Winning 1st Scene Script Reading: Empress, by Lisa C. Iannini

WU JAO , an outspoken half-sister bartered by her step-brother to restore his waning reputation at Imperial Court, is dropped off at the palace gates to become the Emperor’s youngest concubine. Plunged into a breath-taking world of seductively scheming (multi-cultural) concubines, Silk Road politics, and ruthless dynasty building, Wu Jao quickly learns what it means to be a master of influence – a concubine adept in both sex and politics. Wu Jao’s rise from lowly concubine to China’s only ever female Emperor would make Cersei Lannister blush.


Narrator: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Wu Jao: Kyana Teresa
Thundering Male Voice : Steve Rizzo

Writer Statement
Lisa’s own journey spans the fabled road between Rome and China as her family is Italian and her brother, sister-in-law and their Italian-Chinese children live in Hong Kong. This story is for her niece, Helena.

Lisa, an under-dog herself, earned her Juris Doctorate degree in finance and policy at the Trinity School of Law and went on to obtain an MFA in screenwriting at UCLA. Pushing societal boundaries has always been a part of Lisa’s wiring. As one of Wall Street’s most successful regulatory experts for over two decades, Lisa was always fascinated by power and how as one of a handful of female executives in her position, she rose in power where other women failed. Then she “met” 7th Century heroine, Wu Zetian, and it all became clear. Determination, grit, the ability to build and maintain relationships up, out and across hierarchal structures along with the sheer will to succeed.

EMPRESS, explores the cross-roads of the Duty of Women in Society, Power Dynamics, Allyship’s and Family Loyalty against the backdrop of Silk Road politics and dynasty building through a uniquely female lens. Lisa was curious at why the “recorders of history” would fail to memorialize the awe-inspiring accomplishments of the one woman who gave birth to the Tang Dynasty and changed history forever. And moreover, why 5000 years later, women are still struggling to rise into their power ?

” Truthfully, our lives have several inciting incidents and how Wu Zetian met each one, is at once powerful, intriguing, horrifying and inspiring. ”

Lisa tells an authentic story that bridges historically Chinese content, and makes the epic story of Wu Zetian relatable to a contemporary North American audience.


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