"As a former journalist, Mona Smith is drawn to stories set in times of social and political upheaval. She looks for issues that have contemporary resonance, and her work continues to explore notions of loyalty and patriotism, courage and betrayal, friendship and rivalry, love and revenge."

-- Traci Mariano, director


Theater, film and television projects

Fire in a Dark House  (Original production, NYC, 1993).

Fire in a Dark House (Original production, NYC, 1993).

Fire in a Dark House (2018). This play imagines what affairs of the heart and affairs of state compelled the playwright's 19-year-old ancestor to set herself on fire on her family's farm during World War I. Fire in a Dark House draws on Smith's extensive historical research on the mostly forgotten hate crimes committed against German immigrants across the country during the Great War as a result of a virulent propaganda campaign by the U.S. government. A new version of Fire in a Dark House, directed by Traci Mariano, will be presented at the Whitefire Theater in Los Angeles in fall 2018, in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary of the World War I Armistice (November 1918).  The new version of the play has been optioned and is currently in development for film. The original version of this play premiered 25 years ago at Columbia’s Oscar Hammerstein II Theatre in NYC (also directed by Traci Mariano); the play was workshopped at Niagara University. 

Canada Lee, circa 1942

Canada Lee, circa 1942

Canada Lee (teleplay, 2016). Smith has co-written the pilot (with Traci Mariano) for a proposed 12-episode miniseries inspired by the life of Canada Lee, a groundbreaking black actor and civil rights activist of the 1930s-40s. Called a Communist by the FBI and accused of betraying his country, Lee’s death in 1952 is one of a handful directly attributed to the McCarthy-era blacklist. The Canada Lee miniseries is inspired by Smith's book and play about Lee, both titled Becoming Something; the pilot was commissioned by Slowly I Turned Productions (Los Angeles) and written with Traci Mariano.

Scene from  Borderlands,  Orange Tea Theatre, Amsterdam (2016)

Scene from Borderlands, Orange Tea Theatre, Amsterdam (2016)

Borderlands (play, 1996/2016). This meditation on women, war and ethnic cleansing was originally written as a response to the Bosnian War (1992-95). Borderlands premiered at SoHo Rep in New York City in 1996 (dir: Traci Mariano). It was later produced  at the Rose Theatre in Los Angeles (dir: John Benitz); at Live Arts in Charlottesville, VA (dir: Allyn Chandler); and at the Playwrights Center of San Francisco. In July 2016, on the 20th anniversary of the play's world premiere, Borderlands was revived by Orange Tea Theatre in Amsterdam as part of an artist-led effort to raise funds for women refugees. In 2017, Smith received a commission to revise the play, informed by the experiences of women in Syria and other war-torn places around the globe. 

Scene from  The Canada Lee Project , Esperance Theater Company (2016)

Scene from The Canada Lee Project, Esperance Theater Company (2016)

The Canada Lee Project (multimedia performance) and Becoming Something (play). Both projects draw inspiration from a decade of research on the black actor and activist Canada Lee, as well as Smith's acclaimed biography of Lee. (See BOOKS). The multimedia Canada Lee Project features live music, film and theater. It received a workshop in February 2017 by Esperance Theater Company in New York City, following a previous workshop by Esperance in March 2016 at the historic Paramount Hudson Valley Theatre in Peekskill, NY (dir: Ryan Quinn). The full-length play Becoming Something premiered at The Kraine Theatre in New York City in 2002 (dir: Traci Mariano), following a workshop production at the Lee Strasberg Institute in Los Angeles in 2001 (dir: Nataki Garrett). These two plays as well as Smith's book on Canada Lee have all been optioned for film and television, and Smith has co-written the pilot (with Traci Mariano) for a mini-series about Lee.

Scene from  All That Remains,  Kumu Kahua Theatre (2013)

Scene from All That Remains, Kumu Kahua Theatre (2013)

All That Remains (2013). This ghost-play draws on the inspiring lives and harrowing experiences of Japanese American soldiers who battled racism while fighting with distinction in some of WWII’s bloodiest campaigns. Co-conceived by Smith and director Traci Mariano, this project was developed at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and in other Southern California venues from 20011-2012. All That Remains premiered at Honolulu's Kumu Kahua Theatre in 2013 (dir: Traci Mariano); the production received seven Po'okela Awards from the Hawai'i State Theater Association, including special awards for best script, best director and best ensemble.

Mystifying Dick, Satisfying Jane & Playing House (2013). These darkly comic related one-acts explore love and betrayal as men and women grow up, inspired by the classic Dick-and-Jane series of reading primers for young children. Mystifying Dick and Satisfying Jane both premiered at a one-act festival at Second Stage (NYC); the most recent staged readings of the Dick-and-Jane plays took place at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival's annual summer theater lab, now known as HVSF2, at The Depot Theatre in Garrison, NY (2013).

Fence and birds bigger Esperance.png

The Native Son Project (2017). A meta-theatrical event inspired by Richard Wright's groundbreaking novel Native Son and his play of the same title that premiered on Broadway in 1941,  directed by Orson Welles and starring Canada Lee. The Native Son Project imagines what happens when a modern-day theater company's production of a controversial new American play inspired by Native Son eerily coincides with a highly charged and dramatic controversy in their own community.  This full-length play was commissioned by Paramount Hudson Valley Arts and it is being created by Smith in collaboration with the Esperance Theater Company of New York City. In November 2017, The Native Son Project had a weeklong workshop with a culminating public reading performed by Esperance at the historic Paramount Hudson Valley Theater in downtown Peekskill, NY.

Theater for Young Audiences
Plays introducing children and families to the magic of live theater

Scene from  The Sword in the Stone,  Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (2016)

Scene from The Sword in the Stone, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (2016)

A Comedy of Errors (2017), The Sword in the Stone (2016), The Tempest (2016), and Envy (2015, featuring three related one-acts inspired by the Brothers Grimm tales "Snow White" and "Cinderella," and William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream). These athletic, fast-paced and very funny stage adaptations of fairy tales, folk tales and Shakespearean plays have been adapted for young audiences and support English Language Arts curricula, Common Core benchmarks, and state learning standards for Kindergarten to Grade 5. All works were originally commissioned, produced, and toured by the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (Cold Spring, NY).

Scene from  Northern Lights,  Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (2015)

Scene from Northern Lights, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (2015)

Northern Lights (2015). A runaway girl takes shelter under a bridge in a city in the middle of a snowstorm. To survive this bleak and lonely winter night, she invents a series of merry and magical stories about kings and queens, witches and gremlins, soldiers and angels. Northern Lights celebrates the power of love, kindness and  imagination to warm the heart and light the way home. This contemporary holiday play is inspired by a series of winter tales created by one of the greatest short-story writers of all time, Hans Christian Andersen. Northern Lights was commissioned and premiered by the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (NY) in December 2015 (dir: Rachel Dickstein).

Agent: Susan Schulman, CEO, Susan Schulman Literary Agency, NYC