Richard Seer's Finest Role: Directing The Old Globe and USD Shiley Graduate Theatre Program

Richard Seer's Finest Role: Directing The Old Globe and USD Shiley Graduate Theatre Program

For San Diego locals and theatre lovers around the world, The Old Globe and University of San Diego Shiley Graduate Theatre Program represents excellent actors and a unique partnership. For Rick Seer, the program is representative of over two decades of dedication, growth and love.

In 1993, Seer became director of what is now called the Shiley Graduate Theatre Program. And, in many ways, fate played a prominent role. 

“I love teaching. I started to combine [teaching and acting], and very quickly, acting took second place to my directing and teaching career," he recalled. "David Hay was the original director of the program and did an excellent job for the first six years. He got another job in perfect timing for me because I was out [in San Diego] as a guest director. It went well and I got along with everybody and then, [the director] position became available at just the right time. I applied for it and was very happy to be chosen. I’ve been lucky enough to be doing it ever since.”

However, even before Seer took center stage as director, the MFA program has always been unique. Craig Noel, the founding director of the Old Globe, realized there was a shortage of classically trained actors in San Diego. He set out to fix the problem by partnering with Sally Furay, RSCJ, the University of San Diego's vice president and provost.

Together, they created a unique partnership: The Old Globe and University of San Diego Shiley Graduate Theatre Program. Since the program’s inception in 1987, it has become one of the most acclaimed and competitive training programs in the country. 

With only seven students accepted each year, the program’s intentionally small cohort is one of its biggest benefits.

Seer explains, “Teachers become mentors. They become friends … Working with so few students means that you can deal with a one on one basis all the time. I meet individually with students on a regular basis, as do all of our faculty. We know them very, very well. I’m not ‘Professor Seer,’ I’m ‘Rick.’ The amount of time that our faculty is spending in contact hours is extraordinary. The students are in class for at least twelve hours a day and the faculty is right beside them.”

However, the faculty and staff are not the only people who have made the program what it is today. The generosity of donors, and one donor in particular, has played a large role in the program’s continued success.

“We are very happy to now be called the ‘Shiley Graduate Theatre Program’ after Darlene Shiley. [The support] that she gives is very generous and very ongoing. In fact, she does this very much behind the scenes. She has lunch with the students each year, just with them. She sits and chats with them and talks with them about their career. She takes a special interest in them and that kind of donorship is rare, and we are especially grateful for it.”

With notable alumni like four-time Emmy Award winner Jim Parsons '01, it’s easy to understand why the program’s students are a beloved fixture in both San Diego and the world. As his students continue to accomplish great things, both big and small, Seer continues to feel grateful for the opportunity to touch lives and teach his passion. “For me, it’s the best job in the world.”

— Taylor Milam

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