Seema Sueko announced as Dramatic Arts 2015 commencement speaker

Photo by Crissy Pascual

Seema Sueko, Associate Artistic Director of The Pasadena Playhouse and champion of diversity in theatre, will be the featured speaker at the University of Southern California School of Dramatic Arts’ 2015 Commencement ceremony.

The university’s 132nd Commencement takes place Friday, May 15, 2015. The School of Dramatic Arts’ satellite ceremony begins at 11 a.m. at the Bing Theatre, following the university’s main ceremony.

“The USC School of Dramatic Arts is pleased to welcome Seema Sueko as our 2015 commencement speaker. I totally agree with American Theatre magazine that she is an exceptional artist who will have significant impact on the national field in the next 25 years,” said Madeline Puzo, dean of the USC School of Dramatic Arts. “Ms. Sueko has been and continues to be not only a highly-esteemed director, but a changemaker in building community and fostering diversity in professional theatre. We are honored that someone of her artistic excellence will be addressing our graduating class, and our families and friends.”

Prior to her position at The Pasadena Playhouse, Sueko was the Executive Artistic Director of Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company, an Equity company she co-founded in San Diego in 2004. Sueko led Mo`olelo to its selection as the inaugural Resident Theatre Company at La Jolla Playhouse and to awards from American Theatre Wing, NEA, TCG, Actors’ Equity Association, and NAACP San Diego Branch, among others.

She created Mo`olelo’s Green Theatre Choices Toolkit, a series of scorecards that rates the environmental impact of materials used in theatre productions, which has been used by theatres and universities on five continents from Broadway to South Africa. She also created the Consensus Organizing for Theatre (CO) methodology, a process through which a theatre builds stake in multiple pockets of the community and those communities build stake in the theatre by surfacing where the needs and agendas of both intersect. As a result, CO builds and diversifies audiences, lends authenticity to the artistic and education work, and supports fundraising and board development goals. Sueko now implements this methodology, which has its foundation in community organizing, at The Pasadena Playhouse and teaches it around the country.

Sueko recently made her Playhouse directing debut with Stop Kiss, which was named one of Southern California’s top 10 productions of the year by L.A. Times theatre critic Charles McNulty. At Mo`olelo, she directed Extraordinary Chambers, Kita y Fernanda, How I Got That Story, Yellow Face, among others. Other directing and acting credits include The Old Globe, Yale Repertory, 5th Avenue Theatre, Indiana Repertory, San Diego Repertory, and Native Voices, among others. She was the recipient of the inaugural Leadership U[niversity] grant from Theatre Communications Group and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which took her to Arena Stage as its Visiting Artistic Associate in 2013. As a playwright, she has been commissioned by Mixed Blood in Minneapolis and Center Stage in Baltimore.

In 2013, Sueko and The Pasadena Playhouse partnered with the USC School of Dramatic Arts to present GREENHOUSE at The Playhouse. Designed to provide opportunities and support for the graduate students of the MFA in Dramatic Writing program, GREENHOUSE culminates with the USC New Works Festival III at the Carrie Hamilton Theatre at The Pasadena Playhouse.

Born in Pakistan and raised in Hawaii, she holds an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Chicago.