M.A., Applied Theatre Arts

Note from the director
"Theatre is a form of knowledge; it should and can also be a means of transforming society. Theatre can help us build our future, rather than just waiting for it." (Augusto Boal, in Games for Actors and Non-actors)

Our Master of Arts in Applied Theatre Arts invites community-based artists, educators, therapists, social workers and political activists to explore how theatre can be applied to non-traditional theatrical settings through a rigorous one year and one summer course of study.

The curriculum is inspired by the work of the late Augusto Boal. Boal's work, known as Theatre of the Oppressed, is a popular expressive art form where actors and non-actors collaborate to investigate personal and political ruptures towards the aim of individual and collective transformation. Practiced in more than 70 countries on five continents worldwide, Theatre of the Oppressed techniques are typically utilized in the areas of education, therapy and political activism.

Students will learn the basic techniques including Games for Actors and Non-actors - games which promote increased interaction, engagement and spontaneity; Image Theatre - the practice which facilitates the embodiment and critical analysis of challenging community problems; Forum Theatre - the public display of theatrical scenes where audience members can replace the protagonist to improvise alternative solutions to difficult situations; Rainbow of Desire, Boal's method of Theatre and Therapy; Legislative Theatre - the use of Forum Theatre with elected officials and policy-makers towards the goal of audience-involved political change; and Aesthetics of the Oppressed, the inclusion of visual art, spoken word, expressive movement and music in the development of community-based theatre events. In addition, the program becomes a living laboratory for the participatory research and critical development of this work both locally and in the world at large.

To support an ethics of engaged scholarship, students will be in collaborative partnership with local Los Angeles grass roots organizations towards the co-design, co-development and public production of community-based theatre projects in the interests of liberatory education and social, political or therapeutic change. In past years, the M.A. in Applied Theatre Arts has partnered with the following organizations: Beit T'Shuvah, Garment Workers Center (Centro de Trabajadores de Costura), Los Angeles High School of the Arts, Office of Restorative Justice, Teen Education in Liberation Arts (TELA) at Sojourn Services for Battered Women and their Children, youTHink and Youth Justice Coalition.

The course of study will culminate with a foreign externship where they will observe the practice of Applied Theatre Arts in various organizations overseas (up to a four thousand dollar subsidy will be given to each student to support travel and housing for this externship).

"Theatre is the art of looking into oneself and into society. We are all actors of our daily life and spectators of our own actions. To be human is to be theatre - no other living being has this possibility." (Boal, 2005).

Brent Blair
Director of M.A. in Applied Theatre Arts

In addition to our conservatory-style M.F.A. programs, the USC School of Dramatic Arts is the first school west of the Mississippi to offer an M.A. in Applied Theatre Arts. Our curriculum provides artists and educators the opportunity to explore the various personal and artistic dimensions of underrepresented or underserved communities while creating an effort towards social change.


THTR 521     Engaging Community Narratives (3 units)
THTR 544     Embodied Poetics (2 units)
THTR 577     Theatre and Therapy for Cultural Fieldwork (3 units)
THTR 578     Theory, Games and Practice (4 units)
THTR 587     Liberation Arts and Community Engagement - Theory (4 units)
THTR 586a   ATA: L.A. Residency (2 units) 


THTR 505     Staging Community-based Theatre (3 units)
THTR 568     Popular Theatre for Education and Development (3 units)
THTR 579     Writing Culture (3 units)
THTR 588     Liberation Arts and Community Engagement - Praxis (3 units)
THTR 586b   ATA: L.A. Residency (2 units)
THTR 592a   Participatory Action Research for Community-Based Theatre (2 units)


THTR 598     ATA: International Externship (2 units)
THTR 592b   Participatory Action Research for Community-Based Theatre (2 units)

Students complete a written exam encompassing all areas of their curricular and practical experience during the M.A./ATA program. 

The USC School of Dramatic Arts faculty is made up of superb instructors who offer the breadth and depth of their intellectual and creativity interests. This group of scholars and artists provide students with a rich experience aimed at exploring a student's creative and intellectual potential.

Brent Blair, Director of M.A. in Applied Theatre Arts
Shishir Kurup
Helene Lorenz
Christine Menzies
Mady Schutzman
Laura Vena