SDA launches new degree in contemporary musical theatre

The USC School of Dramatic Arts is unveiling a brand-new professional degree in contemporary musical theatre, which will welcome its first cohort in fall 2019. Taking advantage of the unparalleled resources and faculty of the School’s prestigious partner arts schools at USC, including the USC Thornton School of Music and the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, this degree will offer singular opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration and creativity.

“We are in a new golden age of musical theatre in America,” said David Bridel, dean of the School of Dramatic Arts and holder of the Braverman Family dean’s chair. “This new degree, created in partnership with our colleagues here at USC, reflects the full range of what’s possible for the art form and will develop new generations of artists fully prepared to contribute their talents and move their field forward.”

The rigorous, cohort-based, conservatory-style undergraduate program features comprehensive training in acting, voice and dance. It offers students the opportunity for a transformative artistic journey as their foundational training will be augmented by classes in the latest contemporary applications for musical theatre, including digital entrepreneurship and the on-screen musical.

Photo by Craig Schwarz

The program is further distinguished in students’ junior and senior years when classes are offered to foster creative growth for not only performers, but also composers, lyricists, book writers, directors and choreographers — allowing for culminations in musicals created by members of the cohort.

Although USC has a long, proud history of alumni successes on Broadway (including recent Tony Award nominees Renée Elise Goldsberry, Stark Sands and Charl Brown), this will be the first time the university is offering a degree specifically in musical theatre.

“It is a thrill to build on the accomplishments of our alumni and build a stronger and more contemporary foundation for the future,” continued Bridel.

Coupled with the School’s track record of alumni successes, the School is fostering professional partnerships within the thriving musical theatre community. In 2016, the School launched LiveRead@SDA, a program created to cultivate and provide critical support for the creation of innovative and contemporary new musicals for the American theatre. This innovative program affords students at the School an invaluable opportunity to work with industry leaders — producers, directors, playwrights, lyricists, composers and choreographers — while gaining insights and practical experience in what it means to intensively workshop new musicals headed toward commercial production.

Since Bridel took over as dean in 2016, the School has begun to reimagine and redefine what it means to train dramatic artists in the 21st Century without losing the strong foundational training the School is known for. This flexible and contemporary approach responds to today’s rapidly changing media climate, and provides the versatile and cutting edge skills essential to the contemporary actor, writer, stage manager and designer.