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Richard Seer
Graduate Theatre Chair earns applause for program's rigorous classical acting curriculum

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Richard Seer, M.F.A. has served as Chair of the Graduate Theatre Program since 1993. Under his direction, USD has taken center stage as home of the most acclaimed classical acting program in the United States. The program's close partnership with San Diego's Old Globe Theatre has produced such notable alumni as Jim Parsons, who recently won an Emmy for his role as Sheldon on "The Big Bang Theory." We spoke with Seer about his work, the success of the program and its transition to the Department of Graduate Theatre.

Richard Seer

"I'm often asked if I miss the excitement of a professional acting career. I don't. Perhaps this is because I still direct professionally, but I suspect it's because I find my talented students so much more exciting."

Richard Seer

Tell us a little about the Department of Graduate Theatre and why it's different from other programs.

I'm very proud to say that USD's graduate theatre department is now considered the top classical acting program in the country, and with a less than two percent acceptance rate, one of the most competitive. While a number of graduate acting programs have relationships with regional theatres (UCSD, for example), ours is unique in the closeness of that relationship. Our students usually perform in 6 to 8 professional Globe productions during their 2 years of training, far more than any of our competitors. This special combination of comprehensive training and professional performance opportunities has helped make us a leader in the field.

What was your reaction when alumnus Jim Parsons won the Emmy for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series?

I was thrilled for him and sent him a congratulatory text message immediately. To my surprise, he replied with his thanks that evening, between the ceremony and the parties. Upon reflection, I probably shouldn't have been surprised because that's the guy I remember teaching - thoughtful, grounded and generous.

Do you have any goals for the graduate theatre program? What changes, if any, do you anticipate in coming years?

The MFA program has just recently become the Department of Graduate Theatre. Our transition to a department requires that we evolve into an independent and more active participant in the College of Arts and Sciences. To do that, we have begun expanding our faculty. Last year, we successfully recruited a master teacher of classical acting, Professor Ray Chambers, who has quickly become an indispensable addition to our faculty.

Richard Seer

"USD is surprisingly flexible. My friends at state institutions are often jealous of our relatively small, private university's ability to quickly and successfully institute change."

Richard Seer

Why did you choose to work in academia rather than strictly in performance?

I was a professional actor and director in New York and Los Angeles for over 20 years before I took my first full-time teaching position at Boston University in 1990. I came to USD 3 years later. I was lucky enough to work on and off-Broadway, in London, and on television, so I'm often asked if I miss the excitement of a professional acting career. I don't. Perhaps this is because I still direct professionally, but I suspect it's because I find my talented students so much more exciting.

As a faculty member, what strikes you as something unique about USD?

USD is surprisingly flexible. My friends at state institutions are often jealous of our relatively small, private university's ability to quickly and successfully institute change. I have found the University to be consistently willing to think outside the box when it comes to supporting the special needs of a department such as ours.

You recently directed "The Last Romance" at The Old Globe. What drew you to the play?

"The Last Romance" was written for Marion Ross of television's "Happy Days" and her partner Paul Michael by Tony Award-winning playwright Joe DiPietro. Craig Noel, the Globe's founding director and longtime friend of Marion and Paul would have been the most obvious choice to direct this love letter to December relationships had he not passed away this year. Craig, who with Sister Sally Furay founded USD's graduate theatre department, was also my mentor and dear friend. I did my best to channel his artistic sensibility throughout the process. Happily, with the help of a terrific creative team it seemed to work because "The Last Romance" became the most successful production in the history of the Globe's Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre.

Do you have a favorite play? What is it?

Although I have used "A Streetcar Named Desire" more than any other play for classroom exercises, I can't say it's my favorite. In fact, I'm not sure I have a favorite play, or even favorite playwright. However, I really admire Arthur Miller for his direct, muscular language- quintessentially American.

Complete the sentence "USD is…"

…genuinely and enthusiastically striving to better itself.

- Anne Malinoski '11

Fun Facts

  • My voice was used as the leprechaun on the Lucky Charms commercial.
  • The fourth of five children, I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington.
  • My first acting role was at the age of seven, playing Medea's soon-to-be-slain son.
  • My roommate at college later became the construction worker in the Village People.
  • I starred opposite Michelle Pfeiffer in an ABC comedy series.
  • I once had lunch with John Lennon.

Useful Links

www.globemfa.org/

www.sandiego.edu/cas/academics/faculty/biography.php?ID=584

www.sandiego.edu/cas/graduate/

http://www.sandiego.edu/insideusd/?p=12587