140 Lbs: How Beauty Killed My Mother


Written & Performed by Susan Lieu
Sound/Lightboard Operator: Madison Worthington

May 15 – May 19, 2019 | San Francisco
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday at 8pm
Saturday at 8:30pm | Sunday at 5:30pm



“fascinating, touching, upsetting, poignant, startling, affecting, engrossing, emotional, informative and, more than anything, humane” — Leah Garchik, SF Chronicle

Show Description

Two hours into surgery, Susan’s mother loses oxygen to her brain and the plastic surgeon deliberately does not call 9-1-1 for fourteen minutes. Five days later, while in a coma, she flatlines. The surgeon is charged with medical negligence and her family falls apart; no one talks about what happened. Nineteen years later on her wedding day, Susan’s mother’s seat sits empty and Susan realizes she can no longer ignore what she’s always wanted: to know who her mother was. Sifting through thousands of deposition pages and reaching out to the killer’s family, Susan uncovers the painful truth of her mother, herself, and the impossible ideal of Vietnamese feminine beauty.

“140 LBS: How Beauty Killed My Mother” is a solo theatre work written and performed by Susan Lieu, a first-generation American born to Vietnamese refugees. Read about her mother’s death here that happened in San Francisco in 1996. The performance weaves together several through-lines: intergenerational trauma; parent-child relationships; body insecurity and shame; repression and healing from personal loss; lack of accountability in the medical system; Vietnamese folkloric practice of spirit channeling.  The work premiered in Seattle in February 2019 at Theatre Off Jackson with a sold-out run of 9 performances.

Artist Biography

Susan Lieu is a Vietnamese-American playwright, solo performer and activist whose parents are Vietnamese refugee nail salon workers. Her first work, “140 LBS: How Beauty Killed My Mother” is the unfortunate true story of how Susan’s mother went in for plastic surgery and died due to a malpractice incident. At the time, Susan was 11 years old. 140 LBS had its world premiere in Seattle in February 2019 at Theatre Off Jackson with a sold-out run of 9 performances, including 180 tickets gifted to the community. Past venues include On the Boards, Bumbershoot, The World Economic Forum, and Harvard College.  Her work has been profiled in NPR, KING5 News, The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly and The Northwest Asian Weekly.  She is supported by the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, 4Culture, Artist Trust, STG, and RealSelf.

Susan began performing comedy in 2012, at venues including The Purple Onion, Carolines on Broadway and Jet City Improv.  Her training includes Yale School of Drama and Freehold Theatre. She has a BA in Social Studies from Harvard, an MBA from Yale and is the co-founder of Socola Chocolatier, an artisanal chocolate company in San Francisco.  She has been the Artist-in-Residence at The Collective in Seattle and The Dent Conference. Lieu is an alumna of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers Program and Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs.