Mona Z. Smith is a playwright, author, and former newspaper reporter. She also teaches theater, Shakespeare and writing courses.
Smith launched her professional writing career at The Miami Herald, covering crime and politics. She then studied theater and playwriting at Columbia University. Her first play, Fire in a Dark House, explores a series of hate crimes that may have caused her 19-year-old ancestor to set herself on fire during WWI. A new version of Fire in a Dark House directed by Traci Mariano will be produced in fall 2018 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the WWI Armistice; performances will be at the Whitefire Theater in Los Angeles. This will also mark the 25th anniversary of the play's premiere at Columbia University's Oscar Hammerstein II Center for Theatre; that original script won Columbia's John Golden Award.
Smith's play Borderlands is a meditation on women, war and ethnic cleansing. Originally written during the Bosnian conflict, Borderlands was awarded the national Berilla Kerr Prize. In 2016, on the 20th anniversary of its world premiere, Borderlands was revived in Amsterdam as part of an artist-led effort to raise funds for women refugees in Syria.
Based on over a decade of research, Becoming Something is a full-length play inspired by events in the life of Canada Lee, a major black actor and civil rights activist erased from public memory after he was denounced as a Communist and traitor during the McCarthy-Era Red Scare. Smith went on to write a critically acclaimed first biography of Lee, also titled Becoming Something (Faber & Faber, 2004). The book and play are now in development for television. The Canada Lee Project, a multimedia work for the stage, was workshopped in spring 2016 by Paramount Hudson Valley Arts in the historic Paramount theater in Peekskill, NY.
All That Remains is a ghost-play that draws on the harrowing experiences of Japanese-American soldiers who battled prejudice while serving with distinction in World War II. It premiered in spring 2013 in Honolulu and received seven Po'okela Awards, including best script.
In 2015, the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival commissioned Smith to write Northern Lights, a play about a young girl who survives a bleak winter night on the streets by inventing stories; the play is inspired by the short stories of Hans Christian Andersen. HVSF has also commissioned Smith to adapt several literary classics and Shakespearean plays for young audiences, including A Comedy of Errors (2017); The Tempest and The Sword in the Stone (2016); and Envy, a fairy-tale triptych of Snow White, Cinderella and A Midsummer Night's Dream (2015).