School of Stage & Screen
Assistant Professor - Film and Television Production
Office Address: Belk 283
A native of Asheville, North Carolina, writer Brenda Lunsford Lilly graduated from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro with a BFA degree in Theatre. While serving as an Artist-in-Residence for three years with the Greensboro Arts Council she helped form The ACT Co., and produced avant-garde theatre in Old Greenbsorough as part of a redevelopment effort. The success of that led to an acting troupe which servedd as a conduit for fundraising and allowing the arts council to purchase and renovate the Carolina Theatre. The ACT Co. was the primary producing organization in the Carolina until funding ran out in 1978. At that time, along with her director-husband, Brenda moved to Los Angeles, to pursue her acting career.
In Los Angeles, she continued her education studying at The Loft Theatre with acclaimed acting coach, Peggy Feury. During this time, she was cast in films directed by William Friedkin and Michael Pressman, among others and appeared on the television series, MURPHY BROWN and MARRIED WITH CHILDREN.
Brenda began her writing/producing tenure in the 1990s on the series Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, L.A. Law, Christy, Walker: Texas Ranger, Xena/Warrior Princess, Bobby’s World, Second Noah, Fame, L.A. and Honey I Shrunk the Kids.
In 1999, she partnered with Hollis Rich to create, write and executive-produce thirty-nine episodes of the critically acclaimed and award-winning series, State of Grace, starring Mae Whitman, Alia Shawkat and Academy Award winner Frances McDormand. Brenda and Hollis received Humanitas nominations for the pilot episode and the series went on to receive four Jewish Image Awards, four Viewer’s Voice Awards, and The Parents Television Council Award for best half-hour series and was listed as ‘best new series’ by several journals including Emmy Magazine. In 2016, State of Grace was featured at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, TX where both creators were featured as forum panelists. The writing team has developed additional pilots and are currently in development on a new series.
As a playwright, Brenda was commissioned to write a play based on hotel magnate, Leona Helmsley – “Leona: The Politic$ of Urban Development” – which opened in Los Angeles in 1993. In 1999 Brenda was commissioned by North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Massachusetts to write the book for the musical, The Ballad of Tom Dooley, based on her screenplay, “Bound To Die.” Funded by NEA grants it has had workshops through Lehman Engel in Los Angeles, New Tuners Theatre in Chicago and an Equity workshop with North Shore Theatre. The musical played to nearly sold-out audiences as part of the 2010 summer season of Parkway Playhouse in Burnsville, NC. In 2011, she co-wrote Along About Sundown – A Musical Memoir of Basom Lamar Lunsford which also played to sold-out audiences at Parkway Playhouse. In 2012 Brenda was commissioned to write Spirited Recollections for Parkway Playhouse based on the life of Rush Wray which opened in 2013. In 2014 Brenda adapted and directed Ibsen’s play, “A Doll’s House” for Western Carolina University. Entitled “Doll” the play explores the changing role of women 1962 America. It has had a reading at Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York City and is part of the 2018 season at Magnetic Theatre. She is currently adapting it into a screenplay.
Brenda is a professor in the Film and Television Program at Western Carolina University where she served as Interim Director in 2014. She has directed a number of stage productions at the University including Peter Pan and Intimate Apparel. She is a member of the Dramatist Guild, The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the Writers Guild of American, west where she was elected to multiple terms on the Board of Directors and served as a trustee at the Writers Guild Foundation. She is also a member of the Writers Guild of Canada, NCTC and the Screen Actors Guild. She has served as a judge for numerous film festivals, the Emmy Awards and the Writers Guild of America Awards. She sits on the Board of The Asheville Community Theatre and the Arts Commission at the Cathedral of All Souls.
Brenda lives in Asheville with her husband, Michael.