From left are Provost Andrew T. Guzman, USC SDA alumnus and actress Troian Bellisario, USC School of Dramatic Arts Dean Emily Roxworthy, USC SDA student and actress Storm Reid, USC President Carol Folt, and USC SDA alumnus and actor Levar Burton. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)


The USC School of Dramatic Arts (SDA) Drama Center celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with alumni, students and guests on Friday, March 28.

“What a momentous day this is for the USC School of Dramatic Arts,” said Emily Roxworthy, USC School of Dramatic Arts Dean. “I am so proud that SDA is now able to call this space one of the most beautiful buildings on an already beautiful campus, ‘our home.’

“This home will be the staging ground for the next chapter of our exciting evolution as a drama school that teaches students how to harness the superpowers of storytelling for stage and screen to create positive social change and move the global entertainment industry forward.”

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The renovated historical building preserves the original Italian Romanesque Revival-style architecture, with incorporating green building strategies that make it a sustainable home for 21st-century artists. The nearly 40,000-square-foot building is seeking LEED certification with its state-of-the-art amenities including recording studios and two theaters, all at the center of the USC University Park Campus.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the renovation of the historical building on campus and now the hub of the dramatic arts department. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

“Less than three years ago, when I was installed as Dean of this remarkable professional art school, this new drama center had not yet broken ground and look at us now,” said Roxworthy. “USC has incredible momentum to make SDA the top drama school in the nation with a space that enables collaboration innovation and cutting-edge creativity.”

“I know there’s a lot of people that are feeling a bit of tears about this amazing joyful celebration for what is already a new USC campus icon,” said Carol Folt, USC President.

“You can really feel it.”

Folt continued, “Humans just love performance and we love performers. We love them so much and what is it about the dramatic arts that it really affects us so deeply and so personally? What is it that makes a theatrical performance an experience on the stage or the screen and now a performance in every single media on every single platform, so transformative?

“I’m going say this as a biologist because I think it does something very special that when we take in these dramatic performances, maybe even especially in person, they go from our hearts first and then to our brain.”

Current SDA student and actress Storm Reid (“Euphoria,” “The Last of Us”) and SDA alumnus and actress Troian Bellisario (“Pretty Little Liars”) agree with Folt’s theory when it comes to the dramatic arts. They shared how SDA has shaped them in the careers and as human beings.

USC SDA student and actress Storm Reid speaks about the importance of this new drama center. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

“The faculty and staff at SDA not only want me to be a successful student, and performer, but succeed as a human and that means the world to me,” said Reid.

“At SDA, I discovered a nurturing environment, where we are encouraged to explore, stumble and grow. It’s here that I’ve deepened my understanding and love for the actual arts, gaining insights that enrich my work on set and forging relationships and friendships that I believe will last a lifetime.”

“The resources within these walls will provide a full, new generation of students of artists a fighting chance in this challenging and ever-shifting industry,” said Bellisario.

“In this building, and the programs that are facilitated within it, they’re going to ensure no one is left just jumping off and hoping for luck.

“This building is a bridge between a school of dramatic arts and the entertainment industry and it will allow the next generation of artists to walk confidently, directly onto a path and into their futures.”

USC SDA alumnus and actor Levar Burton speaks about when he was student on campus. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

“We have been the red-headed stepchildren and we’re not anymore, we’re not anymore,” said SDA alumnus and actor Levar Burton.

Burton (“Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Roots,” host of “Reading Rainbow,” producer of “The Right to Read” and director of “NCIS: New Orleans”) recalled his journey from USC to Hollywood. He shared that now, students have a hub, where they can have all their needs met.

“My career began here on this hallow ground. In 1974, I came here from Sacramento, CA with a dream in my heart and a song on my lips.

“This is so freaking incredible because when I was an undergrad here, there was no school of theater, there was no school of dramatic arts.

“It’s big, it’s huge and a sense of not just simply pride, but belonging that the students, who are here now, will be able to carry forward and just the value of proximity and daily interaction based on a singular location where everyone belongs—cannot be underestimated.”

“It’s absolutely incredible, it’s been a long time in coming and we’re going to put it to such great use and you see how incredibly talented our students are,” said Roxworthy.

“They deserve it.”

This needs to be in our universities, it needs to be part of our education and we need to enliven and allow everyone to have a piece of it and we’re celebrating this today because we know that power—we see it, we feel it,” said Folt.

“So many of you provide it for us and SDA has this amazing history showing throughout the decades that a great school truly can harness that energy in truly transformative ways.”

Roxworthy and Folt shared their gratitude to the board of counselors, donors, parents, alumni, faculty, staff and Trojans within the SDA, all of whom gave their “time, talent and treasure” to realize this new building for their students.

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