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Distinguished Alumni

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Snapshot of Alexandra Billings-Blankenship

Alexandra Billings-Blankenship

Degree: MFA in Acting
Year: 2013

Bio: Ms. Billings currently plays Davina on Amazon’s Transparent; winner of 15 Emmy Awards, The Critic’s Choice Award, the 2014 Golden Globe Award and the 2014 Peabody Award for most groundbreaking Television comedy. She was nominated for a 2015 SAG Award for her performance, along with the rest of the cast, in the category of Best Ensemble. She is the second transgender actress to play a transgender character in the history of television for her role in: Romy and Michelle-Behind the Velvet Rope for ABC Disney. Other TV credits include:
How To Get Away With Murder, Grey's Anatomy, Eli Stone, E.R., Karen Sisco, Nurses and playing opposite Dot Jones in the Ryan Murphy pilot Pretty/Handsome.

Alexandra has been acting since 1968 and has performed across the United States in hundreds of plays and musicals. She's played everyone from Mama Rose in Gypsy, to Mrs. Lynde in A Doll House and is considered to be the first transgender actress to portray most of her stage roles. She has appeared at The Steppenwolf Theater, The Goodman Theater, Chicago Shakespeare, The Marriott Lincolnshire, Second City, and The Bailiwick Theater. Her critically acclaimed, one-woman autobiographical show: Before I Disappear, toured from Chicago to Boston to Los Angeles, and finally, off Broadway at The Producer's Club. She originated the role of Alejandra in Time to Burn by Charles Mee at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago and toured off-Broadway in the Jeff Richmond and Michael Thomas camp classic: Hamlet! The Musical! Her CD: Being Alive, was up for Grammy consideration in 2002.

She is the recipient of five After Dark Awards and one Joseph Jefferson Award and the MAC Hanson Award for Best Cabaret Artist. She has sung in nightclubs all through the country including Feinstein’s, 88’s and Don’t Tell Mama’s; in New York, and Toulouse at the Park, Pops For Champagne, The Park West, The Emerald Room and The Gentry; in Chicago. Her life story: From Schoolboy to Showgirl, for PBS television, was nominated for an Emmy in 2009 for Best Documentary. In 2016 Ms. Billings finished shooting her first feature film: Valley of Bones, starring Autumn Reeser, and finished a run of her new autobiographical musical theater piece: S/He and Me directed by Joanne Gordon and making its debut at CSU Long Beach. This world premiere workshop version was lauded as one of the best theater pieces of 2013 by Broadway World.

Ms. Billings was inducted into the LGBT Hall of Fame in 2010. In 2014 she moderated a panel discussion on Transgender issues at The White House and was honored by the Human Right’s Campaign in 2016 and presented with their coveted Visibility Award. She is a long-term AIDS survivor and activist, and works with the LGBT community around the world as well as locally in Long Beach through The Center along with sitting on the Board of directors for Fringe Theater company.

Ms. Billings has been the Viewpoints Associate at The Steppenwolf Theater since 1994; the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning theater in Chicago and Los Angeles, and has taught Viewpoints in Universities and conservatories across the country since 1996. She matriculated from CSU Long Beach in 2013 with an MFA in Theater Arts and graduated with honors, giving the commencement speech in 2014 as well as being named Most Distinguished Alum. In 1996, she married Chrisanne Blankenship, her High School sweetheart whom she met in 1976. They have two cats and live happily and gratefully in a story that continues to be written.

Maria Mayenzette small headshot

Maria Mayenzet

Degree: MFA in Acting and Directing
Year: 2005

Bio: Maria Mayenzet’s career has spanned over twenty-five years working in regional theatre, film and television. Her film and television credits include Jagged Edge, Proud Men, Macbeth and Messenger of Death, Airwolf, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Tour of Duty, Forever, Santa Barbara, Journey to Mars, Mancuso FBI and Murder She Wrote. She has worked at the Seattle Repertory Theatre: Second Stage, The Globe in San Diego, The Grove Shakespeare Festival, The Edinburgh International Festival, Los Angeles Theatre Center, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Tamara International, California Repertory Theatre, Process Studio Theatre N.Y.C and The Froebel Institute in London. She has taught at California State University, Long Beach, Saddleback College, Pepperdine University, Chapman University, Eckerd College and Women in Film in Hollywood. She has a BA in Drama from University of California, Irvine (2002) and an MFA in Acting and Directing from California State University, Long Beach (2005).

In 2009, she was nominated by the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for a Performance Teaching Grant. She was also nominated by Saddleback College for Associate Faculty of the Year 2009.

Headshotshot of Jason Rogel

Jason Rogel

Degree: BA in Theatre Arts

Bio: Jason Rogel earned his Bachelor's Degree in Theatre Arts from California State University of Long Beach, and also studied at Australia's National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney.

In 2009, he appeared opposite Thomas Middleditch, Rachael Taylor & Lea Thompson in Brant Sersen's romantic comedy, Splinterheads. Since then, he has been seen in various commercials, films and TV shows, including Life In Pieces, Dice, Hart of Dixie, Dexter, Bones, The Office, How I Met Your Mother, Splinterheads and Swamp Shark.

In 2011, Jason recurred as Physics grad student, Leo, on the ABC Family sitcom, State Of Georgia, starring Raven-Symoné & Loretta Devine. He also starred alongside Tia Mowry and Tori Spelling in ABC Family's first original musical, The Mistle-Tones, which premiered as part of their "25 Days of Christmas" event.

In addition to film and TV, Jason has appeared in numerous theatre productions, working with such companies as East West Players, Skylight Theatre Company, Playwright's Arena, LoudRMouth, The Garage Theatre Company and Kaiser Permanente's Educational Theatre Programs.

Jason most recently starred as Ricky, the office gossip, on ABC Family's Kevin From Work and recurs on the TVLand show Impastor. He was honored with a spot on the University Players Wall of Fame in 2013.

Clifford L. Warner

Degree: BA in Theatre Arts
Year: 1984

Bio: From earning his BA in Theater Arts at CSULB and his MFA at the Yale School of Drama to founding Thinkwell Group and Mycotoo, Inc., Cliff has collaborated with some of the most talented and creative people in the entertainment industry. He has produced projects around the world including Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter; Motiongate and Bollywood Parks, Dubai; Sesame Street Presents: The Body touring exhibit and many more projects for Universal Studios, Walt Disney Entertainment, Harrah’s Entertainment and MGM Studios. He has managed the strategic planning process in theatre, film, theme parks, museums and location based entertainment.

Cliff has served as both CEO and Chairman at his current entertainment development company, Mycotoo, which focuses on helping passionate people achieve. Mycotoo provides strategic planning, concept development, master planning, design and project management expertise. Combining strong creative design with solid business strategy to develop successful projects, Mycotoo is currently focused on a seasonal Halloween Event, a Snow Play Experience, an indoor extreme sports complex, and a Soil to Supper experience.

Cliff loves collaborating with the broad spectrum of talented individuals involved with his myriad projects, including many CSULB alumnus from many different disciplines, especially David Wally (Class of 1984), with whom he has maintained a friendship and professional relationship for 30 years and is now one of his business partners at Mycotoo.