Meet the Shortlist- Kimber Lee

Kimber Lee won the first Bruntwood Prize International Award for her script untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play at the Bruntwood Prize 2019 Awards in Nov. We are delighted that the play has also been shortlisted for The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 2019/20. 

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, established in 1978, is given annually to recognize women who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre. The Prize is administered in Houston, London and New York by a board of directors who choose six Judges each year, three from each side of the Atlantic.


untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play (srsly this is not the title)
By Kimber Lee

We could stop here. We could stay here. It’s not so bad, is it?”

Kim’s day keeps getting worse and she begins to wonder: who’s writing this story? She makes a break for it, busting through a hundred years of bloody narratives that all end the same way.

Can she find a way out of this cycle before it’s too late?


Plays include UNTITLED F*CK M*SS S**GON PLAY (O’Neill National Playwrights Conference), TOKYO FISH STORY (South Coast Rep, TheatreWorks/SV, Old Globe Theater), BROWNSVILLE TRAY (B-SIDE FOR TRAY)(Humana Festival, LCT3/Lincoln Center, Long Wharf Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Moxie Theatre, Shotgun Players), and DIFFERENT WORDS FOR THE SAME THING directed by Neel Keller (Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre). She has also developed work with Lark Play Development Center, The Ground Floor/Berkeley Rep, Page 73, Hedgebrook, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Great Plains Theatre Conference, Manhattan Theatre Club, Southern Rep, ACT Theatre/Seattle, TheatreWorks/Silicon Valley, Premiere Stages, and Magic Theatre. Lark Playwrights Workshop Fellow, Dramatists Guild Fellow, member of Ma-Yi Writers Lab, recipient of the Ruby Prize, PoNY Fellowship, Hartford Stage New Voices Fellowship, BAU Institute Arts Residency, TheatreWorks/SV Leading Ladies Award, Kilroys List, Audelco Nominee, inaugural PoNY/Bush Theatre Playwright Residency in London. MFA: UT Austin.


Kimber is eligible for the new Bruntwood Prize International Award. For more information on this award- and the nomination process please go to


What inspired you to write this play?

I think in large part the play was born of rage, a feeling that has grown in me for a very long time which is about feeling invisible, or misrepresented. And the ways in which the presence of Asian American stories is only allowed a very narrow range in the cultural conversation — writing the play was very much about taking control of the narrative, dealing with painful things but with comedy (going against another Asian stereotype which is that we’re all humorless and inscrutable). And this is also the great transformative power of the theatre, that something born of rage and pain can be transformed into laughter.


Can you tell us a bit about your journey as a playwright?

I’ve always been a person who scribbles things, though I started in the theatre as an actor, I would scribble little thoughts and ideas in a book — maybe some people call this journaling? — but I never showed it to anyone. Meanwhile the acting thing was going on, but the more I worked, the more I noticed a restlessness with the limited range of roles that were available to me as an Asian American woman. And then one of my playwright friends suggested that I invite our actors pals to my place, ply them with wine and cheese cubes, and ask them to read some of my pages aloud. Weirdly, this had never occurred to me, but I did it, and it shifted something for me on a deep level. Since then, I’ve continued sort of wandering around, and stumbled my way into a sort of career. Which has been amazing and surprising and wonderful and frustrating in turns, but always worth it.


How do you feel about being shortlisted?

Absolutely stunned and delighted! It was never something I could have expected, and I’m just so thrilled and honoured to be a part of the experience at all. I’m also super excited to come and meet everyone in person, and to get to meet the other shortlisted writers will be the highlight of the whole thing for me, I’m pretty sure. As a playwright, you spend so much time all bunched up over your computer, so getting to meet and spend time with other writers in such a lovely context is a huge gift.


What do you think about anonymity of the Bruntwood Prize?

I just wanna say how impressed I am with the structures built to ensure true anonymity throughout the entire selection process. Because that means that everyone has the same shot, the same access. And that is a crucial step in providing real equity for all playwrights in the consideration of their work, that everyone can walk through the same door. And in a field where we speak about championing innovation and new voices, it’s vital that the people considering new work have a chance to do so free of preconceived ideas or reflexive or subconscious bias based on a person’s resume or background. Can anonymity remove every bias or personal inclination of a judge’s reaction to a play? Of course not. But it goes a really long way toward opening access to more people.

Published on:
4 Feb 2020 Watch video


Add comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *