USC School of Dramatic Arts launches new BFA major

Beginning Fall 2018, the USC School of Dramatic Arts will offer a new bachelor’s degree in contemporary musical theatre in conjunction with the Thornton School of Music and the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.

“With its proud track record of Broadway and Hollywood successes and professional partnerships in musical theatre, the School of Dramatic Arts is now committed to leading the field forward with a BFA that promises extraordinary opportunities and breakthrough practitioner-based creative options,” Dean David Bridel said in an email to the Daily Trojan.

The interdisciplinary program aims to provide students with a foundation in acting, singing and dancing within a unique conservatory-styled curriculum. Students will have the opportunity to expand beyond basic, foundational courses through offered classes like digital entrepreneurship and on-screen musicals.

During their junior and senior years, students will be able to take classes that emphasize the creative backstage aspects of theater production. These courses cater to writers, composers, lyricists, directors and choreographers in an effort to offer a more well-rounded musical theater education.

The School of Dramatic Arts also boasts several successful alumni who have graduated from its performing arts programs, such as Hamilton star Renée Elise Goldsberry and Kinky Boots star Stark Sands. However, this is the first time the University will offer a contemporary musical theatre degree with an interdisciplinary focus.

According to Delphine Vasko, assistant dean of communications at SDA, USC hopes to effectively prepare its students for an innovative and expanding industry as contemporary theater continues to grow.

“We are in a new golden age of contemporary musicals, illustrated by the off-the-radar successes of new works like stage’s Hamilton, television’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and musical hits across all mediums of entertainment,” Vasko said.

According to Playbill, award-winning musicals like Hamilton  and Rent, which feature contemporary music genres like pop, rock and rap, have contributed to contemporary theater’s rise in popularity.

In shaping its curriculum with a changing industry, SDA relied on an interdisciplinary partnership with the Thornton and Kaufman schools to allow for creative collaboration among students of all talents interested in musical theater.

“[Students] will have the option to complement their core studies with focused classes … allowing for culminations in brand new musicals created by members of the cohort,” Vasko said.

Furthermore, SDA has also created programs to help integrate students into the musical industry, with the launch of LiveRead@SDA. The program provides opportunities for students to collaborate with industry leaders to understand how to bring musicals toward commercial production.