Derek Lee McPhatter

Derek Lee McPhatter

Derek Lee McPhatter is committed to new work that engages diverse communities, emphasizing narratives at the intersection of race, class, gender, sexuality and technology.

Derek has written five musicals for The Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Lyric Unlimited division. Bring the Beat Back is his queer, black, sci-fi, music-theatre passion project, a 2020 O'Neill Semi-finalist, and recently a...
Derek Lee McPhatter is committed to new work that engages diverse communities, emphasizing narratives at the intersection of race, class, gender, sexuality and technology.

Derek has written five musicals for The Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Lyric Unlimited division. Bring the Beat Back is his queer, black, sci-fi, music-theatre passion project, a 2020 O'Neill Semi-finalist, and recently a featured presentation in the 2019 Polyphone Music Festival (Philadelphia), followed by a concert production run with Otherworld Theatre Company.

Derek is a 2020 resident playwright with Chicago Dramatists, where he has developed several plays including Real Talk with Auntie B, a satire on American ambition in the age of social media. His recent residency at The National Black Theatre (NYC) incubated Serious Adverse Effects, his futuristic play on technologies of healing. Organizations that have presented his work include The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Prop Thtr, Hi-ARTS, JACK, the Djerassi Artists Residency, and The Drama League. Derek is a founding playwright with The Fire This Time Festival and an inaugural playwright in the 48 Hours in Harlem Festival, two Obie-winning programs in NYC.

Beyond theater, Derek has co-created digital programming for numerous platforms, such as HIVE, a sci-fi anthology series in development with OTV | Open Television. Derek served as showrunner for the pilot for Hair Story, an experimental digital series with OTV (Open Television), and co-creator of She’s Out of Order, a comedy series that received an Outstanding Guest Actress Award at Los Angeles Webfest 2015.

His work has been supported by grants and prizes from the Jerome Foundation, the Chicago Digital Media Production Fund, the Puffin Foundation, the Propeller Fund, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and the United States Embassy in the United Kingdom, to name a few. 


Derek is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Morehouse College and a Master of Arts in Humanities from New York University. He is originally from Pickerington, Ohio and splits his time between Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.

Plays

  • Serious Adverse Effects
    FULL LENGTH - Dr. Nichelle Vye has spent years developing an alternative medical approach to cure a mysterious disease. Despite best efforts, she cannot complete her research alone. The science keeps leading back to her years as a graduate student, particularly her time with Paula, one of the few survivors from a clinical trial that went terribly awry.

    Dr. Vye will show Paula how much she’s...
    FULL LENGTH - Dr. Nichelle Vye has spent years developing an alternative medical approach to cure a mysterious disease. Despite best efforts, she cannot complete her research alone. The science keeps leading back to her years as a graduate student, particularly her time with Paula, one of the few survivors from a clinical trial that went terribly awry.

    Dr. Vye will show Paula how much she’s grown since their time at that lab, but Paula has good reason to suspect Dr. Vye isn’t being completely honest. Therefore, the true nature of the experiment shall be revealed! But before further progress can be made, Dr. Vye must contend with Paula’s family – a skeptical fiancé and a long-lost sister. Analyzing their problems is a simple matter, but to unlock the transformative potential of this healing, Dr. Nichelle Vye will need their help to finally confront her own pain.

    From the marvels of the modern laboratory to the inner depths of the human psyche, Serious Adverse Effects is an imaginative contemporary drama unfolding at the intersection of medical ethics, blood memory, and forgiveness.
  • Real Talk with Auntie B
    FULL LENGTH - Real Talk with Auntie B follows an African-American woman of a certain age who expects her new memoir to make America love her again.

    But only her most outrageous behavior attracts social media attention. With the help of a few millennials, Auntie B eventually earns a modest spot in the mainstream, and she’s certain the people are primed to adore her again! Yet the election looms...
    FULL LENGTH - Real Talk with Auntie B follows an African-American woman of a certain age who expects her new memoir to make America love her again.

    But only her most outrageous behavior attracts social media attention. With the help of a few millennials, Auntie B eventually earns a modest spot in the mainstream, and she’s certain the people are primed to adore her again! Yet the election looms, and a man from her past has thrown a wrench in the next political whatever. Did Auntie B have a “relationship” with this dreadfully unfit presidential hopeful? Interests are piqued! So to save America, this diva finds herself stepping forward to share the whole scandalizing truth of it. But Auntie B’s obsession with telling her story her way puts her at odds with people she might actually care about, and out of step with a nation already ready to move on.

    Tweet by tweet and post by post, the characters in this comedy strive to make the best of a dizzying digital media landscape and ever-shifting standards of moral decency. Real Talk with Auntie B is a satirical take on modern-day American ambition, with social media as both a help and a hindrance to responsible collective action.
  • Bring the Beat Back
    Bring the Beat Back is a queer, black, sci-fi, music-theatre experience.

    Tru Believers know the Musicship Megarhythmic will save them from the end of the world. But you can’t get on if you can’t get down...and somebody done stole da beat!

    DJ Desdemona has died, and her children - Trudy and Dayton - are the new leaders of the DJ’s “Tru Believer” movement. Trudy’s boyfriend,...
    Bring the Beat Back is a queer, black, sci-fi, music-theatre experience.

    Tru Believers know the Musicship Megarhythmic will save them from the end of the world. But you can’t get on if you can’t get down...and somebody done stole da beat!

    DJ Desdemona has died, and her children - Trudy and Dayton - are the new leaders of the DJ’s “Tru Believer” movement. Trudy’s boyfriend, Studness, hires an ex-gay consultant, Rey, to make Dayton heterosexual, as is expected for all Tru Believers. Rey’s fabulous intervention mesmerizes Dayton with memories of a queer black underground and news of the Grandest Ball of All (a competition on the other side of town). Meanwhile, Trudy and Studness prepare the Tru Believer congregation for the apocalypse, and Trudy’s negotiations with The Krew (a boisterous collective of computerized spirits in outer space) leave no doubt: the world is beggin’ for Armageddon. The Krew reminds everybody about the Tru Believer gospel: mysterious rhythms are the path to salvation. Dayton leads a music ritual to reveal the beat. Rey claims that rhythm as originally created by the queer underground and invites Dayton join him at the Ball with the beat.

    So we’re off to the Ball! Rey’s longing for his glory days; Trudy’s frustration at her brother’s faltered steps; Studness’ confusion with a fiancé who barely sees him – and Dayton, following his heart even unto the End of the World. Maybe the Krew is right and this is how it’s all going to end. Or maybe, just maybe, this can be the beginning of something new for all of us…
  • This App is Not The Business
    FULL LENGTH - This App is Not the Business is a dramedy unfolding in the worlds of corporate finance and cyberspace, bringing audiences on a quirky journey grounded in questions of value. How we value one another, how institutions value us, and the ways collective and individual values shift in the digital age.

    CORINNE, a young African-American loan officer, finds herself working for one of...
    FULL LENGTH - This App is Not the Business is a dramedy unfolding in the worlds of corporate finance and cyberspace, bringing audiences on a quirky journey grounded in questions of value. How we value one another, how institutions value us, and the ways collective and individual values shift in the digital age.

    CORINNE, a young African-American loan officer, finds herself working for one of America’s infamous large financial institutions. She’s tasked with managing recently-acquired assets of a community bank that has disintegrated (the latest sign of gentrification’s rise in her neighborhood).  Success for Corinne means navigating a hostile corporate culture while remaining true to herself. Her task is complicated by untrustworthy co-workers and her latest debt-ridden client, TAWRUSS, a charming computer coder eager to enlist Corinne in his crusade against corporate America. When the corporation sets its sights on Tawruss’ latest innovation -- a digital “economic development” application -- Corrine finds herself at the center of a crisis. What seemed like a simple matter of collecting payment ultimately moves Corrine towards a decision about what (and who) she values most.
  • The Lattice Crashes
    FULL LENGTH Unless a computer engineer in the distant future can uncover the truth about a gay bashing event in our time, the incident will be deleted from history. But no one is being honest: not the victim, not the assailant, and certainly not their mothers. Future-shock and culture-clash abound as The Lattice Crashes invites audiences to a fictional Historically Black College to explore paradigms of memory...
    FULL LENGTH Unless a computer engineer in the distant future can uncover the truth about a gay bashing event in our time, the incident will be deleted from history. But no one is being honest: not the victim, not the assailant, and certainly not their mothers. Future-shock and culture-clash abound as The Lattice Crashes invites audiences to a fictional Historically Black College to explore paradigms of memory, forgiveness and hope.
  • Otherwise Oblivion: A Tale of the New Old Black Resistance from the Futuretime
    A time travel operative for the liberation tries to buy her way out of a “post-progressive” timeline.
  • Citizen Jane
    The world’s favorite super(s)hero comes to vivid life tonight. Don’t worry if she seems fed up or tired of saving the world. She had better give us the happy endings we deserve, or else!