Biography

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

Awards

  • Edgerton Award (Magellanica) – Theater Communications Group

  • Steinberg Award (Song of Extinction) – Armerican Theater Critics Association

  • Primus Prize (Heads) – American Theater Critics Association

  • Ted Schmitt Award for outstanding writing of a world premiere play (Song of Extinction) – Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle

  • L.A. Weekly Award for Production of the Year (Song of Extinction)

  • Hodder Fellowship – Princeton University

  • Playwriting Fellowship – New Jersey State Arts Commission

  • 2016 Oregon Literary Fellowship in Drama

  • Shakespeare’s Sister Fellowship (finalist)

    Plays

    Plays by E. M. Lewis have been produced across the country and around the world, from the Guthrie in Minneapolis to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. Her short plays have been included in several anthologies, and she’s written twice for international Climate Change Theater Actions. Infinite Black Suitcase, Song of Extinction, and The Gun Show are published by Samuel French.

    Lewis’ plays range from the intimate and personal to intense, epic, and socio- political. Edward Albee called her Iraq war play Heads “provocative and wonderfully threatening” when he responded to it at the Great Plains Theater Conference.  Song of Extinction was described as “a mesmerizing tale that gently plucks on the universal chords of the human condition” in its Los Angeles debut, and “a touching triumph” when it was at the Guthrie. The Gun Show has had more than thirty produtions across the country, engaging audiences with the question of guns and gun control in America. The world premiere of Magellanica was written up in The New Yorker, for its bold exploration of climate change.

    Many theater companies and organizations have supported and encouraged Lewis in her work, including: The Lark, Page 73, Project Y, Ashland New Plays Festival, Arkansas New Play Festival, PlayFest Santa Barbara, EcoDrama Festival, the HotCity Greenhouse Festival, Great Plains Theater Conference, Last Frontier Theater Conference, The William Inge Center for the Arts, Artists Repertory Theater, TimeLine Theater, Playwrights Theater of New Jersey, Theatre Latte Da, Moving Arts, Passage Theater, 16th Street Theater. She was a finalist for the Sundance Theater Lab, and a semi- finalist for the O’Neill Playwrights Conference.

Full-length plays by Lewis include:

  • Apple Season
  • Infinite Black Suitcase
  • Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday
  • The Great Divide
  • The Gun Show
  • Heads
  • How the Light Gets In
  • Magellanica
  • Now Comes the Night
  • Reading to Vegetables
  • Song of Extinction
  • True Story
  • You Can See All the Stars

Operas

Lewis was accepted into American Lyric Theater’s Composer Librettist Development Program in 2013. Since completing her training there, she wrote Town Hall with composer Theo Popov, a new opera commissioned by the University of Maryland Opera Studio which premiered in February of 2018. It will have a second production at Willamette University in Oregon in 2019. Lewis wrote several lyrics for Dear Erich, a jazz opera by composer Ted Rosenthal, including Everything My Father Never Told Me. She was a semi-finalist for Arizona Opera’s “Arizona Bold!” program with composer Clarice Assad with The Crossing. She is currently working on a full-length, family-friendly opera with composer Evan Meier, commissioned by American Lyric Theater, called Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Fallen Giant; it will have a piano vocal workshop in New York City in March 2019.

Teaching

Lewis teaches playwriting occasionally, and embraces opportunities to mentor and support young writers. In fall of 2018, she began teaching a playwriting workshop at Artists Repertory Theater entitled “Writing Your Story for the Stage.” She has taught at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Lewis & Clark College, and Independence College. She has been a respondent for several regional Kennedy Center American College Theater Festivals. She was Playwright-in-Residence in the New Voices for the Theater Program in Richmond, Virginia twice, working with high school students from across the state. She taught playwriting workshops at the Ashland New Plays Festival in Ashland, Oregon, where she was Host Playwright for six years. She visited Hostos College in the Bronx when they made Song of Extinction play of the semester; more than nine hundred students received copies of the play, which was taught in classes across the college and produced by the theater department. Lewis served as the Dramatists Guild Representative for New Jersey for two years.

Education

Lewis earned her Bachelors Degree in English at Willamette University and her Masters Degree in Writing at University of Southern California. She spent a year at Princeton University when they awarded her a Hodder Fellowship.

Background

Lewis is a proud member of LineStorm Playwrights, the National Opera Center, and the Dramatists Guild. She was born and raised in rural Oregon, and after spending quite a few years in Los Angeles, California and a few years in Princeton, New Jersey, she has returned to the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She lives on her family‚Äôs farm, where she writes full time, travels regularly with her theater work, teaches occasionally, and drives tractor whenever she feels like it. 

Celebrating Awards for Production of the Year and Best Male Actor (for Darrell Kunitomi) at the LA Weekly Awards for “Song of Extinction.”

The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers.

-James Baldwin