The School of Dramatic Arts briefly caught up with actress Sari Lennick (BA ’97) for our Q&A series highlighting the accomplishments of the alumni of the USC School of Dramatic Arts.
About the alum
Sari Lennick, who co-stars in the upcoming Woody Allen film Cafe Society, is best known for her work in Joel and Ethan Coen’s A Serious Man, which earned the Robert Altman Independent Spirit Award, a Gotham Award Nomination for Best Ensemble, and an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Her web series, Drama Queen, which features some of her fellow SDA alums, was recently released.
SDA: What was your best USC experience?
Lennick: I had a pretty incredible college experience. When I reflect on my time at SDA it’s to the tune of Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days. I’m not ashamed to admit that those were indeed my glory days.
It is pretty challenging to pin down a best experience. Every friend I made, every professor and educator with whom I worked, every class I took, every play I read or saw (even the bad ones!), all had a profound impact on me, and gave me the best of what I have and who I am now.
SDA: Was there a class or professor that was particularly meaningful or influential during your time at the School?
Lennick: Early on in my college experience, I was cast in Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening. I was part of a small handful of freshmen who had the opportunity to work on the show, alongside a ridiculously talented and inspiring group of second, third and fourth-year BFA and BA actors. Allan Hendrick directed the show and he was the first person who taught me how to act.
There were so many professors who helped shape my experience and taught me so much – Paul Backer, Marilyn McIntyre, Bob Scales, John Blankenchip, Eric Trules, Deborah Ross Sullivan, to name a few.
SDA: What lessons have you been able to apply from your SDA training to your professional life?
Lennick: During tech for Spring Awakening, I was standing outside the stage left entrance of the Bing Theatre, with a senior, Laura Estep. She was an amazing actress and I was in awe of her. I asked her for her best piece of advice and she said “always be nice to the costume people.” Obviously when I’m working on a film, things like acting, breathing, dialects, relaxation are all pretty important. But I’d say the most important thing is to “always be nice to the costume people” (and every single person I have the privilege of working with).
SDA: What do you miss about college, SDA specifically?
Lennick: I miss being around my friends all the time. If I could take every single person (well, most of the people) I went to college with and live with them on the same street, I would be the happiest person. That’s my biggest fantasy.
SDA: Was there a particular production you felt taught you the most?
Lennick: I can remember important moments and lessons from every single one of them, but I should probably say the most important production I did was Threepenny Opera my senior year, when I started dating my now-husband, Alan Lennick.
SDA: What is your advice for current SDA students?
Lennick: I think one of the things that made USC such a magical place for me, was the endless resources and support that I was afforded. I started at USC as a BFA theatre major and one week into my sophomore year, decided to switch to the BA program and double major in theatre and philosophy. I was able to make that transition because the BFA and BA programs were equally strong (which was unique to USC) and because the administration was incredibly supportive of me finding what I was looking for from my USC experience. At every turn during my time at SDA was an opportunity to try something new and the resources to make it happen.
To current students I would say, take advantage of every one of those resources. Do an independent student production, bring back “Drom” (drama prom – my most significant contribution to SDA!), create a new program, do an independent research project… If you’ve got an idea, I promise there will be someone to nurture and support you.
Most importantly – hold onto your friends. One day you might be lucky enough to be married to one of them and wish for all the rest of them to live on your street.