Announcing a vibrant new home for the USC School of Dramatic Arts

The United University Church will become SDA's new central on-campus location.

The USC School of Dramatic Arts’ preparation of young artists for the ever-evolving entertainment industry is entering a new chapter with the announcement of the renovation of the historic United University Church building, across from the USC Village, as a vibrant new home for the School.

The significant revival and interior redesign of this historic building was announced at the School’s 75th Anniversary Celebration by Emily Roxworthy, dean of the School of Dramatic Arts, and Joshua B. Grode, chair of the School’s Board of Councilors. Set to be completed in December 2023, the building will provide the School of Dramatic Arts (SDA) with a state-of-the-art nearly 40,000 square foot home at the center of the USC campus where students, faculty and staff can come together to cultivate the next generation of diverse storytellers and share the power of creativity with the entire community.

“I see this as a bold step in the continued transformation of SDA,” said Dean Emily Roxworthy. “This facility will not only enable us to expand our innovative teaching and research, but I am confident that it will spark a new era of creativity among our students and faculty as they collaborate to create and share powerful and transformative stories that will inspire much-needed social change.”

Architectural rendering of the new Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

The reconfigured historic five-story building will increase student support services with the addition of spaces that enhance the School’s pluralistic approach to training dramatic artists for the 21st Century. SDA’s innovative Career Center, which serves as a bridge to the industry and empowers students to be self-sustaining working artists, will have a cutting-edge new home in the building. Additionally, a new Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion will be a grounding space that ensures the success of all students, where collaboration in and across affinity groups can change the face of the entertainment industry. Plans also include two new performance venues (a 110-seat flexible theatre where the church’s sanctuary previously stood, and a smaller cabaret space for student-initiated productions) – as well as a digital media suite, audio design lab, vocal practice rooms, rehearsal spaces, and classrooms for programs ranging from musical theatre to improv comedy. These state-of-the-art facilities will allow students the opportunity to access technologies being utilized across the entertainment industry – ensuring that students graduate media-agile and able to adapt their talents to any medium.

Additionally, a new cafe and garden courtyard will serve as gathering spaces for SDA’s 600 students to network with guest artists, faculty and staff, and connect to the wider university community.

Architectural rendering of the new 110-seat flexible theatre.

“SDA has always been a place for artists who help breathe life into the stories that move and inspire us, and this new home will bring fresh energy to our community,” said USC President Carol L. Folt. “In its new location, the school joins an ‘arts corridor’ at USC, and brings the study and scholarship of live performance to an already vibrant hub of creativity. We’re excited to see even more potential for collaboration among our students and faculty – and with artists throughout Los Angeles. We’re also grateful to everyone in the SDA community who made this possible, especially our anonymous donors, the school’s Board of Councilors, and the board’s chair, Joshua B. Grode.”

USC is long known for its unrivaled legacy of creative artists, and with the School of Dramatic Arts moving into this new home at the intersection of Jefferson and Hoover, four of the University’s premier art schools will be just steps away (SDA, Thornton School of Music, School of Cinematic Arts, and the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance) – enabling unprecedented interdisciplinary partnerships among these Trojan artists and cementing robust creative and professional networking opportunities.

Rendering of student space.

Architectural rendering of the new student lounge and cabaret space.

Great care is being taken to preserve the historic feel of the Italian Romanesque Revival-style building yet make it a sustainable home for 21st-century artists, an appropriate nod to the School’s long history of grounding students in the classical foundations of the theatrical craft while exposing them to the vast range of new applications possible in today’s entertainment industry.

The building will be seeking LEED certification for its green building strategies. The renovation will retain many of the original features – including the ceiling and trusses, and the rose and stained-glass windows. On the National Register of Historic Places as part of the University of Southern California Historic District, the building was designed in 1931 by C. Raimond Johnson, an alumnus of and one-time lecturer for the USC School of Architecture. Johnson served as university architect for USC from 1937 to 1955 and designed some of the campus’s notable buildings, including the Biegler Hall of Engineering (BHE) in 1939 and the Allan Hancock Foundation (AHF) in 1940.

Naming opportunities in the new Drama Center are still available. If you are interested in helping cement the School’s crucial role as a leading force in the dramatic arts, please contact Associate Dean of Advancement Sara Fousekis.