Alumni Q&A: Adrienne Visnic BFA '14

Adrienne Visnic

Adrienne Visnic

For our Alumni Q&A series, we caught up with Adrienne Visnic BFA ’14, Chair of the SDA Alumni Leadership Council, about her recent projects, SDA’s new building and exciting things to look forward to at the ALC.

Tell us a little bit about your professional background.

Since graduation, I’ve had the opportunity to perform professionally as well as produce my own shows, collaborating with many people I met while attending USC. I was nominated for Broadway World Best Female Artist Los Angeles for my two sold out solo shows that premiered in iconic L.A. cabaret venues (The Federal and The Rockwell). I also produced and performed in Barefoot in The Park, proudly playing Corie opposite my scene partner for Senior Showcase, A.J. Helfet (BA ’14). The show was directed by my dear friend and MTR director, Brandon Baer, who went on to direct me in The West Coast Premiere of Be A Good Little Widow at The Odyssey, written by Bekah Brunstetter from NBC’s This is Us. The show was nominated for Best Drama by the L.A. Ovation Awards. I have also traveled to perform and produce shows at the renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, which is the largest theatre festival in the world. It has a rich history with the School of Dramatic Arts. I’ve gone twice now with many alumni and am very interested in returning to Scotland as soon as I can!

I’ve also performed on camera (and have worked behind the scenes) for many TV shows, short films, pilot presentations, music videos and more. On many of these projects, I have collaborated with SDA and SCA friends. These projects have been featured at the Tribeca Film Festival, New Hampshire Film Festival and several Los Angeles film programs. Most recently, I had the opportunity to act in a very special short film called Those We Carry opposite Nancy Travis, which can now be seen on Omeleto.

Having a naturally strong eye for design and a love of drawing, I have had the opportunity to work in graphic design, social media, commissions, etc. For my SDA community event SCene Partners, I even created an illustration honoring all the many SDA buildings on campus. I have my own illustration business.

Through TV, film, commercials, stage, live events and art commissions… I’ve been very fortunate to have had so many amazing experiences and fulfilling creative endeavors as an actor-singer-producer-illustrator. That being said, singing and acting will always be my main passion!

What are you currently working on professionally?

Currently, I’m very proud to have produced and performed in a script reading series called REVEL, which I co-founded with my first USC friend, A.J. Helfet. REVEL is a brand new live show that showcases new works in progress. A.J. and I bring together talented writers and pair them with incredible performers to highlight their projects (excerpts from features, plays, pilots or short films). Our next show will be on April 30th at the Broadwater MainStage Theatre in Hollywood. We’d love to see even more USC alumni there.

I also had the pleasure of producing and acting in a short film entitled New Old Friends featuring stage and screen veterans Dakin Matthews and Phil Proctor. This short is making its film festival debut at the Oscar-qualifying Cleveland International Film Festival this April. I’m so proud of our team and I look forward to sharing this story with audiences.

Additionally, I work as a Focus Group Moderator for a data research company that provides audience testing for Feature and Independent Films. It’s a privilege to be part of that process.

What was your best USC experience?

Well, my scariest experience was relearning how to ride a bike in the chaos of campus traffic, yet it taught me a lot about humility, tenacity and the skill of overcoming fear (or a scraped knee – haha). I had so many bruises but I learned a lot about getting back up which has been very helpful for my career.

As for my best experience at school? Well, as a senior, I was able to fulfill my teen musical theatre obsessed dream of singing “For Good” from Wicked opposite Kristin Chenoweth (who originated Glinda) with a full orchestra at a private charity event on campus. That was amazing! Then, that same week, I joined the student section storming the field after a big win against Stanford. That was pretty legendary too!

And I have to mention that singing on the Bing Stage opposite Pat Haden (USC’s Athletic Director at the time) in the Spring Musical/Operetta The Most Happy Fella was definitely a big highlight. I had never seen so many football players in the Bing Theatre. His mission was to encourage the athletes of USC to seek out the arts on campus. I love that Dean Roxworthy shares a similar passion with a goal of combining the world of theatre and athletics. Theatre is sport and sport is theatre. There’s so much that artists and athletes can learn from one another. Take it from me, a really talented bicyclist!

My love for combining different communities together really took shape during my time at USC. I was a proud member of Kappa Alpha Theta all four years which opened doors for me to make friends outside of the School of Dramatic Arts. There are strong, smart and supportive Thetas represented in every school on campus. My sorority sisters came to every show I did in college and still to this day show up to my professional productions. Being in theatre school and a sorority at the same time was a huge scheduling puzzle but I am truly thankful I was able to piece them both together.

What do you miss about college, SDA specifically?

The freedom and the flexibility of being able to fully engage as an artist. I was in class from 8 am to 5 pm, had a dinner break, then would head to rehearsal or a show from 6-11 pm. I loved it! It was energizing and inspiring! I’m not sure I slept during those four years though.

I also genuinely miss running into everyone! On my way to class I would bump into at least five people I knew. That was one of my favorite things about college. To this day, I strive to recreate it all the time. I love bringing people together and I regularly host gatherings, sometimes at historic L.A. locations or at live events around town. Staying connected to like-minded, kind, hard-working creatives is incredibly valuable. That connectivity is something that school does by design but after graduation, I learned that you have to put in the effort.

Was there a class or professor that was particularly meaningful or influential during your time at the School? Why?

I feel blessed to say that I’ve had incredible teachers in my life. The ones who were the most meaningful to me during my time at USC were Mary-Joan Negro and John Rubinstein. I vividly remember meeting both of them. At first, I was so intimidated by their high standards but as time went on, I realized that these were two artists who pushed, challenged and championed their students into realizing their potential. I use so many of the tools I learned from Mary-Joan and John in all of my work, plus I am always on time (which is early!).

In addition to Mary-Joan and John, I should mention a little something about my wonderful SDA teachers who are no longer with us…

Paul Backer, for being at every single show and his extraordinary wealth of knowledge.

Jack Rowe, for accepting me into USC on the spot at my college audition. As a young artist, he made me feel so encouraged and that was a true gift.

Michael Keenan, for giving me the best advice that I pass along whenever I can. He told me: “Everyday, do one thing for yourself, one thing for your home, and one thing for your career.” This was such great advice because he said that, as a creative, you need to build some sense of a schedule, something you can have some control over. As an artist, there are a lot of things out of your control, and this advice has always helped me stay on track.

Also, I truly felt that my friends were my teachers too. What we learned from going through school together was invaluable. One of my best friends, Sandy Reed, whom we also lost a few years ago, taught me to embrace curiosity and to live life to the absolute fullest. Our time here is precious.

I have immense gratitude for all of my teachers.

What (if any) productions did you work on?

The second I stepped on campus, I signed up to audition for Musical Theatre Repertory’s production of A Little Night Music. I booked it! And I was immediately hooked on Independent Student Productions (ISPs), which I continued to work on while pursuing my BFA. I loved those shows because they allowed me to learn every aspect of putting up a show – acting, casting, producing, building sets, budgets, etc. Throughout my four years, I was in at least one or two shows every semester, two of which were the all-school Spring Musicals on the Bing Stage (On The Town and The Most Happy Fella). All of these opportunities were invaluable to me and made me the artist I am today.

You are an actor, singer, producer and illustrator. What advice would you give to students hoping to develop multiple skills as multihyphenate artists?

Get involved. Be curious. Love what you do. Follow your instincts. Challenge yourself to grow beyond your comfort zone. Embrace every opportunity that the school offers. Work hard and be patient. See each opportunity as a gift, not a burden. Even on the days when you’re uncertain, remind yourself why you love what you do. People are inspired by those who are passionate and that passion can domino into so many wonderful opportunities. And most importantly, be kind.

We’re so excited to have you as Chair of the Alumni Leadership Council. How did you become involved with the ALC and why has the work been important to you?

I’m so excited and honored to be the Chair of the Alumni Leadership Council for SDA! I love being involved in our alumni community and connecting alumni from different eras to each other. It creates new friendships, collaborations, celebrations and strengthens our Trojan community.

I have participated in our Alumni community in various ways throughout the years. I joined the Young Associates, served as an Ambassador for the Young Alumni Association and I proudly served as the SDA Rep for 3 years on the USC Board of Governors. I was also one of the original ALC members immediately after I graduated, so to take on a leadership role this year has been very rewarding.

When I created SCene Partners, along with alum and fellow ALC member David Fickas (BFA ’96), our goal was for alumni from various graduating years to connect. We’ve hosted happy hours, moderated panels and produced a short film series at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Toluca Lake. David and I also co-host and moderate a monthly show for the Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF) where we broadcast SDA short films and interview guests actors, writers and directors giving a platform to alumni to share their work. We’ve loved introducing alumni to MPTF and their incredible mission.

All of this has been very important to me and it has been a true honor to give back in this way. I look forward to getting more alumni connected and involved!

How did your training at SDA help you develop leadership skills?

Arts education develops creative and empathic humans. I truly believe that everyone benefits from the arts – those who create art and those who support and appreciate it. My BFA Acting training enhanced many skills like collaboration, communication, decisiveness, resilience, self-awareness and project management. These are all qualities and skills that have served me well.

Tell us about some of the exciting things the ALC is working on this year.

We have a new building! Just saying that makes me excited! To see the USC School of Dramatic Arts sign on our beautiful new home is next level. The ALC can’t wait to celebrate this win for the SDA community and the University at large. On April 13th, opening day, the ALC will be present wearing our gold badges. Join us and introduce yourselves! That afternoon, at 1 pm, A.J. Helfet and I will be bringing our REVEL event to the new Stop Gap Theatre with an “Alumni Reading Series” which will feature several pieces written and performed by SDA alumni from various graduating years. We hope this will be the first of many on-campus events sponsored by the ALC that welcomes alumni into our new home.

The ALC is also working closely with the SDA’s Professional Development Center to continue to develop the mentorship program. This provides the opportunity for the ALC and alumni to mentor one or two current students as they approach graduation. It’s an inspiring experience to hear about all of their hopes and aspirations and to help them get a sense of their next steps into the professional world. I love getting introduced to more of my Trojan family through the Showcases which happen every spring.

The ALC is also actively looking for more alumni to get involved. We are hoping to expand our Alumni Council this year too!

What are some ways that alumni can become more involved with the school after graduation?

If you’d like to get involved in our vibrant alumni community, please reach out to me or Summer Grubaugh (SDA Alumni Relations) or to any of the wonderful Alumni Leadership Council members. You can follow me on socials where I always update and promote USC events organized by the School, ALC and by other alumni. We always need help putting these events together, so please volunteer!

In the spirit of Paul Backer, go see everything! There are so many USC alumni performing everywhere across the globe. Seek them out and connect! Reach out to alumni who are doing what you aspire to do. We all share the mutual experience of USC, SDA and our love of creative endeavors. As fellow SDA graduates, we are stronger together. Fight On! 

An illustration by Adrienne Visnic of the USC Drama Center, the previous home of the USC School of Dramatic Arts.
An illustration by Adrienne Visnic portraying some of the theatres associated with the USC School of Dramatic Arts across campus.