USC School of Dramatic Arts announces 2023 commencement speakers

Image of Wayne Brady and Madhuri Shekar

Actor, producer, singer, dancer, songwriter and television personality Wayne Brady 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.

Brady 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.

Wayne Brady

Multiple Emmy Award-winning and Grammy Award-nominated Wayne Brady has made his mark on stage and screen as an actor, producer, singer, dancer, songwriter and television personality.

A true multihyphenate, Brady’s career path and personal life journey have helped him see the world in a unique way. His aspirations have always gone beyond solely starring in various entertainment projects, and under his Makin’ It Up Productions banner, he’s set out to create new content across different platforms that showcase innovation and inclusivity in fun and powerful ways.

A five-time Emmy winner (the first to win Daytime and Primetime awards in two consecutive years), Brady has an impressive TV resume including Whose Line Is It Anyway?, The Masked Singer, Dancing With The Stars, Black Lightning, The Good Fight and Showtime’s American Gigolo–each spotlighting different aspects of his immense talent.

In addition to being a force in front of the camera, Brady is heavily active behind the scenes wearing the hats of host and executive producer for Let’s Make A Deal, Game of Talents and Comedy IQ, which he also co-created. All of this follows on the heels of the success of his award-winning daytime talk show The Wayne Brady Show.

Long an accomplished singer and performer, Brady’s musical acumen has always been a personal passion and he used that as fuel to help win the second season of The Masked Singer. Off his victory, Brady dropped a brand-new original single, entitled “Flirtin’ w/ Forever,” which quickly climbed the streaming charts, as well as an accompanying music video.

This follows the success of his debut album which was headlined by a version of Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come which earned him a Grammy Award nomination in the Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance category.

Brady has also triumphed on-stage starting with his Broadway debut starring as legal showman Billy Flynn in the long-running hit musical, Chicago. Soon after Brady starred as the ground-breaking character Lola in Kinky Boots, Broadway’s Tony Award-winning Best Musical, with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper and a book by Harvey Fierstein. Brady would later assume his biggest theatrical role to date headlining as Aaron Burr in the Chicago production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning juggernaut Hamilton.

Recently Brady returned to Broadway as part of Freestyle Love Supreme working with the production team of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail and Anthony Veneziale. The unique show combines the fusion of hip hop, improv and comedy which won it a special Tony Award for its innovation and contributions to the world of theatre. Earlier this year he announced he will again partner with the Freestyle Love Supreme team as well as Speechless to create “FLS+,” a new company committed to making improv globally accessible.

Brady’s career evolution has also expanded to TikTok, amassing a stellar following in a short period of time. Whether utilizing social media to raise awareness of important social issues or collaborating with his extended family, the medium has helped him continue to reach and interact with new fans in surprising and innovative ways.

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.