Velina Hasu Houston

Distinguished Professor of Theatre in Dramatic Writing

Resident Playwright


Velina Hasu Houston is a distinguished professor in dramatic writing, director of MFA Dramatic Writing, head of undergraduate playwriting and resident playwright at the USC School of Dramatic Arts.

She has completed over twenty-eight commissions in theatre, musical theatre, and opera. Her career began off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club, expanding nationwide and globally to institutions such as the Old Globe Theatre and Los Angeles Opera. She also writes for film and television and is a published poet, essayist, journalist, and novelist. She has written film work-for-hire for several independent producers, as well as Columbia Pictures, PBS, Eleven Arts Studio, Sidney Poitier, and others. She penned the screenplay for the film short, Path of Dreams, directed by Tamara Ruppart, which has garnered awards nationwide and globally, including best screenplay at the London International Filmmakers’ Festival 2019. She penned teleplays for Desert Dreamers, narrated by Peter Fonda, and for Journey Home by Yoshiko Uchida. She also wrote several episodes for Lancit Media/PBS’ Puzzle Place.

While Houston is multiethnic Japanese, African American, Blackfoot Pikuni Native American, and Spanish and writes on many themes, her work in theatre is the most-produced work about the Japanese female experience in the U.S. A former Japan Foundation fellow, her work extends beyond the cultural front to explore the transnational. She adapted Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women into a play with Asian/Asian American/Black/Latinx themes.

In 2015, she served as Resident Playwright of The Pasadena Playhouse, State Theatre of California. Honored by the Kennedy Center, Smithsonian Institution, Rockefeller Foundation, Japan Foundation, Wallace Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Theatre Communications Group (TCG), and others, she founded graduate playwriting studies at the USC School of Dramatic Arts, where she is Distinguished Professor, Director of MFA Dramatic Writing, Head of Undergraduate Playwriting and Resident Playwright. A Fulbright Scholar, she served on the US Department of State’s Japan-US Friendship Commission for seven years, and has served as visiting faculty at some of Japan’s leading universities.

Matchabook, her blog, highlights female theatre artists. Her play Tea, which has been produced worldwide for the last three decades, will bow in 2020 at Hero Theatre, Los Angeles. Written with Alex McSweeney, her play Crossing Borders bowed in London and her play So Speaks the Land in Vietnam in 2019. In 2020, her play Oh, I Remember the Black Birch will be presented by Bonnie Franklin’s Classic & Contemporary American Plays; and her opera Another Perfect Day, co-written with Shishir Kurup and commissioned by Los Angeles Opera, will be recorded live for podcast at A Noise Within. The recipient of a TCG Global Connections grant, Houston is writing a new play, Pára-sol, that will first bow as part of The Body Female, produced by Los Angeles Opera in its Eurydice Found Festival 2020, a collaboration with Nao Bustamante, Paula Cizmar, Nadia Islam, and Bita Shafipour.

Current film projects include an adaptation of her plays Kokoro (True Heart) and The Peculiar and Sudden Nearness of the Moon; and a play and film adaptation of the short story, Madame Butterfly, by John Luther Long. The play, Madame Butterfly: The Original, will be presented at the Japanese American National Museum. Houston is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Writers Guild of America-West, League of Professional Theatre Women and Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights. She is also an Associate Artist of Playwrights’ Arena, Los Angeles. Archives: Library of Congress, Huntington Library.


PhD, University of Southern California

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