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Theatre and Social Change: Politics, Performance, and Vocal Power

Course dates

July 15 to July 28, 2019

Application deadline


Use your voice, body, and diverse human experiences to investigate the power of performance as a political tool that can serve as a strong force for change and social justice.

  • Develop vocal power by exploring your breath, vocal range, body, and resonance and free your voice through the Linklater Voice Progression.
  • Learn the principles of the Theatre of the Oppressed and explore the theory and practice behind liberation arts and community engagement.
  • Create devised performance pieces using release-based movement as a foundation for creative physical storytelling.
  • Find a strong connection to your audience through the power of personal and universal imagery.
  • Release habitual tensions and learn to move and speak with economy for “maximum impact, minimum effort.”
  • This course will culminate in a public student performance.

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Undergraduate: DRAMA 424, 3 units
Graduate/post-baccalaureate: DRAMA 624, 3 units




Advanced actors, activists, theatre teachers, and performance artists who want to cultivate voice and movement skills for the stage and other professional mediums. Theatre majors at the undergraduate, graduate, and post graduate levels are welcome.


  1. Submit a letter of interest (one page maximum) stating your experience with acting, voice, and movement training. Also in the letter, state how this class aligns with your personal goals as performer or professional speaker. Give an example of a political or social issue important to you and how this type of theatre training might help you address those issues and ignite action and social justice. Submit a performance or professional resume and a headshot/picture. You may be contacted at a later time to submit an audition video.
  2. Submit/upload the materials listed in step one when you apply online by May 13, 2019.


Professor Marie Ramirez Downing

Guest Artists

Sheila Bandyopadhyay –

Sheila Bandyopadhyay is a director, movement specialist, and devisor of original theater in New York City. As a movement specialist, Sheila offers a unique form of comprehensive body training for the actor that integrates Alexander Technique and release-based movement into the athletic and creative demands of physical theater styles. Sheila is the Head of Movement at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and also teaches and coaches with New York University, Brooklyn College, Shakespeare and Company, The Linklater Center, and Emerson College. Her collaboratively devised work shown at the West End Theater, Brooklyn’s Brick Theater, the Boston Center for the Arts, and the Minneapolis and Montreal Fringe Festivals. Sheila has performed in Titus Andronicus, The Taming of the Shrew, The Misanthrope, and The Tempest, among others.

Natsuko Ohama –

Natsuko Ohama is a Professor of Theatre Practice at USC School of Dramatic Arts.  She is one of the premier voice teachers in the world. Trained under legendary Master Kristin Linklater at the Working Theatre, she is a founding member and permanent faculty of Shakespeare and Company Lenox, Mass; a senior artist at Pan Asian Rep New York; a certified Joy of Phonetics teacher trained by Louis Colaianni; and was the Director of Training at the National Arts Center of Canada. She has taught at numerous institutions all over North America, including the NYU Experimental Theater Wing, Cal Arts, Columbia University, the Sundance Institute, and the New Actors Workshop. A Drama Desk nominated actress, she has performed onstage in roles ranging from Juliet to Lady Macbeth, and on-screen in the action film Speed, the cult series Forever Knight, and in Pirates of the Caribbean 2. Currently, she heads voice progression for the MFA Acting Program at USC.

Brent Blair –

Brent Blair is an Associate Professor of Theatre Practice in Voice and Movement and Head of Theatre and Social Change at the USC School of Dramatic Arts. He is a Linklater-designated voice instructor and a former Fulbright scholar in the Igbo traditional theatre of West Africa. He founded the Applied Theatre Arts focus at the School of Dramatic Arts and is the founding director of the Center for Theatre of the Oppressed and Applied Theatre Arts in Los Angeles, which uses the works and training methods of Augusto Boal. He has formed numerous collaborative and curricular programs that partner with community members, using theatre as a vehicle for education, therapy, and social change. Blair teaches courses in voice, theatre for youth, theatre and therapy, theatre in education, and theatre in the community.

Indira Pensado –

Indira Pensado is an actor, director and voice teacher. Since 2000, she has conducted voice workshops around Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, the US, and Singapore. Indira trained with and developed her methodology with Kozanna Lucca from the Roy Hart Theater. She is a Designated Linklater Professor trained by Antonio Ocampo, Andrea Haring, and Kristin Linklater. As an actor and director, she is known for her powerful use of the voice and body on stage. Indira currently teaches voice at the National School of Theater in Mexico City and the Intercultural Theater Institute in Singapore, and is a member of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association. She founded Médula Teatro and Los 4 Gatos, two theatre groups dedicated to the scene and research for stage.