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Metatheatre: reflections & civic life

Published by USC Bedrosian Center on

For the second season of Policy at the Playhouse, we’re switching things up. Rather than addressing one performance of one play, we’ll be looking at the larger themes in theatre as it can pertain to our civic lives. This episode will look at how two plays being performed here on campus this Fall: Passion Play by Sarah Ruhl, and Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker.

In this episode, Aubrey Hicks, Oliver Mayer, Christopher Shaw, and John Sonego examine “how, over time, the rituals that we enact color, reflect, refract back upon who we are, at any time – politically, culturally,” as Oliver points out so poetically. These two plays feature characters whose creative work reflects back onto their civic and personal lives. Will these plays, theatre in general, help a polarized country learn to spend time with each other, and listen? Can theatre help us make order from chaos? What can they reflect about America today?

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Links and related reading/listening …

Passion Play: On Stage at the USC School of Dramatic Arts, October 12–21, 2017

Passion Play by Sarah Ruhl

October 12–21, 2017, Scene Dock Theatre
Directed by Christopher Shaw

BFA Senior Acting Repertory

Three different acting troupes rehearse the annual Passion Play at three key moments in history: 1575 Northern England, just before Queen Elizabeth outlaws the ritual; 1934 Oberammergau, Bavaria, as Adolf Hitler is rising to power; and Spearfish, South Dakota, from the time of the Vietnam War through Ronald Reagan’s presidency. In each period, the players grapple with the transformative nature of art, and politics are never far in the background. Hailed by The New Yorker’s John Lahr as “extraordinary,” “bold,” and “inventive,” and called “a new American classic” by Time Magazine, this intimate epic occurs at the timely intersection of politics and religion.

Circle Mirror Transformation : On Stage at the USC School of Dramatic Arts, November 16–18, 2017

Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker

November 16–18, 2017, Scene Dock Theatre
Directed by Jonathan Muñoz-Proulx

MFA Year 2 Acting Repertory

An unlikely collection of strangers sign up for an acting class at the local community center. As they begin to experiment with harmless games, their real offstage lives gradually infiltrate the classroom, revealing insights and transformations both humorous and heartbreaking. The winner of the 2010 Obie Award for Best New American Play, Circle Mirror Transformation examines the redemptive power of theatre.

Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl
November 17–19, 2017

Conversation with … Sarah Ruhl
Annie Baker
Reflection and Image Formation for Convex Mirrors


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This podcast continues our ongoing efforts to bring policy and its impact into the public discourse.

Special thanks to Dean Jack Knott, USC Price and Dean David Bridel, USC School of Dramatic Arts for their support of this interdisciplinary conversation.

This podcast was produced by Aubrey Hicks and Jonathan Schwartz, recorded and mixed by Corey Hedden.

Bedrosian Center