In Alumni, Awards and Achievements, Department of Theatre and Media Arts

Melissa Leilani Larson recently received the Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters. (Nick Stone)

Earlier this year, Larson received the Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters

Melissa Leilani Larson discovered her talent and love for crafting words at an early age, writing her first short story in third grade. She majored in English at BYU, determined to become a novelist — until a single class in the Department of Theatre and Media Arts changed the course of her career. 

“I loved going to the theatre and the movies, and my senior year I took a TMA playwriting class for kicks and giggles,” Larson said. “I struggled to switch over from writing prose to writing drama. While you ultimately have the same goal with both novels and plays — to tell a good story — each requires specific tools and skills.” 

With an undeniable attraction to theatre and playwriting, Larson decided to stay at BYU and work toward an MA in theatre history and criticism. She eventually transferred to the University of Iowa’s prestigious MFA Playwrights Workshop partway through her master’s program at BYU. 

But Larson’s BYU story was far from over. She has returned to BYU several times over the years to see her work staged, including campus productions of “The Beggar’s Opera” (2004), “Angels Unaware” (2006) and adaptations of Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” (2011) and “Pride and Prejudice” (2014).

Read the full story at the Department of Theatre and Media Arts website.

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