University of Southern California

USC Student Affairs and Campus Life

Angus Fletcher Encourages Students To Experiment

By Diane Ver Steeg Anderson

Angus FletcherPhoto by Nathan CarterAngus Fletcher

Angus Fletcher, assistant professor in the USC School of Dramatic Arts and faculty master for Parkside Arts and Humanities Residential College, speaks from experience when he tells his students to experiment and explore.

“One of the things that I do in my research and in my teaching, but particularly at Parkside, is to encourage people to take chances and to be bold, to be brave, to experiment,” said Fletcher.

As the Parkside faculty master, Fletcher works with other resident faculty to establish an environment where students feel comfortable experimenting with their art.

“We want to give our students a chance to explore who they want to be as artists and who they want to be as people,” said Fletcher, who has served as the faculty master for the last two years and as a resident faculty member for two years before that. “The most important thing is to create a space where you can fail and feel okay failing, and the best way to do that is to create a community of people you know and trust. ”

To foster this community, Fletcher hosts weekly dinners for about 14 students at the Parkside residence he shares with his wife Sarah, a professional chef, and his 12-week-old daughter, Marlowe. The informal get-togethers typically involve sharing a meal and hanging out for a couple of hours “to chat and talk about art.”

Kenya Nunley, assistant director for Parkside International Residential College says these intimate dinners have been a huge success.

“He connects with students really well,” said Nunley. “He does grass roots programming, where he assesses needs or desires of residents and does his planning based on that.”

One example Nunley mentions is ArtSCapades, a program that Fletcher helped Resident Assistant Marissa Roy develop. ArtSCapades offers free biweekly outings to theatres, cultural festivals and other arts venues throughout Los Angeles.

“ArtSCapades has involved going dancing and going to museums, lots of things to try to get you out of your head and just into doing as opposed to analyzing,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher has his students do plenty of analysis in his theatre classes, which cover topics ranging from how to read a play to theatre history to comparing comedies.

“The great thing about being a teacher is you just meet so many different students in so many different contexts. The thing I most value about theatre and USC is how diverse they are,” said Fletcher, who also works with the Dornsife Brain and Creativity Institute and does research with the psychology and classics departments. “It is a university, as a whole, that encourages risk-taking and experimenting and encourages people moving across boundaries and doing new things — it’s very entrepreneurial.”

It was this same “experiment and explore” philosophy that guided the educational and career choices that ultimately brought him to USC in 2006.

Born in the Lake District in England (where Hobbits come from, he says), Fletcher moved with his family to Philadelphia at a young age. A science scholarship took him to the University of Michigan, where he decided to stretch himself and join the Marine Corps ROTC, which he describes as a great learning experience.

After earning his B.S. in English and cell biology, Fletcher brought his background in neuroscience and his interest in humanism to Yale, where he earned his Ph.D. in literature. An invitation to join a think tank called The Stanford Humanities Fellows led him to the West Coast.

“I had a chance after Stanford to be an English professor, which is obviously a great job,” he said. “But I decided that I wanted to teach drama, because for me, it was more of a risk. I didn’t really have very much experience in theatre at all. Dean Madeline Puzo very courageously hired me.”

For Fletcher, USC is where he plans to stay: “It is the place where I have been happiest and definitely the place where the students and I have had the most meaningful relationship.”