Kendra Arimoto



Photo by Lisa Keating

Illustration by Alessandra Hisako Gordon



kendra arimoto is a japanese american storyteller, activist, and mother.

A writer on a mission to tell powerful stories thematically focused on Japanese American ancestral memory, intergenerational trauma, and the queer woman of color experience.

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// Feature screenplay, STARSHINE AND CLAY, was selected by Francis Ford Coppola and the American Zoetrope staff as the GRAND-PRIZE WINNER of the 16th Annual American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest. 

// Currently a screenwriting Artist-in-Residence-in-Motherhood (2016-2019) focused on writing Japanese American drama for both television and film.

// Collaborator at Door Flies Open, an LA-based creative collective for underrepresented voices.

// Mother of three stepchildren and two daughters born at home.

// When not writing scripts and raising kids, Kendra can be found leading engineering recruiting and diversity initiatives at companies such as Google, YouTube, and Facebook.

Mobile Studio Time | 2016

Mobile Studio Time | 2016

Rehearsal at BRAVA! in San Francisco for UNTOLD STORIES by Susan Ito and Lisa Marie Rollins. | 2018

Rehearsal at BRAVA! in San Francisco for UNTOLD STORIES by Susan Ito and Lisa Marie Rollins. | 2018



starshine and clay

feature film script, in development

*GRAND-PRIZE WINNER, American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest 2018 (announced in 2019)

A Japanese American family struggles with identity, love, and intergenerational trauma in a story spanning 75 years, from WWII to present day.


short film, optioned

*Current 2nd Rounder, ScreenCraft Film Fund (still in consideration, 2019)

A quiet teen relies upon her zoot suiter alter-ego at a dance for Japanese Americans incarcerated during WWII.


60-minute pilot and S:1 bible

*Current Quarterfinalist, BlueCat Screenplay Competition (still in consideration, 2019)
*Early draft chosen as Semifinalist, Screencraft Pilot Launch (2018)
*Early draft qualified for Round 2, MACRO Episodic Lab powered by The Black List (2018)

An ex-hacker is hired by a secretive company to act out roles in other people’s lives.

[Please inquire for Full list of projects.]

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//past work

Kendra’s experience as a storyteller spans 35+ theatre productions and multiple stages, including the San Francisco Fringe Festival, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Asian American Theatre Festival, Pacific Repertory Theatre, New Conservatory Theatre, Hawai’i International Conference on Art and Humanities, Stanford Shakespeare Society, Hungry Woman: The Mexican Medea directed by Cherríe Moraga and Adelina Anthony, and six productions with Stuart Bousel’s highly-acclaimed Bay Area indie theatre company No Nude Men.

Shikata ga nai (it can’t be helped)

full-length stage play

*Winner, James Baldwin Fund Prize for Multi-cultural Playwriting
*Official selection, Hawai’i International Conference on Arts and Humanities
*Staged reading presented at the WORD! Festival in Mt. Holyoke

A curious fellow named Hamlet is ordered to supervise the incarceration of a delusional 11-year-old, a dancing grandma, a procreating couple, and a secretive father-son farming duo. But, why? For how long? And what else will come through the red door? SHIKATAGANAI (IT CAN’T BE HELPED) injects American history with the intensity and passion of live theatre to give an unexpected, Kafka-esque artistic twist on the subject of WWII Japanese American incarceration.

a Fool’s prayer

full-length stage play

*Written with dramaturgical support from Len Berkman and Andrea Hairston at Smith College.

A romantic tale about the natural gas pipeline industry as told by a Japanese American Sansei living in a world where miracles are cannibalized one leg at a time, where revolution is thwarted by desperate survival, and where s/he is capable of more than we think. 

No Traveller returns

Full-length stage play

*Workshopped as an EarlyStages Playwright-in-Residence with mentorship from Susan Kim
*Stage reading at The Berkshire Fringe

An apocalyptic world war reaches the shores of San Francisco, but the show must go on for this multicultural/multigenerational theatre troupe performing “Hamlet”.  

[Please inquire for Full list of stage plays, including shorts.]



stanford university

B.A. DRAMA ‘05

smith college


american conservatory theatre

Summer Training Congress ‘03


grand-prize winner, american zoetrope screenplay contest (2019)

artist-in-residence-in-motherhood (2016-2019)

semifinalist, screencraft pilot launch (2018)

semifinalist, wescreenplay diverse voices (2018)

semifinalist, outfest screenwriting lab (2018)

two-time winner, james baldwin fund prize (2010/2011)

earlystages playwright-in-residence, berkshire fringe (2009)

louis sudler prize for excellence in the performing arts (2005)

sherifa omade edoga prize for creative work involving social issues (2005)

robert l. Pierce memorial award (2001)

pillsbury foundation creative writing scholarship (1999)


direct Email:

Los Angeles contact:

Alexis Boozer Sterling
Producer, Door Flies Open