Velina Hasu Houston receives prestigious grant

The celebrated dramatist, along with partner The Pasadena Playhouse, will study ways to further theatre’s relationship with the ethnic Asian and Pacific Islander community

Velina Hasu Houston in conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

Velina Hasu Houston, Professor, Associate Dean of Faculty Development and Recognition, Director of Dramatic Writing and Resident Playwright of the USC School of Dramatic Arts, in partnership with The Pasadena Playhouse, has been awarded a Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) Exploration Grant through the 2015 Building Demand for Arts Program.

The Exploration Grants support inventive arts collaborations aiming to understand and connect more deeply with a particular audience through the fields of jazz, dance and/or theatre. The grant was awarded to Houston and The Pasadena Playhouse to investigate theatre-based ways to further the theatre’s relationship with the ethnic Asian and Pacific Islander community in the San Gabriel Valley in California.

In addition to Velina Hasu Houston and The Pasadena Playhouse, 17 other teams of performing artists and arts organizations were selected to receive these Exploration grants. This year’s grantees represent a wide geographic span and interest in reaching diverse target audiences such as inner-city young adults, specific ethnic groups and the national deaf community.

Houston’s work has been performed throughout the nation’s regional theatres and internationally. She is also a librettist (opera), bookwriter/lyricist (musical theatre), essayist, poet, screenwriter and novelist. She has been awarded fellowships from Japan Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Mellon Foundation, Wallace Foundation (Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Fund), Aurora Foundation and others. She is a Fulbright Specialist Scholar and is developing a Fulbright project with Aoyama Gakuin Daigaku. She has been honored by the Kennedy Center, Sidney Poitier, American Film Institute, Pinter Review Prize for Drama, LA Stage Alliance and others. Her plays are studied globally throughout Asia, Europe and the U.S.; and published with Dramatists Play Service, Smith and Kraus, Vintage Books/Random House and others.

She has written journalistically for the Los Angeles Times, American Theatre, The Rafu Shimpo, Pacific Citizen and the Kansas City Star; and for film and television with Columbia Pictures, PBS, and several independent producers. She co-produced the documentary Desert Dreamers (narration by Peter Fonda) and served as Multicultural Consultant for Disney for Hayao Miyazaki’s film Kiki’s Delivery Service. She served for six years on the U.S. Department of State’s U.S.-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange, Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission and Japan-U.S. Bridging Foundation. She was Research Advisor for Contemporary British, Irish, and American Poetic Drama and Theatre, Aoyama Gakuin Daigaku, Tokyo, for two years. Her works are archived in The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., and in The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California.