Velina Hasu Houston

Distinguished Professor of Theatre in Dramatic Writing

Director of MFA Dramatic Writing

Head of Undergraduate Playwriting

Resident Playwright


A USC distinguished professor, Velina Hasu Houston is the director of MFA dramatic writing, head of undergraduate playwriting, associate dean of faculty, and resident playwright at the USC School of Dramatic Arts. She began her writing career in New York off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club and the Negro Ensemble Company. She expanded to numerous productions and presentations at U.S. regional theatres to international global institutions ranging from opera to intimate theatres and including 24 commissions; producers include the Old Globe Theatre, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, Smithsonian Institution, Syracuse Stage, George Street Playhouse, The Pasadena Playhouse, Barrington Stage, Los Angeles Opera and others.

Houston 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, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and others. 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, Temple University Press and others.

She has written journalistically for the Los Angeles TimesAmerican TheatreThe Rafu ShimpoPacific Citizen, Mademoiselle magazine, 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 penned the screenplay for Path of Dreams, produced by Eleven Arts and True Heart Films. Her essays appear in several volumes including Red, Yellow, Black, Brown (Rutgers University Press) and Amerasia Journal. Her novel, Tea, is based upon her critically acclaimed play Tea. 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, Calif.

At USC, she created and directs the Master of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing program and is also an inaugural associated faculty member of the USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions & Culture. A Fulbright scholar, she is a member of the Dramatists’ Guild, Writers Guild of America-West, the League of Professional Theatre Women, and the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Critical Mixed Race StudiesLearn more at


PhD, University of Southern California

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