Beck Bennett joins Madhuri Shekar as commencement speaker for the USC School of Dramatic Arts

2023 Commencement Speakers

Actor, comedian, writer and USC School of Dramatic Arts alumnus Beck Bennett and award-winning playwright, screenwriter and producer Madhuri Shekar will deliver the charges to the graduates of the USC School of Dramatic Arts during two commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 12, at the Bing Theatre at the University of Southern California.

Bennett will speak at the undergraduate ceremony, scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., and Shekar will speak at the graduate ceremony, scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Please note, the commencement ceremonies are ticketed events and not open to the public. Bennett replaces the previously announced Wayne Brady who had to pull out due to contractual obligations with an exciting upcoming Broadway project.

Beck Bennett

Actor, comedian and writer Beck Bennett (BFA ’07) joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 2013. During his eight seasons on the show, he made a name for himself with memorable impressions of Vladimir Putin, Mitch McConnell, Mike Lindell and the recurring sketches/characters Baby Boss, Jules and Brothers.

Prior to his time on SNL, Bennett first captured attention with his sketch comedy group Good Neighbor by performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles and posting their videos online, amassing millions of views. Good Neighbor, which also featured fellow USC alumni Nick Rutherford (BA ’06) from SDA and Kyle Mooney (’07) from the School of Cinematic Arts, all met at USC as members of the improv/sketch comedy group Commedus Interruptus.

Bennett continues to develop projects for film and television and can be seen next on the television shows Killing It and I Think You Should Leave, and in the feature films Unfrosted and Run For The Money. His other credits include Bill & Ted Face The Music, Greener Grass, Brigsby Bear, The Other Two, The Simpsons, Shrill, Ghosted and more. He is also known for the AT&T “It’s Not Complicated” campaign for which they were nominated for a Cannes Lion Award. In addition to his work on camera, Bennett is an accomplished voiceover actor who starred on the television shows DuckTales, Hamster and Gretel and M.O.D.O.K., and feature films such as The Mitchells vs the Machines, Sing, The Angry Birds 2, Nimona and more. Beck currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife Jessy and their 16-month-old son, Ruby.

Madhuri Shekar

Madhuri Shekar is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter. Her plays include House of Joy, Queen, A Nice Indian Boy, In Love and Warcraft, Antigone presented by the Girls of St. Catherine’s, Bucket of Blessings and The Incredible Book Eating Boy. Her plays have been developed or showcased at theatres across the country, including Center Theatre Group, the Old Globe, the Kennedy Center, the Hedgebrook Playwrights Festival, South Coast Repertory, the Movement Theater Company, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ma-Yi Theatre, NY Stage & Film and Juilliard. She is currently working on commissions for the new Perelman Performing Arts Center, Audible Theater and Playwrights Horizons.

Madhuri was one of the first recipients of Audible’s new commissioning program for emerging playwrights. Her audio drama, Evil Eye, debuted at #5 on Audible’s bestseller list and won a 2020 Audie Award from the Audio Publishers Association for Best Original Work. She wrote the film adaptation Evil Eye starring Sarita Chaudhury, which is available to stream on Amazon Prime. In other TV and film work, Madhuri was a staff writer on HBO’s The Nevers, wrote the screenplay for the upcoming Sister Act 3 and is staffed on a new Netflix project from David Benioff & D.B. Weiss and Alexander Woo. She is currently working on pilots for HBO, Disney+ and Netflix. She is set to adapt the acclaimed novel, The Immortal King Rao, into a TV series, for which she will serve as an executive producer. 

Madhuri is a Resident Playwright at New Dramatists and an alumnus of the Ma-Yi writers lab and the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at Julliard. She is a recipient of the Lanford Wilson Playwriting Award and the Steinberg Playwriting Award. She has an MFA in Dramatic Writing from the USC School of Dramatic Arts.