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USC Playwright Unveils New Storytelling Class for Inventors and Entrepreneurs

As technology enables the rapid dispersal of new products and services, cutting through the noise becomes less about the what and more about the why.

That’s where Velina Houston’s expertise comes in and why her new course at USC Iovine and Young Academy is designed to give students a storytelling edge. A Distinguished Professor of Theatre in Dramatic Writing at the USC School of Dramatic Arts, Houston’s new course, ACAD-499: Story Building for Inventors and Entrepreneurs, delves into the underlying, visceral factors that influence people’s choices. Houston believes the new perspective will offer students an opportunity to think differently about pitching their product.



“Academy students are already highly creative people and what I’m adding is another dimension to their journey," she says. For Houston, an accomplished playwright, author and screenwriter, this added dimension portrays ideas (or products) as characters, competition as conflict, and purchasing decisions as an act of desire.

“Stories are built on desire. Everything in the human condition is driven by desire. That is an organic parallel to an idea,” says Houston. “The objective is to create an idea and bring it to fruition with an appealing story.”

Ideas come and go, but stories are passed down and remembered. This isn't a theoretical concept, either. When analyzing the success of Super Bowl XLVIII commercials, researchers at John Hopkins University found an interesting correlation: the ads with the strongest plot development garnered widespread popularity, leaving the more typical ads, no matter how sleek and polished, forgotten.

As the global marketplace rapidly evolves, Houston’s new course underscores the enduring value of a compelling story. ACAD-499’s syllabus makes the case to entrepreneurs, highlighting why they should begin flexing their storytelling chops sooner rather than later.

“A good story can be currency – whether you are a literary artist, designer, entrepreneur, or scientist, your story can help you reach your objectives,” writes Houston. “This course focuses on nurturing active storytelling: devising distinct stories that are organically and inseparably fused with one’s vision and enterprise.”

Velina Houston’s new course is open to students in Fall 2020. To read more about the course, check out the syllabus on the Academy’s USC course listing.