Derek L. McPhatter

Composer Librettist Lyricist Playwright

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 is developing NightQueen, an afro-surreal performance suite, as a 2021 Creative Capital Awardee. He 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, 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 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.