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CSULB Theatre Arts News

Alumni featured on cover of American Theatre

Posted on February 9th, 2017

Exciting news follows CSULB Theatre Arts alumnus Raymond Lee. He has been cast in a new HBO series written by Alan Ball, creator of Six Feet Under and True Blood. He was cast alongside Sosie Bacon, Daniel Zovatto and Jerrika Hinton in this untitled “tragicomic meditation” series about a husband and wife who build a family by adopting children from Vietnam, Somalia and Colombia before having their own child. Lee will play Duc, an ambitious life coach who masks a painful past he has not faced.

Raymond Lee is also featured on the cover of American Theatre’s February 2017 issue. Vietgone was published in the magazine along with an interview with Qui Nguyen, the playwright. In 2015, Lee originated the role of Quang in the world premiere at South Coast Repertory Theatre, before following the production to the Manhattan Theatre Club for its New York premiere.


CSULB Theatre Arts Kicks off Spring Semester with She Kills Monsters

Posted on Feburary 6th, 2017

A YOUNG WOMAN’S ACTION-PACKED JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

LONG BEACH, CA, January 2017 – California State University Long Beach (CSULB) Theatre Arts presents She Kills Monsters, written by Qui Nguyen, and directed by Amanda McRaven with movement by Julie Granata Hunicutt. This hyper-theatrical comedy playing February 17 to February 26 at the Studio Theatre kicks off an eclectic season of shows at CSULB.

She Kills Monsters tells the story of Agnes, a young woman who finds a notebook written by Tilly, her recently deceased younger sister. Age kept the two sisters apart in life, but after Tilly’s sudden death Agnes leaps into the fantastical world of Dungeons & Dragons in a desperate attempt to understand the sister she barely knew. Agnes stumbles into a journey of revelatory self-discovery, but as she dives deeper into her sister’s domain, the lines between reality and game begin to blur, clashing with family expectations and putting Agnes’s real-world relationships at risk. Agnes must decide what is most important – the memories of her family, or the possibilities of her own future.

Click here to read the full press release.

Click here to buy tickets.


"Caged Birds: Cal Rep/University Players, Spring 2017"

Posted on January 25th, 2017

“The caged bird sings with a fearful trill/of things unknown but longed for still/and his tune is heard on the distant hill/for the caged bird sings of freedom.” Poet Maya Angelou

This Spring Season for Cal Rep and University Players is a dynamic, eclectic range of plays. From the hyper-theatrical, stylized world of Qui Nguyen’s She Kills Monsters to the gritty realism of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Good Boys and True. From the brightly colorful world of Kirsten Childs’ Bubbly Black Girl Sheds her Chameleon Skin to the stark, sterile world of Ingmar Bergman’s Nora, adapted from Ibsen’s A Doll’s House by Frederick J. Marker. From established writers like Ibsen and Bergman, to the emerging voices of African-American writer Kirsten Childs, Vietnamese-American playwright Qui Nguyen, and Broadway/TV writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. This diversity of productions represents the spectrum of what we do here in CSULB’s Theatre Arts Department: we challenge our students with a range of aesthetics, approaches and texts; and we expose our audiences to a wide array of work – contemporary and classic, musicals and dramas, stylized and naturalistic.

More specifically, these four pieces all share very specific, common threads: they are all stories of young people, similar in age to the students on our campus; they are all portraits of one central character in crisis; three of the four focus on stories of young women and their struggles within the restrictions of society; and they are all stories of characters fighting oppression and feeling marginalized. Overall, the four main characters of these plays are trapped; they are all the caged birds in Maya Angelou’s poem – struggling to find themselves and “sing of freedom.”

Great works of art ask great questions. The four plays this spring season all ask the same question: Who do we become when society won’t accept who we are? This central conflict in the plays is a deeply moving drama – and even more urgent now in a divided America, where the day after the presidential inauguration millions of people march worldwide as an act of resistance and protest. Each of these plays are about characters resisting forces that still confront us: racism, sexism, homophobia and issues of class.

I am thrilled to see all of you this Spring at our Cal Rep/University Players shows – and watch the journey of these characters, each struggling to break out of their cage, sing of freedom and fly.


Jeff Janisheski
Artistic Director
Cal Rep

Click here to read an article about CSULB Theatre Arts' Spring Season, published in the Daily 49er.

Rehearsal photo of She Kills Monsters
The cast of She Kills Monsters in rehearsal. Photo credit: Jose Oliver De Castro

Chicago Opera Theatre Features Lighting Design from CSULB Faculty

Posted on January 31st, 2017

David Jacques Headshot

Head of Design and Lighting Design Faculty David Jacques will be designing lights for Chicago Opera Theatre’s world-premiere production of the new opera The Invention of Morel, opening February 18th. Jacques previously designed COT’s productions of Therese Raquin and The Fall of the House of Usher. The Invention of Morel is an adaptation of La invención de Morel, a 1940 novel by the influential Argentine author, Adolfo Bioy Casares. The production runs through February 26, 2017; click here for more information.

Jacques also designed lights for Utah Opera's production of Man of La Mancha, which closed January 29th.

production shot of Man of La Mancha
The cast of Utah Opera's Man of La Mancha

CSULB Theatre Students and Faculty Gather to Pledge for a Better Future with
The Ghost Light Project

Posted on January 20th, 2017 ghostlight banner

Ghostlight collage

CSULB's theatre department, led by Alexandra Billings, joined a national coalition of theaters to launch THE GHOSTLIGHT PROJECT, a celebration and affirmation of the power of theatre to spark change whilst honoring human diversity.

On Thursday Jan. 20th the theatre department gathered in "a collective, simultaneous action, together creating light for times ahead" to pledge help for the marginalized by telling their stories, and to keep them safe. The gathering of students, faculty, and staff used cellphones, candles and flashlights to illuminate their hope for a better future and sang "Give a Little Bit" by SuperTramp during the ceremony to dedicate the Theatre Arts Department as a place for peace, hope, diversity, and inclusion.

The Ghost Light Project was inspired by the tradition of leaving an illuminated "ghost light" in a darkened theater. Artists and communities across the country made the pledge to stand for and protect the values of inclusion, participation, and compassion for everyone-regardless of race, class, religion, country of origin, immigration status, (dis)ability, age, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

With this light we dedicate our theater as a beacon to all those in the darkness

This light will shine to spread our belief in goodness truth and love

Click here to read an article about the action on CSULB's webpage.


To view past news items, please click here.


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Jaye Austin Williams, History/Literature & Criticism/Performance

  • November 2016: Dr. Jaye Austin Williams is visiting director at Chapman University this fall, directing Intimate Apparel by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage. Set in 1905 New York City during the burgeoning of the textile industry, Nottage underscores the oft-untold stories of Black women (and men) who were laboring hard, and against a great deal of violent pushback, to enter the industrial project in the United States. Click here for tickets and event information.

Trevor Biship, Directing

  • October 2016: Trevor is directing a staged reading of Lauren Yee's latest play at the Chance Theatre in Anaheim. This is Trevor's sixth production with the Chance. Learn more.

Anthony Byrnes, Theatre Management

Andrea Caban, Voice and Speech

Professor Andrea Caban has toured her solo play The Voice Bank, originally workshopped and produced in the Theatre Arts Department in October of 2015, to various places including Penn State’s Art and Design Research Incubator, UC Santa Cruz’s Department of Biological and Physical Sciences and Chicago’s Greenhouse Theater Solo Celebration in conjunction with the Voice and Speech Trainer’s Association Conference. The Voice Bank tells the story of one woman who defies her ALS diagnosis to fight for the privilege to keep speaking. Caban plays both herself and Terry, a woman with an indomitable spirit and a passion for performance, as they manage Terry’s progressing symptoms through voice and accent training. With every performance, Caban partners with local chapters of the ALS Association to raise awareness for the disease and the research around it.

David Jacques, Lighting Design

  • January 2017: The fourth edition of Jacques' lighting design textbook Introduction to the Musical Art of Stage Lighting Design was published and is available on Amazon.
  • November 2016: Jacques designed lights for Ainadamar by Osvaldo Golijov at the Bing Theater at USC, running November 16 - 20.
  • October 2016: The English National Opera featured Jacques' lighting design in their production of Tosca at The Coliseum in the West End of London; Click here for more information.

Jeff Janisheski, Department Chair

  • December 2016: Jeff was featured in Inside CSULB, the university's online magazine. Click here to read the article.
  • June 2016: My essay on actor training was published by TCG: Audience (R)Evolutions: Dispatches from the Field, edited by Caridad Svich, preface by Bill Rauch.
  • My introduction to Stephen Sewell's play, The Olympians, was published by NoPassport Press.

Hugh O'Gorman, Acting

  • Invited to participate in the Super Space Artist interviews project
  • Published Article “Stanislavski’s Event Analysis” with the Athens Journal of Humanities & Arts, Volume 4, Issue 4, October 2017
  • August 2016: Lead Orientation Workshop for incoming CSULB MBA Students
  • July 2016: Planned, recruited, organized and course coordinated the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique workshop for the CSU Summer Arts Festival in Monterey Bay, CA for over 40 students.
  • July 2016: Served as Best Acting Judge, 3rd year in a row for the Southern California Creative And Innovative Film Festival in Los Angeles, CA
  • July 2016: CSU Low-Residency MFA in Acting Strategy and Vision Meeting at the CSULB Karl Anatol Center. With CSU Professors, Dr. John Mayer, Dr. Jim VOlz, Anne D’Zmura, Cynthia DeCure and Rob Clare (RSC) and Kim Rubenstein (UCSD).
  • June/July 2016: Faculty for The Michael Chekhov Association of American’s annual International Workshop and Festival at Conn College, The Eugene O’Neil Theatre Center in CT. Taught classes in the Michael Chekhov technique to over 60 participants.
  • June 2016: Planned, Organized, and Chaired the 3rd Annual Congress of the Craftsmen of Dionysus: a society of acting teachers in NYC at the Juilliard School’s Drama Division. Over 30 Acting teachers from around the country were in attendance. Master Classes by Stephen Wangh, Joy, Joanna Merlin and Carol Rosenfeld, with a Key Note Address to the Society by Head of Acting at the Yale School of Drama, Ron Van Lieu
  • May 2016: Chaired “Panel #2 on the Education and Training of Actors" at the Athens Institution for Education and Research’s 7th Annual Conference on Visual and Performing Artsin Athens, Greece.
  • May 2016: Presented Paper “Stanislavski’s Event Analysis” at the Athens Institution for Education and Research’s 7th Annual Conference on Visual and Performing Arts “Panel #1 on the Education and Training of Actors” in Athens, Greece.

Nancy Jo Smith, Costume Design

  • October/November 2016: I have an art piece "Kakemono" in an exhibit of the International Shibori Symposium at Centro de las Artes de San Agustin in Oaxaca, MX.
  • October 2016: Showed wall art and garments at Bellagio Art Gallery in Asheville, NC

Sarah Underwood Saviano, Performance

  • November 2016: Sarah is performing in The Odyssey Theatre's production of A Taste of Honey. Click here for an interview with Sarah and co-star Kestrel Leah on LA Talk Radio's In Our Times with Dr. Cheryl Lubin.
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Class of 2016

  • Sean Book, MBA/MFA in Theatre Management has accepted a position as the Philanthropic Engagement Manager for Children's Musical Theatre San Jose.
  • Caitlin Bryson, MBA/MFA in Theatre Management has accepted a position as the Management Associate for Page73 Productions in New York City.
  • Tahirih Moeller, BA won second place in the Hip Hop Theater Creator Awards at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for her play A Live Mixtape. Her play Actually Oranges will be produced at Long Beach Playhouse in 2017 by Up and Coming Actors.
  • David Weber, MFA in Performance Pedagogy has been hired as an Instructional Assistant Professor with Illinois State University, teaching fundamentals to advanced acting, and will be directing Harvest by Manjula Padmanabhan for the department in the spring.

Class of 2015

  • Megan Knowles, MFA in Costume Design created an original gown for faculty member Alexandra Billings to wear to the 2016 Emmy Awards, and was named to both Variety and ABC TV's Best Dressed lists.
  • Colleen McCandless, BA has won the John Cauble Short Play Award from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for her play Fledgling, which will be directed by Jeanette Farr-Harkins, the National Playwriting Program Chair for KCACTF, at Glendale Community College, April 1st - April 11th. Additionally, Fledgling is being expanded to 90 minutes and performed at the STAGEStheatre in Fullerton from April 1st - April 9th.

Class of 2014

  • Demi Boyd has accepted a position as the resident stage manager for the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet.
  • Kyle Gladfelter has accepted a position as lead stage manager for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at University Studios Hollywood.

Class of 2013

  • Sebastian Arboldedo, BA in Performance is in his third year of the MFA Acting Program at Yale School of Drama, where he is starring in Blood Wedding.

Class of 2011

  • Erica Larocque , MBA/MFA in Theatre Management recently started as the Events Manager for GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD).

Class of 2010

  • Madison Mooney, BA has been named Executive Director of the Long Beach Playhouse.

Class of 2008

  • Raymond Lee, BA is playing Quang in Manhattan Theatre Club's production of Vietgone. Lee originated the role in the world premier at South Coast Repertory in 2015. Learn more.
  • Sean Gray, BA has been named Artistic Director of the Long Beach Playhouse.

Class of 2007

  • Christina Vee (Velenzuela) is the voice of the Ladybug on Nickelodeon's Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir

Class of 2006

  • Jeremy Aluma, BA in Performance, the founder and Artistic Director of the award-winning Four Clowns clown troupe, has been accepted into and is now attending the MFA in Directing Program at The Theatre School at DePaul University. Jeremy is a member of the CSULB Theatre Arts Alumni Mentor Circle.
  • MacKenzie Meehan, BA in Performance, plays Polly on HBO's new series Vinyl.

Class of 2005

  • Sylvia Bush (née Cervantes), BA in Performance, an LA-based director, has been accepted into and is now attending the UCLA MFA Directing Program. She is the recipient of UCLA's Graduate Opportunity Fellowship.

Class of 2002

  • Ellen D. Williams, BA has been cast in the new NBC show, Pitch. She has also starred as Nicole in Zach Galifianakis’s Baskets and Patrice on How I Met Your Mother. Click here to read about her experiences as a Filipino-American actress.

Class of 2000

  • Jason Rogel, BA has been cast as Ricky in Kevin from Work. He has also starred in Hart of Dixie, Dexter, Bones, The Office, Man Up!, Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous and the SyFy Original Swamp Shark. Jason is a member of the CSULB Theatre Arts Alumni Mentor Circle.
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