Meet Mel

Photo by Nick Stone.

Originally from Hau‘ula, Hawai‘i, Melissa Leilani Larson is a writer presently based in Provo, Utah. The award-winning author of a number of plays and films, she holds an a BA in English from Brigham Young University and an MFA from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop.

Mel’s plays have been produced all over the country. Little Happy Secrets received the 2009 Association for Mormon Letters Drama award and was published in August 2010 as part of the anthology Out of the Mount: 19 from New Play Project; after the 2013 production, Mel was nominated as an Outstanding Community Production Member by the Utah Theatre Lovers. Her produced plays include Martyrs’ Crossing (IRAM Best New Play; KC/ACTF Meritorious Achievement; Best of Utah Valley 2006), which was published in the anthology Saints on Stage and received its international premiere at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe; A Flickering (Trustus Playwrights Festival Finalist); Hope Falls; Standing Still Standing (Mayhew Contest Winner); The Church of St. Pinky at Katy, Texas; and Lady in Waiting (KC/ACTF Region VIII New Play Fest participant; Lewis National Playwriting Contest for Women winner). Persuasion has enjoyed several productions and positive audience responses. Mel’s first commission, an adaptation celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, recently enjoyed a sold-out run in Brigham Young University’s Pardoe Theatre. Mel has helped co-write the book for The Weaver of Raveloe, a new musical inspired by George Eliot’s Silas Marner, conceived and composed by award-winning composer Erica Glenn; Weaver premiered in May 2014 at ART’s Oberon. Mel’s newest original play, Pilot Program, will premiere in April 2015, directed by Jerry Rapier, as part of Plan-B Theatre Company’s upcoming season.

Also an accomplished filmmaker, Mel is currently collaborating with Garrett Batty (the award-winning director of The Saratov Approach) on a new project, Freetown, which recently completed principal production in Ghana. She wrote and co-produced the independent feature The Lilac Thief and has written, produced, and/or directed a number of short films including “Cherry Pie” (writer), “Iscariot” (writer/co-producer), “Traces” (director/producer), and “4:53” (writer), which was included in the LDS Film Festival’s inaugural Best of Festival tour. She’s written a screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy As You Like It, and is has several film projects in progress. Mel adapted her own play Standing Still Standing for film, winning the LDS Film Festival’s screenwriting award.

Works in progress include Sweetheart Come, about a young mother suffering through the onset of schizophrenia; a wacky Victorian comedy, The Mummy Play; a biographical drama about Russian poet Alexander Pushkin; adaptations of Thomas Hardy’s Under the Greenwood Tree and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, as well as a musical version of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South; a retelling of the Nordic fairy tale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”; Island Rose, a screenplay about Ka‘iulani, Hawai‘i’s last princess; a Hawaiian history cycle for the stage; and several young adult novels (Mel loathes the term “juvenile” but she loves talking about herself in the third person).

An AEA EMC stage manager, Mel has stage managed at all levels, calling shows for Actors Repertory Theatre Ensemble, Brigham Young University, Utah Regional Ballet, Provo Theatre Company, Iowa University Theatres, Iowa Summer Rep, New Play Project, Utah Valley University School of the Arts, Sundance Summer Theatre, the Echo Theatre, and the Utah Lyric Opera. She is presently working with choreographer Graham Brown on his devised work You, which will be staged at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in January 2015.

Mel was recently invited to be part of Plan-B Theatre Company’s Playwrights Lab, and to serve as a Dramatists Guild of America ambassador for the Utah Region. A certified KC/ACTF adjudicator, she occasionally serves as adjunct faculty at Brigham Young and Utah Valley Universities. She was one of the original Utah Theatre Bloggers, writing regular reviews for three years. Her favorite things include melty cheese, Hawai‘i, the UK, history, musicals that don’t suck, nice paper and even nicer pens. Oh, and just about anything sung by Audra McDonald.

Check out Mel’s Library of Congress record and her IMDB page.

  • I vote yes. Any of the above. If anyone can pull it off, you can.

  • Alison Anderson

    Technically isn’t everything we write basically a re-telling of another story even if it’s “original”? My vote is that you spin off a story, but have it be in a contemporary setting. That Perpetua story sounds pretty awesome though I don’t know how you’d make it contemporary.

    Anyway your idea reminds me of the book I just wrote an essay on for my class called The Hours by Michael Cunningham. He basically follows the plot of Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf only he has 3 characters in 3 different time periods (one is Virginia herself) and he narrates their thoughts as they go through one day. It’s rather pretentious in its focus on gay/lesbian culture and celebrity references, which I think gave it prestige enough to get Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Juliane Moore to film a movie based off the book. So if you’re looking for this new play to “stick around”, going with a cool spin off something canonized has good potential. But I’m sure that, unlike Cunningham, you’ll be able to write your tragic Greek-styled play and not come off being pretentious.

    Or maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m sure whatever you decide will be awesome. And if you know a lot about the Greek/Roman myths, I say definitely go for it.

  • Thumbs Up.

  • DL

    See also The Penelopiad, by Margaret Atwood. A retelling of The Odyssey from Penelope’s perspective.

  • As a lover of Greek theater (although I haven’t written in that style necessarily, I have written on Greek subject matter), and a lover of historical plays, I heartily would love to see you tackle the subject matter, especially the stories you mentioned… they sound fascinating.