The Playwrights of PPF: Chisa Hutchinson

Tania Thompson
 | Apr 22, 2019
Chisa Hutchinson

Playwright Chisa Hutchinson.

South Coast Repertory's Pacific Playwrights Festival (PPF) has been a launching pad for many plays and playwrights, including David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer Prize-winning Rabbit Hole, Jordan Harrison's Marjorie Prime, Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel and Vietgone by Qui Nguyen and Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee.

Among the five readings at the 2019 festival is Whitelisted by Chisa Hutchinson. The story follows the ​strange things that are happening in Rebecca’s new apartment—poltergeist strange. And it’s not easy being on the front lines of gentrification. Now Yvette, a homeless woman, keeps intruding on her life. But even the best home-security system can’t save Rebecca from what’s really haunting her​.

We caught up with Hutchinson and talked with her about the moment she knew she wanted to write plays, the play that changed her life and more.

As a kid, what story did you read in secret?
VC Andrews novels—they were so scandalous! I wouldn’t even check them out of the library; I’d just read them there in installments.

When did you know that you wanted to be a playwright?
When I saw August Wilson debate Robert Brustein on the issue of colorblind casting. My man was like, “It’s lazy and it’s bullshit. Just an excuse to not tell stories actually about people of color by people of color. We need to do better.” And I was like, “Right on, Mr. Wilson,” and started telling stories myself.

What play changed your life—and why?
Kia Corthron’s Breath, Boom. I saw it at Playwrights Horizons umpteen years ago and it was just so different from anything I’d ever seen on a stage. Like who puts poor, black thugs on stage? Maybe in a “Law & Order” episode for two seconds, but not on stage for 90 minutes, endowing the​m with humanity and nuance and shit. That just wasn’t done. I’d read Lorraine Hansberry’s Raisin in the Sun before this, but nothing compares to seeing black bodies move through life, live on stage. It’s incredibly validating. Like “Wow! Society cares enough about us to make us art!”

The reading of Whitelisted, directed by Sarah Rasmussen, will be on Sunday, April 28, at 10:30 a.m., on the Segerstrom Stage.

Learn more and purchase tickets.

Meet the Playwrights of the 2019 Pacific Playwrights Festival
Daniel Messe, Sean Hartley & Craig Lucas: Prelude to a Kiss
Adam Bock: The Canadians
Ana Nogueira: Mask Only
Melissa Ross: Unlikeable Heroine

Qui Nguyen: Poor Yella Rednecks
​Kevin Artigue: Sheepdog