Isabella Dawis is a Filipina-American performer and playwright who collaborates on genre-crossing musicals, plays, and operas. Trained as a classical musician and reared as a stage actor, Isabella’s writing threads global traditions and feminist perspectives into American theater and music. She is the recipient of the 2022 Kleban Prize in Musical Theatre for librettists, the 2021 Fred Ebb Award for musical theater songwriting, the 2020 Weston-Ghostlight New Musical Award, and the 2021-23 Composers and the Voice Fellowship with the American Opera Project. Isabella currently holds a 2023-25 Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship with the Jerome Foundation. She was also named a finalist for the 2021 Jonathan Larson Grant and the 2020 Richard Rodgers Award.
As bookwriter/lyricist, Isabella’s musicals in development with composer Tidtaya Sinutoke include HALF THE SKY, the story of an Asian American woman climbing Mount Everest (The 5th Avenue Theatre Radio Play and First Draft Commission, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, Theater Mu’s New Eyes Festival, Theater Latté Da’s NEXT Festival) and SUNWATCHER, about the Japanese female astronomer and “hidden figure” Hisako Koyama (Weston Theater Company’s Songs for Today, Ancram Opera House Play Lab, Tofte Lake Center, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater Global Forms, Goodspeed Musicals Johnny Mercer Writers Grove, The Civilians’ R&D Group).
Isabella’s play BONES OF A HORSE, inspired by the WWII military language school Camp Savage and the Japanese Americans who trained there, was commissioned and adapted for audio by Theater Mu. Other recent writing projects include BREATHE with composer J. Oconer Navarro (54 Below, NYU), BEFORE THE LAST METER with composer Saman Shahi (Atlanta Opera’s 96 Hour Project, Watershed Festival), and THIS ONE THING WILL GET YOU THROUGH 2020 with composer/lyricist Emily Gardner Xu Hall (24 Hour Plays). Isabella’s work has been featured by Joe’s Pub, Musical Theatre Factory, the Kurt Weill Foundation’s Lotte Lenya Songbook, and more.
As an actor, Isabella’s credits include the Guthrie Theater, Theater Mu, the Center for Contemporary Opera, the Minnesota Opera, the Jungle Theater, and many more. She recently appeared as a soprano soloist with the Minnesota Chorale, the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic Biennial. Isabella often performs with her sister, singer/actor/violinist Francesca Dawis.
B.M. summa cum laude, Piano Performance, University of Minnesota
U.D. Classical Voice, New England Conservatory of Music
Rockwell Scholarship, Primary Stages Einhorn School of Performing Arts