Author of the internationally staged Emily of Emerald Hill
Stella Kon is an award-winning playwright, novelist, short story writer and poet. She is best known for her one-woman drama, Emily of Emerald Hill, which has been widely performed locally and internationally. The main character, Emily Gan, has become an iconic figure of womanhood in Singapore and Malaysia.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Stella returned to Singapore with her parents when she was three years old. She attended Raffles’ Girls School (RGS) and then got an Honours degree in Philosophy from the University of Singapore.
Stella was exposed to the arts early in her life. Her mother was a leading amateur actress in local theatre. Her father encouraged the production of local plays by university students, when he was the Master of King Edward Hall at University of Singapore. Stella began creating stories at a very young age at the encouragement of her mother. She continued writing when she was a student – plays that her classmates performed at RGS, and later short stories for university publications.
She once related, “My father, Lim Kok Ann, passed on to me an interest in science and a love of literature. He was a great reader and he liked reciting poetry. From him, I learned a sense of rhythm and developed a feeling for words. My mother, Kheng Lim, was an ardent and pioneering stage actress in the 1950s. From her, I learnt a lot of stagecraft and sense of the theatre.”
In 1967, Stella moved to Malaysia where she lived for 15 years. She then went to Britain for four years while her children studied there. She returned to Singapore in 1987.
Stella writes on Singapore themes and touches on national awareness, moral values, cultural and social heritage, and personal integrity. She writes, she says, “in order to re-create, in words, the feelings of living in Singapore and being a Singaporean”.
Three of her plays won the first prize in the Singapore National Playwriting Competition, in 1979, 1982 and 1983. The last was Emily of Emerald Hill, which has been seen by thousands of people in several countries. In 1994, Stella won a Merit Award in the Singapore Literature Prize, and in 2008, she won the South East Asian Writers Award organised by SEA Write Award group.
Stella has participated in global events such the International Conference for Women and Theatre, Australasian Playwrights’ Conference and the International Women Playwrights Conference.
"The influence (of Emily of Emerald Hill) on a generation of artists was immense. At that point many young artists were wondering where, if at all, they would be able to find a distinctive voice for the new nation. Many established practitioners today will relate how seeing Emily was an inspirational moment, which gave them confidence that it could be done."