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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: When Alexandra Billings starred in Romy and Michelle-Behind the Velvet Rope co-starring Katherine Heigel, she made history by becoming the first transgender actress to portray a transgender character on television. Her other television appearances include guest starring roles on: Eli Stone, Karen Sisco, E.R., Nurses, and Grey’s Anatomy. Her theatrical credits include: Comedy of Errors, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Pirates of Penzance, Gertrude Stein and a Companion and she was the first transgender actress to tackle the role of Mama Rose in an Off-Loop production of Gypsy. She has worked at The Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Court Theater, The Bailiwick Theater, and is the Viewpoints Associate at the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. Her one woman, musical, semi-autobiographical show Before I Disappear written by her, with original lyrics by her wife Chrisanne Blankenship-Billings, was seen Off-Broadway at The Producer’s Club and toured for 6 years. She is the recipient of 5 After Dark Awards and one Joseph Jefferson Award.

Alexandra’s nightclub act has played from Los Angeles to New York. She has sung at The Park West, The Emerald Room, Vitellos and Feinsteins. Her CD Being Alive was up for Grammy consideration in 2006. She is the recipient of the New York MAC Hanson Award for Best Cabaret Artist of 2008. On Amazon’s newest hit, Transparent, Ms. Billings made television history by becoming the first transgender actress to be a part of an ensemble which won the Golden Globe Award for Best Comedy Series.

Ms. Billings began her teaching career in 1994 at The Steppenwolf School in Chicago and continues that tradition for Steppenwolf West in LA. She received her MFA at California State University, Long Beach in 2013 and graduated with honors; inducted into Phi Kappa Phi and winning the award for Distinguished Achievement in Creative Activity for the Theatre Arts Department in 2013.

Ms. Billings is a youth advocate for the LGBTQ community and has been for almost three decades. She was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 2006. Her PBS Biography: From Schoolboy to Showgirl was nominated for an Emmy for Best Documentary in 2011. She was involved with Healthworks Theater,, an educational theater company specializing in AIDS education and prevention. She was on the board of directors for Chicago’s Season of Concern, and helped create the AIDS program for Test Positive Awareness Network. In 2015 she joined the board of The Fringe Theater, a theater company developed and operated by women, which serves disenfranchised youth by creating original theater productions using their own voices and telling their stories. She also works with the LGBT youth at the LGBT Center in Long Beach and serves as a mentor to LGBT students at CSULB.

In 1976 Alexandra met Chrisanne Blankenship. They were married in Chicago at The Bailiwick Theater with 150 guests and family, under the soul of music and the sight of God, on December 4, 1996. They currently reside in Long Beach California with their two kitties: Marlena and Tony.

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.

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.

Jason Rogel

Degree: BA in Theatre Arts

Bio: Jason Rogel was born and raised in Long Beach, CA. He 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 Rachael Taylor, Lea Thompson & Christopher McDonald in Brant Sersen's romantic comedy, Splinterheads. Since then, he has been seen in various commercials, films and TV shows, including Community, Dexter, Bones, The Office, How I Met Your Mother, Man Up!, and Swamp Shark. He was also the spokesperson for South Africa's 2011 "Get MMAD" campaign ads. Jason recently 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. He also recurred as Leo on the ABC Family sitcom, State of Georgia, starring Raven-Symoné, Majandra Delfino & Loretta Devine. In addition to film and TV, Jason has appeared in numerous theatre productions, working with such companies as East West Players, Beverly Hills Playhouse, LoudRMouth, The Garage Theatre Company and Kaiser Permanente's Educational Theatre Programs. He has also toured his mini-musical parody, M.Saigon throughout the US. Jason recurs as Marcus, on the new MTV show, Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous, starring comedian Bo Burnham.