Salon@SDA brings masterminds of entertainment to the classroom

Blair Underwood at the USC School of Dramatic Arts (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)

For a student, the transition from acting school to acting professionally can amount to culture shock: between navigating auditions and finding representation, our graduates need resources for professional development. A seasoned professional’s advice can make a significant difference in preparing a young artist for the career ahead, especially when the path seems daunting and unclear.

The USC School of Dramatic Arts’ Salon@SDA is a weekly meeting of undergraduate seniors, MFA third-year students, and industry professionals. In this discussion series, students gather to hear advice and examine the industry’s climate with managers, directors, actors and other entertainment trailblazers. In this intimate setting, aspiring professionals have the opportunity to dig deep into various aspects of the entertainment industry before launching into a career. Director of the School’s Career Center and Assistant Professor of Theatre Practice in Acting Dan Shaner directs the series, bringing in experts based on his 25+ years of experience as a casting director.

This fall, Salon@SDA hosted several notable names in discussions moderated by esteemed faculty members. Guest artists included actor-alums J. August Richards BFA ’95, Colin Woodell BFA ’14, and Devin Kelley BFA ’08, as well as actress Judy Reyes. Board of Councilors member and actor Blair Underwood stopped in to discuss his growing multifaceted career, and now-faculty-member Ahmed Best shared his experiences as an actor, voice actor, and musician.

Guests from the talent sector included Johnny Webster (Talent Manager, Industry Entertainment) Susan Ferris (CEO, Bohemia Group & Bohemia Group Originals), Dede Binder (Owner/Agent, Defining Artists), and John Villacorta BA’97 (Director of Casting, ABC Television). The students also spoke with Pam Veasey, executive producer and showrunner on LA’s Finest, CSI:Cyber and CSI: New York.

Each Salon speaker offers industry insight and personal anecdotes – from these conversations, students can form an idea of the field that lies ahead, as well as connecting with role models and possible representation.

Click to learn more about Career Center resources.