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E. M. Lewis

Playwright - librettist - teacher.

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. She received the Steinberg Award for both How the Light Gets In and 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, the 2016 Oregon Literary Fellowship in Drama, and an Edgerton Award for her epic Antarctic play Magellanica that was produced at Artists Repertory Theater in 2018 and released as a five-part audio podcast in 2020.

Other plays by Lewis include: Apple Season (which received a rolling world premiere from the National New Play Network in 2019), Infinite Black Suitcase, The Gun Show (which has had more than forty productions across the country, and went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland), Reading to Vegetables, True Story, Dorothy's Dictionary (winner of the Portland Civic Theater Guild New Play Award, upcoming at Theatre Lab in Florida), You Can See All the Stars (a play for college students commissioned by the Kennedy Center), and How the Light Gets In (a semi-finalist for the O’Neill that premiered at Boston Court Pasadena, then went on to an acclaimed production at 1st Stage in Tysons, VA). 

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Fallen Giant, a new opera commissioned by American Lyric Theater that Lewis is working on with composer Evan Meier, had an orchestral workshop in New York City in February 2020.  It received its academic premiere at Portland State University in Oregon in 20203, and its professional world premiere at Opera Modesto in California in 2024.  Town Hall, her opera about health care in America, created with composer Theo Popov, was produced at University of Maryland and Willamette University.  Lewis is a member of the Dramatist Guild's Opera Committee.  She wrote her first musical, In the Deep, with composer Clarence Roscoe McDonald, and it premiered at Willamette University in 2023.

Lewis recently completed two new plays set in the Pacific Northwest -- Apple Hunters! and Strange Birds.  She is currently working on a big, new political play called The Great Divide, originally commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as part of their American Revolutions program, and co-commissioned by Artists Repertory Theater, where she is Playwright in Residence through the Mellon Foundation National Playwright Residency Program. She has another new play underway as well, called The Frankenstein Project.

Lewis is a proud member of LineStorm Playwrights, Opera America, and the Dramatists Guild.  She lives on her family’s farm in Oregon.

www.emlewisplaywright.com

Two actors stand in a dimly lit space with one shining a flashlight in the others face.
Ten Years of The Gun Show
Essay

Ten Years of The Gun Show

27 June 2024

Ten years after writing The Gun Show, playwright Ellen Lewis looks back at the play that tasks an actor with the delivery of a series of gun stories from Lewis’s life—typically with Ellen among the audience. Lewis sits down with Nate Cohen, who worked on the show for several runs that totaled more than one hundred performances, to reflect on the ways the play, its playwright, and the world have changed over ten years of productions.

A large selection of fresh grown vegetables lined up and organized by type on the grass.
Tending the Garden: Organic Observations on Playwriting
Essay

Tending the Garden: Organic Observations on Playwriting

7 November 2022

Writing from her little family farm in Oregon, E.M. Lewis applies the lessons learned in the garden to her experience as a librettist and playwright.

Ten people on a Zoom call.
How Do We Go On?
Essay

How Do We Go On?

14 December 2021

E.M. Lewis and a group of theatre artists connected with Artists Repertory Theatre come together to mark the ways they make it through the strange, dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite prolonged uncertainty across the theatre industry and the world, they find community in one another and strength in storytelling.

Indecipherable handwritten text
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Play
Essay

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Play

14 December 2020

E. M. Lewis shares thirteen ways writers can think about the plays they’re writing, including the stakes, the world, and the music.

Portrait of Ellen Lewis.
Finding (and Losing) a Theatrical Home in New Jersey
Essay

Finding (and Losing) a Theatrical Home in New Jersey

7 October 2013

New homes can be found when opportunity makes you pick up and leave comfortability.  EM Lewis writes about opening up to new communities in order to embrace opportunity.

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