Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Christine Toy Johnson

By Catherine Woo

Welcome to NYWIFT, Christine Toy Johnson!

You might recognize NYC-based artist Christine from the stage, the page, or the screen. She played Diane over one thousand times in the first national tour of the musical Come from Away. Other roles span from Sherry Yang in the Netflix Marvel series Iron Fist to Maria in West Side Story. She hosts The Dramatists Guild’s Talkback podcast, where she shines a spotlight on conversations about equality and inclusion. She also participated in The Writers Lab 2016, the screenwriting program co-produced by NYWIFT.

Riding out the Storm, Christine’s newest film, follows a woman forced to decide whether to evacuate the house her late husband built for them on the day Hurricane Sandy is set to hit Staten Island. The film screens October 30 at the Tribeca Screening Room – tickets are available now!

Read more about artists she admires, advocacy for other artists, and new movie musical here!


NYWIFT Member Christine Toy Johnson


Describe yourself. Give us your elevator pitch!

I’m a writer, actor, and advocate for inclusion. I live in NYC, my favorite city in the world, with my husband Bruce (also a director and actor) and West Highland White Terrier Joey (who thinks he’s the director of our house), my favorite guys in the world.


Photo by Bruce Johnson


What brings you to NYWIFT?

I was a participant of the 2016 Writers Lab, which brought NYWIFT back into my life; I had been a member many years ago and am happy to return. I’ve been on the road with a Broadway national tour for the past five years (minus that pesky shutdown) and just produced my third film – a movie musical short that I also co-wrote – so it made sense to rejoin the NYWIFT community at this time.


You’ve had an incredible journey that spans across TV, film, and theater. Do you have any roles that stand out as favorites to you?

I absolutely loved playing Diane 1160 times (!) in the first National Tour of Come From Away, which I just recently completed. On television, I loved playing Sherry Yang in the Netflix Marvel series Iron Fist. And one of my favorite roles I’ve ever written was for the late great Lynn Cohen in my play The Secret Wisdom of Trees [editor’s note: also a NYWIFT member!]; an intrepid and fiercely funny septuagenarian, who tries to prepare her family and herself for her journey into Alzheimer’s by planting trees at the locations of her biggest memories.


Christine Toy Johnson in the first North American Tour Company of Come From Away (photo by Matthew Murphy)


From your extensive experience, is there a connection between acting and writing? Has working as an actress influenced your creative process as a writer and vice versa?

Absolutely. I excavate and explore characters that I’m writing in the same way that I do with characters that I’m portraying. It’s all about finding out what makes them tick, what their essential wounds, hopes, dreams, and fears are, what they need to overcome, how they choose to navigate their challenges, and of course their moral needs, objectives, obstacles, battles, opponents, self-revelations, and new equilibriums they discover along their journeys.



Your whole career, you have advocated for the positive effects of inclusion. What advice would you give to other performers or creators who have been largely excluded from the landscape of American storytelling?

Become your own gatekeeper, make your own opportunities, don’t wait for other people to give you permission to create, and tell the stories you’re compelled to tell.


If you were to write a musical about your life using pre-existing songs, which ones would have to be included and why?

So many songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon! I’m a self-professed pathological “cockeyed optimist” and I’ve always loved the poetry and lyricism that Oscar Hammerstein created in his writing. Though there are many elements of what’s known as “golden age musicals” that are problematic today, Rodgers and Hammerstein were ahead of their time in the many ways they expanded conversations about race and politics in commercial musical theatre. And singing their songs gives me so much joy!


Photo by Lia Chang


As host of The Dramatists Guild’s Talkback podcast, who would your dream guests (living or deceased) be?

I am so fortunate to serve as an Officer of the Guild’s Council alongside almost every living writer I’ve ever admired, and have had a chance to talk to many of them on Talkback! That being said, a dream situation (keeping in mind that this podcast is meant to illuminate dramatists who write for the theatre) would be a conversation with the late legends Oscar Hammerstein and Steve Sondheim alongside my dear friend and living legend John Weidman, who of course wrote several enduring works of art with Steve (including Pacific Overtures, which I was lucky enough to do with both of them in the room).


Christine Toy Johnson recording a podcast episode


You can find Christine on Instagram and Threads @CToyJ. Her website is www.christinetoyjohnson.com.


Her new film, Riding out the Storm, will be released in the fall, you can check it out at www.ridingoutthestormmovie.com starting at the end of August. You can learn more on Instagram @ridingoutthestormmovie

She is having a free screening of her new short movie musical on October 30 at the Tribeca Screening Room. Riding Out the Storm, a short original movie musical directed by Bruce Alan Johnson with screenplay and lyrics by Christine Toy Johnson and music and score by Michael Mott, will have 3 screenings at the Tribeca Screening Room, 375 Greenwich Street, on Monday October 30, 2023. Executive produced by Christine Toy Johnson for Moongate Productions, screenings of the 15-minute-long film will occur at 6 pm, 7 pm, and 8 pm, with a panel discussion between the creative team at 6:30 pm.

On the day Hurricane Sandy is set to hit Staten Island, a woman must decide whether to evacuate the house her late husband built for them.

Admission is free. Please reserve for the specific screening you would like to attend by visiting: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/riding-out-the-storm-screening-and-panel-tickets-678441265087?aff=oddtdtcreator


Poster for Riding Out The Storm


Catherine Woo

Catherine Woo Catherine Woo is an intern at NYWIFT and an aspiring screenwriter. She will graduate from NYU Tisch with a BFA in Dramatic Writing in 2024. She has interned at Rattlestick Theater and Protozoa Pictures. She has done production photography for PrideFest 2023 at The Tank and Broke People Spring 2023 Play Festival at NYU.

View all posts by Catherine Woo

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