Historic church on USC campus now the home of the School of Dramatic Arts

The adaptive reuse of the church consolidates the theater department under one roof.

LOS ANGELES, CA —A ribbon cutting, conducted by Dr. Emily Roxworthy, Dean of the School of Dramatic Arts (SDA), kicked off the grand opening of the new School, housed in the former United University Church on the campus of the University of Southern California.

Historic church on USC campus now the home of the School of Dramatic Arts

The participants in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the USC School of Dramatic Arts’s new home include, (L-R) Andrew Guzman, Provost and Senior VP for Academic Affairs; actor and alum Troian Bellisario, Dr. Emily Roxworthy, Dean, USC SDA; actor and alum Storm Reid, Dr. Carl Folt, USC President, and actor and alum LeVar Burton.
Photo: Pamela Mosher

USC President Carol Folt addressed the crowd, as did alums and actors LeVar Burton (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Troian Bellisario (Pretty Little Liars), and current student and actor Storm Reid (Euphoria). SDA students currently appearing in the school’s production of Rent, performed “Seasons of Love” from the musical, and the ceremony wrapped with a smudging ceremony performed by Andrew Morales, Spiritual Leader of the Gabrieleno Tongva San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians, to bless the project, which is located on what was originally tribal land.

“We are able to provide our students with a true home for artistic expression and collaboration,” stated Dr. Emily Roxworthy, Dean. “This sustainable architectural transformation blends tradition with innovative learning spaces specifically designed to elevate dramatic arts education.”

Historic church on USC campus now the home of the School of Dramatic Arts 1

USC’s new home for the School of Dramatic Arts. Photo: USC Photo/Gus Ruelas

Located within the National Register Historic District of the USC campus, the building, completed in 1931 by C. Raimond Johnson, has been adaptively reused and expanded to consolidate the SDA’s programs into one building and provide performance and teaching spaces. The former chapel space has been transformed into the Sanctuary, a studio theater; its historic character defining features in the space, including the wood trusses, arches, vaulted ceilings, columns, capitals, gypsum grilles, stained glass windows, decorative pendant lights, and even the historic organ pipes have been retained and are important features of the rehabilitated space. The addition of catwalks, pipe grids, theatrical lighting, speakers, mechanical, fire sprinklers, and acoustical treatment were carefully incorporated into the updated space without significantly impacting the historic features.

On the lower level, the Stop Gap provides a new flexible/improv cabaret space, available for casual use and convertible into a dedicated performance space. Other teaching/production spaces in the building are a new media suite, rehearsal and musical theater classrooms, an audio lab, voice practice rooms, and a recording studio, along with social and DEI spaces and admin offices.