The official website of Velina Hasu Houston with information regarding her literary career and events.
"Tea, With Music," Photo by Michael Lamont
Tea, With Music, Book and Lyrics by Velina Hasu Houston and Music by Nathan Wang, is based upon Houston's play, Tea, a story about five Japanese international brides that preceded The Joy Luck Club by several years and also inspired it. The play was written in 1981, had a Rockefeller Workshop Production in 1984, and premiered Off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club in 1987. The musical opened in 2012 at East West Players, directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera. Produced and studied internationally, Tea is the most presented play about the Japanese female experience in the United States and beyond. The book for Tea, With Music was a 2013 L.A. Stage Alliance Ovation Awards nominee for Best Book of an Original Musical.
B I O G R A P H Y
"Tea is not quiet, but turbulent... the eye of the hurricane."From Velina Hasu Houston's Tea
Internationally acclaimed playwright Velina Hasu Houston has written over thirty plays including seventeen commissions in a career that began Off-Broadway with her play Tea at Manhattan Theatre Club and American Dreams at Negro Ensemble Company. Her plays have been produced at important theatres globally including Manhattan Theatre Club, Negro Ensemble Company, the Old Globe Theatre, George Street Playhouse, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, Smithsonian Institution, Whole Theatre (Olympia Dukakis, producer), NHK (Japan nationwide), Pasadena Playhouse, Syracuse Stage, Los Angeles Theatre Center, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, A Contemporary Theatre, Playwrights’ Arena, and others including in the People’s Republic of China, Japan, Singapore, Australia, and Malaysia. Houston also writes opera, musical theatre, television, and film and is a published poet and essayist. She has completed a novel, Tea, based upon her play Tea.
Recent world premieres of her plays include Cinnamon Girl (Playwrights' Arena at Greenway Court Theatre, a musical), Tea, With Music (a chamber musical with Book and Lyrics by Houston and music by Nathan Wang; East West Players, a 2013 nominee for Best Book of an Original Musical, L.A. Stage Alliance Ovation Awards), Calligraphy (Playwrights’ Arena/Latino Theatre Company at Los Angeles Theatre Center), The DNA Trail (Silk Road Theatre Project with the Goodman Theatre), The Intuition of Iphigenia (multinational commission [US-UK-Canada-Greece-Croatia] with Timberlake Wertenbaker andJudith Thompson (Athens and Vlichos, Greece). In opera, Jonah and the Whale (Los Angeles Opera, Composer: Jack Perla, Libretto: Velina Hasu Houston) premiered in March 2014. Current projects include a commission, Another Perfect Day (Composer: Nathan Wang, Libretto: Velina Hasu Houston) and The Intuition of Iphigenia (Composer: Nathan Wang, Libretto: Velina Hasu Houston; workshopped it in Toronto, Canada; Los Angeles Opera workshop April 2014, directed by Peggy Shannon). Her new play Turbulence (formerly The Territory of Dreams) was featured at Pasadena Playhouse’s Hothouse in 2012. Houston is developing a second chamber musical, Brown Girl in the Ring, music by Wang, which was workshopped at East West Players in June 2013, directed by Michael Arabian. Her play, Cause Célèbre, a farce inspired by Valor, agravio y mujer, Ana Caro's play from Spain's Golden Age, was presented by Playwrights' Arena as part of the "Golden Tongues" and Spanish Golden Age festivals at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, Los Angeles, June 2013, and at the University of Southern California, February 2014.
Houston also writes theatre for young audiences including The Matsuyama Mirror (Kennedy Center New Visions/New Voices, Singapore Youth Festival, Honolulu Theatre for Youth, published by Smith and Kraus) and Hula Heart. A collection of her plays, Green Tea Girl in Orange Pekoe Country, will be published in 2014.
Working internationally is important to Houston as a transnational individual. Currently, under the auspices of an Aurora Foundation grant, she is working in Japan and the U.S. on a new play and film about Sadako Sasaki and post-nuclear societal impact. She also is working on a new musical, The Tale of Yingtai, with composer Wang that is a collaboration between the U.S. and China and includes the two critical studies scholars and artists Dr. Meiling Cheng (Los Angeles) and Dr. Qing Liu (Shanghai). Houston, in concert with Jon Lawrence Rivera, Wang, and the Playwrights' Arena production of Cinnamon Girl, are participating in the 2014 Peking University Musical Theatre Festival in Beijing, China.
In October 2014, Houston will be featured in The Provost's Writers' Series at the University of Southern California that will include readings from her work and a conversation led by the scholar and historian Dr. Nayan B. Shah.
Houston has been awarded fellowships from Japan Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation (twice), California Arts Council, Aurora Foundation, Sidney F. Brody Foundation, and others; as well as being honored by Sidney Poitier and American Film Institute, the Pinter Review Prize for Drama (Silver Medal), Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (finalist), Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics New Play Award (finalist), Women in Theatre’s Red Carpet Award, East West Players’ Made In America Visionary Award, Loving Prize (Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival, New York Foundation for Arts), Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival Rainbow Award, and others including the Women’s International Center’s Living Legacy Award and the Lee Melville Award for Outstanding Contributions to Los Angeles Theatre. Tea, With Music was critics' "Pick of the Week" with LA Weekly in 2012. Houston has received grants from the James Zumberge Research and Innovation Fund (thrice), USC Visions and Voices Arts and Humanities Initiative (twice), New Directions in Feminist Research Fellowship, Durfee Foundation, Lila Wallace-Readers’ Digest Foundation, and others. She is a Fulbright Specialist in The Fulbright Specialist Program through 2015.
Her publications are with Dramatists Play Service, Smith and Kraus, Vintage Books/Random House, Akashi Shoten (Tokyo), Temple University Press, University of Massachusetts Press, University of Texas Press, Murasaki Books, Alexander Street Press, and others. She has written journalistically for the Los Angeles Times, American Theatre, The Rafu Shimpo, Pacific Citizen, and the Kansas City Star. Houston has written for film and television including for Columbia Pictures, PBS, and several independent producers. She co-produced the documentary Desert Dreamers with narration by Peter Fonda and served as Multicultural Consultant for Walt Disney Productions for Hayao Miyazaki’s film Kiki’s Delivery Service. Currently, she is writing and co-producing a live-action film short about the legendary 9th Century Japanese poetess Ono no Komachi, Path of Dreams, Producer/Director: Tamara Ruppart: http://pathofdreamsfilm.com. She also is developing a documentary film with producers Lillemor Mallau and Monique Yamaguchi, Rising Soul, about Japanese and African American mixed race individuals.
Houston served as a Commissioner on the US Department of State's US-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange, Japan-US Friendship Commission, and Japan-US Bridging Foundation for six years (2007-2013), federal agencies of the US Department of State. She served as Research Advisor for Contemporary British, Irish, and American Poetic Drama and Theatre, Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan, for two years. She is an Associate Artist of Playwrights’ Arena, Los Angeles, and a member of Dramatists’ Guild, Writers Guild of America-West, League of Professional Theatre Women, and the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights. She supports the Los Angeles Female Playwrights’ Initiative. She serves on the Board of Advisors for Multiracial Americans of Southern California and on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies.
The former Los Angeles Honorable Consul General of Japan Kazuo Kodama paralleled Houston’s work in drama to Isamu Noguchi‘s in fine art, both being offspring of one Japanese parent and one American parent.
On the personal front, Velina Hasu Houston is of Japanese, Blackfoot Pikuni Native American Indian, African American, and Cuban heritage with historical ties to India and China. Her multicultural family includes these ethnicities as well as Hawaiian, English, German, and Scottish ethnicities. She was born on a military ship on international waters enroute from Japan to the United States; her birth is registered at the first post-occupation U.S. base at which her father was assigned. She is the second daughter of Setsuko Okazaki Takechi, a native of Matsuyama (Japan) and Lemo Houston, a native of Alabama. She has one sister, Dr. H. Rika Houston, and one brother, George Adam Houston, an Amerasian war orphan who was adopted in Tokyo during the U.S. occupation at the age of eight. Houston was reared in Junction City, Kansas, a small town adjacent to Fort Riley, a once-thriving Army installation. The community in which she was reared consisted of approximately 700 immigrant Japanese women, their American husbands of various ethnicities, and their multicultural Hapa children. The community also included immigrant European women who had married Americans after World War II [Germans, Austrians, British, French, and Italians; hence Houston's global education in the kitchens and hearts of immigrant women from around the world]. Houston remained in Kansas for her undergraduate studies to aid her widowed mother. When her mother remarried, Houston moved to California to attend graduate school at UCLA and then at USC. She is married to Peter H. Jones of Manchester, England. She has two biological children and two stepsons. She resides in Los Angeles. Her cultural homes are Hawaii and Kyoto. Raised with Shintoism and Buddhism, she practices a a polytheistic faith.
At the University of Southern California School of Dramatic Arts she is Professor of Theatre, Resident Playwright, creator and Director of the Master of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing, and Associate Dean of Faculty Recognition & Development. She was one of six faculty (and the only female) chosen to serve on the USC Presidential Search Advisory Committee that selected USC’s eleventh president, President C.L. Max Nikias. She has served six years on the University Committee for Appointments, Promotion, and Tenure; and now serves as Chair of its arts and humanities panel. In the past, she has served on the faculties of the University of California at Los Angeles (screenwriting master class) and Kyoto’s Doshisha University (Visiting International Faculty); and been invited to teach master writing workshops at several universities across the US and in Japan. She has served as an evaluator for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Joyce Foundation, and Oregon Literary Fellowships. Her works are archived in The Library of Congress, Washington DC (Curator: Ms. Reme Grefalda) and in The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California (Curator: Ms. Sara Sue Hodson). A smaller collection of her work exists at the University of California, Santa Barbara; and in New World Theatre's Asian American Theater Collection at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Houston is featured as one of nine world-class faculty in the University of Southern California's "Meet USC" brochure and also is featured in the University's admissions film shown to prospective students.
Theatre Agent: Mr. Bruce Ostler, Bret Adams Ltd., 448 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036, (212) 765-5630, firstname.lastname@example.org. Novel Agent: Ms. Loretta Barrett, Loretta Barrett Books Inc., 220 East 23rd Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10010, (212) 242-3420, www.lorettabarrettbooks.com. Entertainment Attorney: Michael C. Donaldson, Donaldson & Callif, 400 South Beverly Drive, Suite 400, Beverly Hills, California 90212, (310) 277-8394.
Ichigo ichie... each encounter in life happens only once.