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Meet Melissa Li and Kit Yan This Years Kleban Winners For Most Promising Musical Theatre Librettist

Meet Melissa Li and Kit Yan This Years Kleban Winners For Most Promising Musical Theatre Librettist

Melissa Li and Kit Yan began as a duo in 2008, by 2013, they began to develop the show Interstate, which tells the story of a queer Asian American band on their first cross-country tour and how they inspire a South Asian trans teen in Kentucky. For this project, they were nominated for 7 NYMF Awards for Excellence and won 5 awards, including Outstanding Lyrics and a Special Citation for Representation & Inclusion.

T2c talked to this talented duo and learned a lot about what’s next!

Li and Yan, just won the Kleban Award for the Most Promising Musical Theatre Librettist. Their musicals Interstate and MISS STEP are what solidified their win. On Sunday they’ll present their digital variety show Unremarkable!, featuring Marc delaCruz, Ruthie Ann Miles, Stephanie Hsu, and more.

Kit a spoken word artist and Melissa a singer-songwriter, believe their work is to bring social justice and LGBTQ awareness! MISS STEP was commissioned by The 5th Avenue Theater’s first draft program and won a 2019 Vivace Award from the Bret Adams and Paul Reisch Foundation. Most recently, they completed a Keen Company Commission. Their work has been supported by The 5th Avenue Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, Weston Playhouse, Goodspeed’s Musicals Johnny Mercer Colony, The Village Theater, Musical Theater Factory, Dixon Place, and many others.

Individually, Li is a recipient of the Jonathan Larson Award, a Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow, and a Lincoln Center Theater Writer-in-Residence. Her own musicals include Cancelled and Surviving the Nian.

Yan is the 2019 Bret Adams and Paul Reisch Vivace award winner and together with Li, was named a fellow at the Dramatists Guild Foundation, Playwright’s Center, and Company One/Pao Arts. His solo show Queer Heartache won 5 awards at the Chicago and SF Fringe Festivals. He is a current Playwright’s Center Many Voices Fellow.

The Kleban Foundation which was established in 1988 under the will of Edward L. Kleban, best known as the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning lyricist of the musical A Chorus Line. Kleban’s makes provisions for annual prizes, which gives $100,000, payable over two years.

Video by Magda Katz

Front and Center with Magda Katz

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email:

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