USC Theatre, BA
(Another in our series of interviews from Current Students at Top US College Theatre Programs)
Our questions are answered by Ryan Brophy, USC Theatre BA Acting Student.
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How many are in a typical USC Theatre acting class? A typical BA acting class runs between 15-20, with 3-6 boys and the rest girls.
Is your class supportive? Everyone does his or her own thing, which is nice. Eliminates a sense of competition and ensures individual growth.
How hard is it to be noticed? It’s hard if you don’t put 1000% of yourself into the school or you don’t have any sort of substantial talent/potential. There are typically 80-100 BA students per class year, and only about 15-20 shine.
Is the USC Theatre program process or result oriented? Very result-oriented. Little technique taught – it’s about capturing a mood or an image and using it to market yourself.
Is the USC Theatre program highly competitive and/or nurturing? Not either in terms of training. Extremely nurturing for the self-motivated individual who is willing to figure out his or her own path.
Describe a typical day at the USC Theatre school. 2-3 theatre classes per day, 1-2 GE requirements per day, rehearsal 6-10 if you’re cast in a show.
Describe a typical week. Same basic Monday through Thursday with a few discussions or small classes on Friday. Rehearsal 6-10 every night with possible 10-2 rehearsal on Saturday. At least 1-2 shows playing every weekend.
What acting techniques do you study? Scene study, active analysis, occasional Viewpoints/Laban in movement class.
What voice and diction techniques do you study? Depends on the teacher. Some are strong in dialects, others strong in breathing work.
What physical acting techniques do you study? Viewpoints, Laban, Alexander.
Does USC Theatre teach styles of acting? The BA program is unique in that its acting classes are structured in reverse chronological order – basic groundwork is done in your 101 class, then 21st century, then 1950s, 1930s, Ibsen/Chekhov, Restoration, and finally abstract such as Pinter/Mamet. Playwrights of focus depend on the teacher.
What styles of theatre are represented in play selection? Almost exclusively Restoration/Classical for BAs, with a few smatterings of contemporary work.
Do you have theatre theory classes? Theatre history? Theatre Literature? Yes, four semesters worth. They are not impressive.
Who are your favorite USC Theatre teachers? Mary Joan Negro, John DeMita, and Laura Flanagan. They are process-oriented and blend intellectual concepts with a thorough examination of technique. Stephanie Shroyer is a fantastic directing teacher.
How consistent is the faculty? Is it stable? Too stable and not strong enough.
How old is the faculty? How experienced? Very old, very experienced, not too successful.
How much contact do you have with the star faculty? As much as you want to make, you have to seek it out.
What is in production now at USC Theatre? BFA shows: Camille, Book of Days, Rimers of Eldritch. BA shows: The Country Wife, Breath Boom. Musical: A Little Night Music. MFA: Learned Ladies, Threepenny Opera, Oresteia Project (devised), Twilight Los Angeles 1992. Annual open-cast new play workshop.
How hard is it to get cast? Harder if you’re a girl, but we do have many shows per semester, and independent student productions happening all the time.
What other performance opportunities are there? ISPs, film school projects, improv troupes, a cappella groups.
What do you love about the USC Theatre? The location, the friends I’ve made, the sense of self I’ve developed, the reputation I’ve developed through my work ethic, and my ability to create my own happiness when very little is given to me.
What do you wish potential students knew about USC Theatre? It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Definitely not for the faint of heart or for those who are looking to be happy right off the bat.
What else would you like potential students to know about USC Theatre? If you’re a practical, no-bullshit person who is honest with yourself and willing to put up with unhappiness, you can easily shed all of your insecurities and work your ass off to make the most out of your time at the school.
What is your living situation like? What is the food like? Fun, with a lot of really smart and self-aware people, but PARTY PARTY PARTY. Don’t come if you’re scared of drugs/alcohol. I room with theatre folk and it’s great. Food could be better, but could also be much worse.
What is the town like? Downtown Los Angeles. Sketchy. But so fun if you know the right spots.
How often do you get into the closest major city? I have a car, so very often. I love it more than anything.