USC Department of Theatre and Dance's Lab Theatre Brings Unique & Exciting Season - by Joanna Savold, Jasper intern

yellowman-1 USC’s Department of Theatre and Dance is always striving to provide unique and challenging performances, and the department’s Lab Theatre – set in the intimate “black box” theatre space on 1400 Wheat St. – has a lineup this fall that is no exception.


This weekend the Lab will be presenting Yellowman. The Dael Orlandersmith play revolves around the romance of Alma and Eugene, two youths who grew up in rural South Carolina. USC undergraduate students Brandon Byrd and Raven Massey will be portraying the lighter-skinned Eugene and the darker-toned Alma, respectively. The characters will, through Orlandersmith’s poetic lines, confront the internalized racism and discrimination in their community and themselves. But these issues are not confined to the performance; Director Patti Walker is sure the play will compel the audience to look inward as well and – in realizing harbored prejudices – enable real change.

The department admits that the simple act of staging a production that requires African American cast and characters is a vitally important step towards giving students representation in the artistic community. Walker also chose to alter the number of cast members in the play, in a conscious effort to give more African American actors opportunities through the Lab production. The originally two person cast now counts in at ten, with eight talented undergrads besides Byrd and Massey who will play characters in the protagonists’ community: Tiffany Failey, John Floyd, Jalissa Fulton, Natasha Kanunaido, Eldren Keys,Jon Whit McClinton, Tiera Smith and Olander Wilson.

Yellowman will open October 10 and run through to Oct 13, showing nightly at 8 pm. Tickets are $5 at the door, and seating is first-come, first-serve, so get there early for the best spots in the house.


This isn’t all the Lab Theatre has to offer this year; on November 22 and 24, students from across campus will be performing original acts created in the time-starved intensity of a play festival. Under the supervision of Robyn Hunt, this unique project will follow in the improvised footsteps of other play festivals, such as Paula Vogel’s creation at Brown University and the Sandbox One-Act Play (SOAP) Festival in Seattle. Within a week before the first performance night, interested students will ‘draw’ or be randomly assigned roles in the performances; actors, directors, stage managers, and playwrights will all be determined by chance. And then the fun begins. Participants will have only a short window of time to create a script, set a scene, and rehearse before finally performing their original shorts for a live audience. After the Friday night performance, they’ll do it again! A host of brand new acts will accompany the second night of the festival, offering audiences two unique nights with new plays by students each night.

Hunt says the goal of the festival is to create “brand new theatre,” to have performances that are completely fresh and different from what theatre-goers have experienced before. Like the festival’s title, whose words all ears took captive, the acts will capture the audience in the excitement of something just invented. Hunt looks forward to seeing students collaborate on the project, which is open to USC students of any major, grad and undergrad.

whose words all ears took captive will also be $5 at the door and is scheduled to start at 8 pm on November 22 and 24. Neither will be a night to miss!

For more information on the Lab's productions or USC's theatre program, visit the Department of Theatre and Dance's website:

-- Joanna Savold, Jasper Intern