The official website of Velina Hasu Houston with information regarding her artistic 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.
"Tea is not quiet, but turbulent... the eye of the hurricane."From Velina Hasu Houston's Tea
BIOGRAPHY IN BRIEF
Velina Hasu Houston is an internationally celebrated writer with over twenty-eight commissions in theatre and opera. In New York, US nationwide, and globally in Asia and Europe, her work has been produced to critical acclaim at prestigious theatres. She was the first-ever Playwright-in-Residence at The Pasadena Playhouse, State Theatre of California; and a Fulbright Scholar (Fulbright project, Aoyama Gakuin Daigaku, Tokyo, Japan). Honored by The Kennedy Center, Smithsonian Institution, Rockefeller Foundation, Japan Foundation, Wallace Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Theatre Communications Group, and others, she founded Master of Fine Arts graduate playwriting studies at the University of Southern California in 1990 and co-founded the study of Asian American culture at USC in 1992. At the USC School of Dramatic Arts, she is Distinguished Professor of Dramatic Writing, Director of MFA Dramatic Writing, Head of Undergraduate Playwriting, and Resident Playwright. She also is faculty at the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy. Houston is an Associated Faculty member of the USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions & Culture; and on the Affiliated Faculties of East Asian Studies and American Studies & Ethnicity. She served on the U.S. Department of State's U.S.-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange, Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, and U.S.-Japan Bridging Foundation for six years. She is the only U.S. playwright to amass a body of work that explores the US-Japan relationship through a bilateral, global view of identity. Her play, Tea, is the most-produced play about the Japanese female experience in the US In Japan, she has been an invited guest at Aoyama Gakuin Daigaku, Osaka University, Kyoto University, Keio University, and Doshisha University. Five documentary films in Japan have featured her work and family. Her archives are with The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; and The Huntington Library, San Marino, California. Her blog, Matchabook, is at http://www.matchabook.wordpress.com, and explores culture related to ethnicity as well as female theatre- and film-makers. She is married to Peter H. Jones of Manchester, England; and has two children, Kiyoshi and Leilani. Her pets include two Shiba Inu, Kentaro and Kojiro, and two domestic shorthair cats, Hanako and Stella.
Internationally acclaimed playwright Velina Hasu Houston has written over thirty plays including over 28 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 notable theatres globally. Houston also writes opera, musical theatre, television, and film and is a published poet and essayist. She adapted her play Tea into a novel of the same name and a musical play. In addition, she writes theatre for young audiences and children's television.
She is published as a playwright, novelist, poet, and blogger. A collection of her plays, Green Tea Girl in Orange Pekoe Country: Selected Plays of Velina Hasu Houston, is available on Amazon.com from No Passport Press.Her publications are with Dramatists Play Service, Smith and Kraus, Vintage Books/Random House, Akashi Shoten (Tokyo), Temple University Press, Dramatic Publishing, University of Massachusetts Press, University of Texas Press, Murasaki Books, Alexander Street Press, Applause Books, Routledge, and others. She has written journalistically for the Los Angeles Times, American Theatre, The Rafu Shimpo, Pacific Citizen, The Dramatist, and the Kansas City Star. For film and television, she has written for Columbia Pictures, PBS, and several independent producers.
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, the Lee Melville Award for Outstanding Contributions to Los Angeles Theatre, and a Theatre Communications Group Global Connections Grant in partnership with The Andrew Mellon Foundation. Her work has enjoyed many "critics choice" designations from various media. 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. She penned the screenplay for and co-produced a live-action film short about the legendary 11th Century Japanese poetess Ono no Komachi, Path of Dreams, Producer, Eleven Arts Inc. and True Heart Films in association with Minx Pictures; producer/Director Tamara Ruppart; the screenplay garnered a Best Original Screenplay award from the London International Filmmakers Festival. She also is developing a documentary film with Director Ruppart and Producer Monique Yamaguchi, Rising Soul, about multiethnic Japanese of African descent. At numerous festivals, Path of Dreams has received honors such as best short, directors' choice, and best cinematography.
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 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. Director and Dean of the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts at San Diego State University Dr. Peggy Shannon wrote in Houston's collection of plays, "The interesting parallels between Houston’s life and that of visual artist and architect Isamu Noguchi, who also is of mixed race Japanese and American parentage, are raised. Like Noguchi, in the arts Houston finds expression that is truly without borders." The former Honorable Consul General of Japan of Los Angeles Kazuo Kodama observed the parallels between the artists’ lives, paralleling Houston’s work in drama to the work of Noguchi in fine art. Of Houston’s work, Kodama remarked that she has a 'unique lens… as a Japanese American of mixed parentage' that is 'an asset to Japan-US relations at all levels' because 'people can come to see a connection between our two nations that not only exists in documents and organizations, but which is a living, organic relationship, exemplified by and embodied in individuals like… [Houston].'”
On the personal front, Velina Hasu Houston is of Japanese, Blackfoot Pikuni Native American Indian, African American, and Spanish heritage. Her multicultural family includes these ethnicities as well as Hawaiian, English, German, Vietnamese, Chinese, Argentinian, Irish, Italian, 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 US base at which her father was assigned. She is the second daughter of a native of Matsuyama (Japan) and a native of Alabama. She has one sister and one brother. Houston was reared in Junction City, Kansas, a small town adjacent to Fort Riley, a once-thriving Army installation. The town and fort have been chronicled by the BBC, Mainichi Hoso, and The New York Times. The community in which she was reared consisted of approximately 700 immigrant Japanese women, their American husbands of various ethnicities, and their multicultural mixed ethnicity children. The community also included immigrant European women who had married Americans after World War II [Germans, Austrians, British, Spanish, 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. She resides in Los Angeles. Raised with Shintoism and Buddhism, she practices a polytheistic faith. She is an animal lover and has four pets: two Shiba Inu and two cats.
At the University of Southern California School of Dramatic Arts she is Distinguished Professor of Theatre, Resident Playwright, creator and Director of the Master of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing, and Head of Undergraduate Playwriting. In addition, she serves on the faculty of the USC Iovine Young Academy. She is the first person of African descent and the first multiethnic person to be named as a Distinguished Professor at USC, a nominated and presidentially-selected position. 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 as a guest artist or 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. Natalie Russell). 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. At USC, she is an Associated Faculty Member of the USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture; and on the Affiliated Faculties of East Asian Studies and American Studies & Ethnicity. She serves as Faculty Sponsor for the student organization MixedSC, which she founded with mixed-race students in 1991. She is a co-founder of the study of Asian American culture at USC, having helped to create USC's first Asian American curriculum there in 1992.
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Ichigo ichie... each encounter in life happens only once.