri Garner for American Radio Network
    “Lewis’ story is a sobering dose of reality, that is almost unbearable, it seems so real…”

    Don Shirley for LA CityBeat
    “EM Lewis’s harrowing horror story… isn’t about Iraq – it’s about a descent into total vulnerability.”

    Les Spindle for IN Magazine
    “EM Lewis’ hard-hitting new play sears with a disturbing sense of gritty realism…”

    CJ Johnson for the Los Angeles Journal
    “…a charging, intensely intimate 90 minutes… intelligent and often acerbic dialogue makes for a succulent feast of a script.”
  • Song of Extinction
    Max, a musically gifted high school student, is falling off the edge of the world –- and his biology teacher is the only one who’s noticed. A play about the science of life and loss, the relationships between fathers and sons, Cambodian fields, Bolivian rainforests and grief.

    Visit the Samuel French website to preview the play, purchase a copy, or license it for production!

    https...
    Max, a musically gifted high school student, is falling off the edge of the world –- and his biology teacher is the only one who’s noticed. A play about the science of life and loss, the relationships between fathers and sons, Cambodian fields, Bolivian rainforests and grief.

    Visit the Samuel French website to preview the play, purchase a copy, or license it for production!

    https://www.samuelfrench.com/a/288/em-lewis

    Published by Samuel French and in Dramatics Magazine.

    Winner: 2009 Harold & Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award from the American Theater Critics Association
    Winner: 2009 Ted Schmitt Award for the world premiere of an outstanding new play from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle — Los Angeles, CA
    Winner: 2008 Production of the Year and Best Lead Actor from the LA Weekly Awards — Los Angeles, CA
    Winner – 2008 Ashland New Plays Festival — Ashland, OR

    Reviews from the World Premiere of SONG OF EXTINCTION, produced by Moving Arts at [Inside] the Ford:

    “…one of the most beautiful and important plays of the season.” – Laura Hitchcock, Los Angeles Beat

    “CRITIC’S CHOICE… artfully balances its theme of mortality between the intimate and the macroscopic… explores inner psychological states with remarkable eloquence and clarity…” – Phillip Brandeis, Los Angeles Times

    “GO! The interplay of the three [views on extinction] in Lewis’ smart and honest script is one small push away from collective transcendence” – Amy Nicholson, LA Weekly

    “An extraordinary production… exquisitely written… Everything about this play is done to perfection… there is a melancholy richness and sensitivity in this beautiful play that will stay with you for a very long time. Guaranteed to leave you thoughtful and speechless.” – Cynthia Citron, Curtain Up

    “An exquisitely poetic and deeply moving new play…” – Steven Stanley, Stage Scene LA

    “Lewis weaves a mesmerizing tale that gently plucks on the universal chords of the human condition… The triumph of this play is the masterful blend of visual and audio elements that complement the text with an exquisite tenderness and spellbinding artistry…” – MR Hunter, Stage Happenings

    “…remarkable, totally engaging… The theme of Ms. Lewis’ haunting “Song” is extinction past and present, from the Cambodian genocide during the Khmer Rouge regime to endangered species in the Bolivian rain forest, epics against which a number of intimate, desperate human dramas unfold. That so many stories as well as so much history are presented in such compelling style (without sermonizing or pontificating) is a testament to the playwright’s skills and ability to trust the passions and inner voices of her fully-drawn characters…” – Jack Ong, Executive Director of the Haing Ngor Foundation

    Reviews from the Theater Latte Da Production of SONG OF EXTINCTION at the GUTHRIE, in Minneapolis, MN:

    “…90 minutes of poignant worthiness … Rothstein’s second small jewel of the year… articulate understanding of drama that gets inside the human psyche.” — Graydon Royce, Star Tribune

    All the right notes Theater Latte Da’s ‘Song of Extinction’ a touching triumph: “…filled with compassion for its characters and a delicate touch that makes [Song of Extinction] a very moving drama… To the credit of author Lewis and director Peter Rothstein, no point is belabored, no audience member bludgeoned with a message. For a work with so many layers, it’s nevertheless almost minimalist in structure, its dialogue convincingly realistic, its tone admirably restrained.” — Rob Hubbard, Pioneer Press

    “This piece is intense, rich, affecting… [David] Mura lends the play understated resonance… Also first rate are John Middleton and Carla Noack as the Forrestals… Anyone raising a teen-ager knows how illogically volatile they can be and Dan Piering, as Max, captures this gorgeously.” — John Olive, How Was The Show?

    Reviews from the Ion Theater Production of SONG OF EXTINCTION,
    in San Diego, CA:

    “In EM Lewis’s engrossing and insightful Song of Extinction, getting its impressive local debut by Ion Theatre, the “extinction” ranges from personal to global. And the drama envelops the heart and mind throughout the journey.” -Don Braunagel, SanDiego.com

    “The writing, both psychologically astute and dreamily poetic, is impressive… It’s a rare play that explores environmental degradation in such strongly original and humanly true ways…” — Anne Marie Welsh, North County Times

    “…a lyrical, metaphor-laden meditation on family, loss, hope and new beginnings.” — Jennifer Chung Klam, San Diego Union Tribune
  • The Gun Show
    From a farming community in rural Oregon to the big cities of Los Angeles and New York, playwright EM Lewis takes aim at her own relationship with firearms in “The Gun Show.” An actor shares Ms. Lewis’s unique perspective and true stories about America’s most dangerous pastime as if they were his own, with brutal honesty and poignant humor. Leaning neither right nor left, “The Gun Show” jumps into the middle...
    From a farming community in rural Oregon to the big cities of Los Angeles and New York, playwright EM Lewis takes aim at her own relationship with firearms in “The Gun Show.” An actor shares Ms. Lewis’s unique perspective and true stories about America’s most dangerous pastime as if they were his own, with brutal honesty and poignant humor. Leaning neither right nor left, “The Gun Show” jumps into the middle of the gun control debate, and asks “Can we have a conversation about this?”