Top 10 stories of 2021

As this year ends, the School of Dramatic Arts reflects on the transformative moments from 2021. From the full-time hiring of several accomplished professors to scholarships in support of the student and alumni population to the celebration of our past, present and future, here are the 10 most viewed stories of the year for the School of Dramatic Arts website.

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

Redesign and renovation of historic building at USC
The historic building will become the new drama center. Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging.

The announcement of the School of Dramatic Arts’ new drama center, which opens December 2023, was by far the most viewed story on SDA’s website. And why wouldn’t it be? Since its founding, the School has needed a central location for its community of artists to call home, so the news is both exciting and buzzworthy for alumni, faculty, staff and students alike. The significant revival and interior redesign of a historic building will provide a nearly 40,000-square-foot home on campus — and, at the center of the University’s arts corridor. Read the full story.

2: ABC documentary special on alum John Ritter airs Aug. 25

John Ritter, left, performing at USC. Photo Archive/USC Libraries.

Beloved by the SDA community and world, the BA ’71 alumnus and award-winning actor was one-of-a kind in many ways. As such, ABC featured him in a documentary special as part of its Superstar series — which included the likes of Whitney Houston, Kobe Bryant and Robin Williams — that “examine[s] the mavericks who shaped American Culture.” Ritter was best known for his roles on Three’s Company and 8 Simple Rules. Read the full story.

3: Colman Domingo joins SDA faculty

Photo of Colman Domingo
Colman Domingo. Courtesy photo.

The award-winning actor, director, playwright and producer joined SDA in Fall 2021 as a guest lecturer and master artist for students in both the undergraduate and graduate populations. After wrapping on filming commitments, he will begin teaching full time in the classroom in Fall 2022. Colman is known most recently for his roles in Fear the Walking Dead, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Without Remorse. Read the full story.

4: Emily Roxworthy, champion of diversity and interactive theater, named dean of USC School of Dramatic Arts

Dean Emily Roxworthy in the Bing Theatre lobby. Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging.

Scholar-artist Emily Roxworthy arrived to USC as SDA’s new dean on July 1 from the University of California, San Diego. At UCSD, she served on the dance and theatre faculty; as well as associate vice chancellor of faculty diversity and equity, provost of Earl Warren College and associate dean of the Graduate Division. She also founded Workplace Interactive Theatre, a company that uses roleplaying to help employees find solutions to diversity and inclusion problems in their workplaces. Read the full story.

5: SDA welcomes Michele Shay to faculty Fall 2021

Photo of Michele Shay
Michele Shay. Photo by Michael Rueter/Capture Imaging.

A gifted actress, director, educator and interpreter of the works of notable playwright August Wilson, Shay joined the full-time acting faculty as a professor of theatre practice. Perhaps best known for her Tony Award-nominated performance as Louise in Wilson’s Seven Guitars, she has also graced stages on and off-Broadway, television and film, and regional theatres across the country. Read the full story.

6: Bayo Akinfemi and Rodney To join full-time faculty at SDA

The assistant professors of theatre practice in acting bring decades of multi-platform professional experience into their classrooms. Akinfemi is a can be seen as a series regular on the Chuck Lorre sitcom Bob Hearts Abishola on CBS and a two-time Best Actor GEMINI nominee for Human Cargo and The Border. To is most notable for his role as Typhoon from NBC’s Parks and Recreation and will be seen in Easter Sunday as well as The Shrink Next Door. Read the full story.

7: Honoring the life of Sandy Reed BA ’16 through student and alumni programming

Sandy Reed
Sandy Reed. Courtesy photo.

The Sandy Reed Endowed Professional Development Fund, created in honor of the alum, will endow SDA’s professional development programming — such as visiting artist talks, master classes, mentorship and alumni events. Reed, a BA ’16 alumnus, spearheaded the idea, said his mother Catharine Pilato Reed. “He wanted to see more entertainment professionals give time back to students, to pay it forward. It’s a tough industry, and he knew that students need a little bit more help when they graduate,” she added. Read the full story.

8: Ella Fitzgerald Scholarship advances equity and diversity in musical theatre

Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation logo
Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation endowed a scholarship for the SDA Musical Theatre program.

Funded by the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, this endowed award is a first for the USC School of Dramatic Arts’ BFA Musical Theatre program. The scholarship offers four-year support to incoming BFA in Musical Theatre students in need of financial assistance. The scholarship also supports the School’s commitment to training more Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) students. Read the full story.

9: The Odyssey: A theatrical journey through SDA’s past, present and future

Michael Chiklis, Grant Heslov and Tate Donovan in conversation.
Michael Chiklis, from left, Grant Heslov and Tate Donovan in conversation at The Odyssey event on Sept. 9. Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging.

The USC School of Dramatic Arts celebrated over 75 years of dramatic arts education during an anniversary benefit on Sept. 9. The evening honored alumni Forest Whitaker (Robert Redford Award for Engaged Artists), USC Trustee and SDA Board of Councilors member Michele Dedeaux Engemann (Alumni Service Award), Donald Webber Jr. (Broadway Spotlight Award), Greg Holford (Production Innovation Award), and Grant Heslov & Smokehouse Pictures (Corporate Leadership Award). Read the full story.

10: Two stars are born: Documentaries feature two SDA students

Students Alana Bright and Nia Sarfo
Students Alana Bright, left, and Nia Sarfo. Courtesy of HBO Max & Netflix.

Two documentaries were released that starred our very own SDA students Alana Bright and Nia Sarfo before they arrived at USC. Bright stars in the HBO Max documentary Homeschool Musical: Class of 2020, which shines a light on several talented teens who must confront the challenges of the pandemic; and Sarfo stars in the Netflix documentary Giving Voice, which follows student actors auditioning for the prestigious August Wilson Monologue Competition. Read the full story.

Honorable mentions

Front & Center: John Blankenchip

Former professor John Blankenchip
A video spotlight on beloved professor John Edward Blankenchip, who led the School’s Festival Theatre USC-USA program. Watch the video.

From vaudevilles to sold-out arenas

An older man on the left smiles with mouth open for a selfie next to a man smiling on the right, both dressed in suits.
A new School of Dramatic Class gets in-depth about the evolution of stand-up comedy and how it has become so successful today. Read the full story.