A Jane Austen costume drama. A biting commentary on modern morality. One of Stephen Sondheim’s best. A Greek masterpiece. Farces, comedies, satires, documentary theater, dark fiction. The 2015-16 season of plays and musicals for the USC School of Dramatic Arts encompasses the full range of theatrical experiences.
More than two dozen productions will be mounted this coming academic year, including three plays performed in repertory by Master of Fine Arts acting students as well as play readings, workshops and staged readings of new works written by MFA dramatic writing students.
The bulk of the season’s schedule was overseen, as it has been for many years, by associate professor of acting Jack Rowe, the school’s artistic director. The faculty committee helping him in the play reading and selection process this year included Anita Dashiell-Sparks, Brent Blair, Phil Allen, John DeMita and Stephanie Shroyer, the school’s associate artistic director.
Humor and hubris
David Bridel, interim dean and head of the MFA acting program, heads up the selection of the MFA acting productions — with input from his faculty. Professor Velina Hasu Houston serves as artistic director for the New Works Festivals in the spring.
Bridel said the chosen plays “tell diverse stories of hope and love, passion and humor, humor and hubris. … It is the range and depth of vision and theatricality that distinguishes our season and galvanizes our students to find the humanity in so many different forms of artistic expression.”
Productions are the heart of the curriculum.
All shows are part of the school’s curriculum, Rowe explained, and are chosen to give students varied and challenging assignments. “Productions are the heart of the curriculum, with students designing, stage managing and playing the roles,” he said.
Well-known works on tap
This year, he is looking forward to seeing George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s Depression-era comedy You Can’t Take It With You. “It’s an old saw and hilarious, and I’ll be interested to see if it holds up,” Rowe said. The spring musical, Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, is another production he is especially looking forward to seeing. Director Kelly Ward, whose busy schedule has kept him away from USC the past few years, is on tap to direct that show.
Other well-known works that will be presented include Bertolt Brecht’s and Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera, Neil Simon’s Rumors, Mansfield Park (adapted from the Jane Austen novel) and Molière’s The Learned Ladies.
Other works include Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992; The Quick-Change Room, a wry comedy set during the crumbling of the Soviet Union; and Breath, Boom, an Obie Award-winning play about a 16-year-old female gang leader.
Auditions begin the second day of classes, and the first productions open a mere five weeks later, on Oct. 1.
Most productions are scheduled in one of four campus venues: Bing Theatre, Massman Theatre, Scene Dock Theatre and McClintock Theatre. All productions are open to the public, and USC students, faculty and staff can purchase tickets at a discount. The full season is listed below. Descriptions of each production, locations and ticket information are available.
Rumors, Oct. 1-4
Love and Information, Oct. 1-4
Mansfield Park, Oct. 8-11
The Quick-Change Room, Oct. 22-25
Ring Round the Moon, Oct. 29-Nov. 1
You Can’t Take It With You, Nov. 5-8
Marisol, Nov. 19-22
La Ronde, Nov. 19-22
MFA Acting Repertory, Feb. 6-March 6
The Learned Ladies, Feb. 25-28
Camille, March 3-6
The Country Wife, March 31-April 3
A Little Night Music, March 31-April 10
New Works Festival Year 2, April 8-24
BFA Sophomore Shows, April 13-24
Breath, Boom, April 21-24
New Works Festival Year 3, April 29
New Works Festival Year 1, May 2
New Works Festival Alumni, May 27-28