We regularly update alumni found in our 15 Famous Alumni categories. We list their current achievements below. A Recently in the News Archive is also available.
We regularly update alumni found in our 15 Famous Alumni categories. We list their current achievements below. A Recently in the News Archive is also available.
Diana Maria Riva, CCM '91, MFA (CCM) '95, returns to primetime television as a series regular in a new comedy starring George Lopez. The half-hour “Saint George” premiered on March 6, 2014, and shows at 9 p.m. ET on Thursdays on the FX channel.
In the show, Lopez plays a newly divorced working-class Mexican-American who has become a wealthy entrepreneurial businessman. Riva plays Lopez’s “tough and sexy” boss, as described in FX press materials. Her character, Concepcion, is the assistant principal at a downtown Los Angeles school, where she supervises Lopez teaching an evening history class — his way to give back to the community.
Once an All-American middle-distance runner and a UC Hall of Famer, Lewis Johnson, Univ '86, just completed his stay in Sochi, Russia, covering the 2014 Olympic Winter Games as a bobsled, luge and skeleton reporter. He has reported on every Olympic game (summer and winter) since the 2000 Sydney games. After graduating from UC, he became an Olympic hopeful, competing in two Olympic trials. Now, he has found his place among popular Olympic commentators.
Fashion-design graduate Asha Ama Daniels, DAAP ’13, is competing on Tim Gunn’s new show, “Under the Gunn,” which premiered Jan. 16, 2014, at 9 p.m. on the Lifetime channel. She is one of 15 competitors whom will be divided into three teams, each one mentored by a former "Project Runway" contestant. Each team will create a look to present before the judges. The show was filmed at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.
After more than a year of packed houses in Hamburg, Germany, “Rocky” the musical will soon open in Broadway, with a score composed by Stephen Flaherty, CCM '82, and his lyricist writing partner Lynn Ahrens. Tickets are already on sale for previews starting Feb. 11, 2014, at the Winter Garden Theatre and for an official opening on March 13.
Cara Hannah Sullivan, Cler '97, M (CCM) '02, hairstylist and wigmaker on “Saturday Night Live,” took home a primetime Emmy this fall. She and the rest of her SNL hairstyling team won the award for “Outstanding Hairstyling for a Multi-Camera Series or Special.”
The statue honored their work on two episodes — one featuring Zooey Deschanel in February 2012 and the other one featuring Jennifer Lawrence in January 2013.
Molly O’Connolly, A&S, is now a co-host and part of an investigative team of five people who travel around the world searching for legendary and loathsome historic figures, including Jack the Ripper in London and Vlad the Impaler in Romania. She invites TV viewers to watch them “investigating epic and purportedly haunted locations in search of answers to history’s most infamous and heinous crimes.”
The new SyFy Channel series, called "Contact Killer," premiered during primetime on Wednesday, Dec. 4. The first episode dealt with Jack the Ripper, with team members in London. Next they move to Romania to investigate Vlad the Impaler.
LINK: See full UC Magazine story on O'Connolly.
Until Jan. 5, 2014, Broadway audiences have a chance to catch four UC alumnae in a Tony-nominated musical — the revival of “Annie”— as well as one more if you go to the backstage door after the show. The biggest name of the pair is Faith Prince, CCM ’79, HonDoc ’09, who co-stars as Miss Hannigan, the alcoholic matron at the orphange. She joined the show at the Palace Theatre in the summer (2013).
Also joining the show this year have been Kirsten Wyatt, CCM ’97, who plays Lily St. Regis; Danette Holden, CCM 96, who is Faith Prince's understudy; Justin Patterson, CCM ’99, who plays F.D.R.; and Derric Nolte, assistant stage manager.
The current revival of “Annie” was nominated for a Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. The show is expected to run through Jan. 5, 2014, after which a national tour will be launched.
LINK: Read more and see more photos.
Phil Solomon, CCM ’93, gave special thanks this Thanksgiving for the way he kicked off the holiday season weeks earlier — spending Halloween entertaining 5,000 trick-or-treaters on the White House lawn, while donning a Herman Munster costume and climbing atop giant stilts. "It was a super successful event," Solomon says, "and we even had a private meeting and photo with the president and first lady. A sublime time indeed!"
Solomon is founder and CEO of Way2Much Entertainment, a premier award-winning live-event production company. Solomon is also a coordinator and international Master Trainer for Cirque Du Soleil.
“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” opened nationwide on Nov. 22, 2012, with an imporant UC connection. Alumnus Bradley Look was one of the makeup artists for the movie, just as he was when the original "Hunger Games" was released last year. An Emmy-winner with nine additional prime-time Emmy nominations, Look, M (CCM) '88, is one of the most sought-after makeup artists in the industry.
His Emmy win for Outstanding Makeup for a Series came in 1995 for his work on “Star Trek: Voyager.” His remaining nominations came for “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” in “1996, 1997 and 1999; “Star Trek: Voyager” in 2001; "Star Trek: Enterprise" in 2002, ’03 and ’05; "Pushing Daisies” in 2008; and "How I Met Your Mother" in 2011.
Three-time Emmy-winner Travis Hagenbuch, CCM '07, began working as the lighting director and director of photography for the “Queen Latifiah” show, which just started in September. Hagenbuch is best known for his work on award shows and commemorative specials, including the following:
“I helped design the show over the summer,’ he says of the daytime talk show, “and so far it has been a nice change of pace from all the travel and late nights involved in the award shows and primetime TV specials — though I still plan to get out and do other shows now and then to keep things interesting.”
Considered the pioneer of a growing Indian-American choral movement, composer Kanniks Kannikeswaran, M (Eng) ’86, M (Bus) ’88, was featured in a long segment on NPR’s “Morning Edition” Nov. 7, part of NPR’s yearlong series to uncover and celebrate the diversity and richness of sacred music in the U.S.
Kanniks (as he prefers to be called) is a a musician, music educator and writer with several recordings, productions and scores to his credit. He has been teaching Indian music theory and history as a CCM adjunct faculty member since 1994. According to his website, he bases all of his music instruction on “the core of commonality between the Hindustani and Karnatic streams of music.”
He founded the Greater Cincinnati Indian Community Choir, which won two silver medals in the recent World Choir Games held in Cincinnati in July 2012. He helped create similar choruses in Bethlehem, Penn.; Houston, Texas; Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.; Toronto, Canada; Washington, D.C. and across the Atlantic in The Hague, Netherlands.
Liz Pearce, CCM '00, is starring in "Cabaret" at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park through Nov. 16. Carl Draper, CCM '10, is a member of the ensemble.
Pearce plays the role of Sally Bowles in the Kander and Ebb musical about the cabaret singer and a novelist set against the backdrop of the rising Nazi influence in pre-war Berlin.
On Broadway, Pearce appeared in the Tony-winning musical "Billy Elliot." Draper performed in the national tour of "Monty Python's Spamalot."
► At left, UC grad Liz Pearce belts out
the title song in "Cabaret," at Cincinnati
Playhouse in the Park. Photo/Sandy Underwood
For the fourth year in a row, lighting director Travis Hagenbuch, CCM '07, received a primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lighting Design in the category of Lighting Direction for a Variety Special. Winners were announced Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Hagenbuch and his team had been nominated for the televised Grammy Award broadcast that attracted 28.3 million viewers in February. Although they won Emmys for the previous two Grammy shows, as well as one for the preceding Olympic opening ceremony in Vancouver, they lost this year’s Emmy to the SuperBowl Halftiime Show.
Conceptual illustrator and visual-effects art director George Hull, DAAP ’93, designed some big sets for the sci-fi action drama “Elysium,” which opened Aug. 9, 2013. Director Neill Blomkamp (director and co-writer of “District 9”) hired Hull "to help design some large-scale environments for the film," Hull says.
"I actually designed a massive robot factory for a Nike Superbowl commercial for Neill years back. So when it came to huge scale sets, I suppose that is why he turned to me."
Starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, "Elysium" takes place in the year 2154 when two classes of people exist. The extremely wealthy live on an unspoiled human-made space station named Elysium. The vast majority remain on Earth, languishing in its overpopulated, poverty-laden, crime-ridden and devastated environment. Anti-immigration laws prohibit the Earth population from traveling to Elysium to get medical treatment.
Some of Hulls best-known works include "The Amazing Spider-Man" ('12), "Iron Man 2" ('10), "Avatar" ('09), "WALL-E" ('08 — film won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, and Hull was an artist in the animation dept.), "The Matrix Reloaded" ('03), "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Special Edition" ('97) and "Forrest Gump" ('94 Academy Award winner for Best Visual Effects and Best Picture).
Emilie Rottman, DAAP ’08, and colleague James Ramil won first-place an an international competition to revitalize downtown Detroit, as announced in June 2013. Rock Ventures LLC had promoted two contests, called “Redesigning Detroit: A New Vision for an Iconic Site” – one judged by a panel of urban planners and architects and another one judged by the public. Rottman’s entry was the People’s Choice winner.
The contest was intended to generate ideas for the 92,421-square-foot site of the former 28-story J.L. Hudson department store, which was imploded in ‘98. The professional judges selected a first-place winner from Rome, Italy, while the public selected “Hudson’s Quarter,” by Rottman and James Ramil from Washington, D.C.
Covered by a parking garage now, the site of the old J.L. Hudson department store has been a historic one. When J.L. Hudson opened there in 1911, it was the world’s tallest department store, a record held until it was demolished in '98. At 2.2-million square feet, Hudson's, as it was called, was the country’s second largest department store, only surpassed by Macy’s in New York City. In '98, Guinness World Records declared it the "Tallest Building To Be Demolished Using Explosives."
Tory Ross, CCM ’02, has been in some top-rated TV shows, movies and now a Tony-nabbing Broadway show — “Kinky Boots.” Ross plays Pat and an ensemble role in the play that just grabbed six Tony Awards on June 16, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Choreography.
Prior to the show opening in April 2013, Ross had appeared in two seasons of the British drama “Downton Abbey,” which won the Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Best Drama Series and the Banff Television Festival Award for Best Mini-Series. As of spring 2013, Ross' latest appearance in that show was scheduled to air in the U.S. on Jan. 5, 2014.
Although previews for Broadway musicals often last weeks and even months, booking the shows overseas is a relatively new occurrence, but one that renowned composer Stephen Flaherty, CCM '82, is thoroughly enjoying along with his lyricist writing partner Lynn Ahrens.
Their first German work, produced by Sylvester Stallone, was "Rocky: Das Musical," which opened in Hamburg, Germany, in November 2012. After receiving knockout reviews from German critics, the show is now going the distance — to Broadway. Previews are scheduled for February 2014 at the Winter Garden.
Flaherty and Ahrens wrote 20 new songs for the show and retained three popular oldies: "Eye of the Tiger," "Gonna Fly Now" and "Take You Back." Because the story is set in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1975, "the score combines a lot of sounds of the period — funk, soul, pop, rock and folk," Flaherty says. "We look back to that time, but it is really a contemporary score."
In the meantime, the writing partners are working to bring the 1997 animated feature film "Anastasia" to a Broadway stage. The pair had originally scored the animated film, which was nominated for two Oscars — Best Original Musical or Comedy Score and Best Song ("Journey to the Past"). For the stage version, they are apparently writing 15 new songs and retaining five of the original pieces.
"Rocky" co-producer Stage Entertainment acquired the rights to produce a stage adaptation of "Anastasia" in 2012. As of late May 2013, the company maintained that the show, with its "beautiful score by Stephen Flaherty," will make its "debut in Moscow in 2013." But no dates or cast have been announced, leaving much up to speculation.
"Iron Man 3," orchestrated by Robert Elhai, M (CCM) '83, opened in May 2013. Although Elhai is best known for his film work, he is also a serious name in theater, having been the Tony-nominated orchestrator and associate music producer for "The Lion King" on Broadway in '91, in London's West End in '99 and on the U.S. national tour in '02.
His film projects have included the following:
LINK: See 50 of his movie credits here.
A CCM audience had the rare opportunity to listen to music from such classic films as "The Last of the Mohicans” and “Gettysburg” under the baton of the original composer and alumnus in January 2013.
Randy Edelman, CCM ’69, HonDoc '04 — the famed composer, orchestrator, conductor, score producer and singer/songwriter — played the piano and conducted CCM’s Philharmonia Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble in performing some of his best-known film scores. During the evening, he also received a Kautz Alumni Masters Program award.
Among the more than 100 scores Edelman has written are the "Mohican" score, for which he received nominations for both a Golden Globe and a British Academy Award, and the "Gettysburg" score, which is more familiar because its themes are often heard in film trailers and TV shows. His music has also been played at the Super Bowl and the '02 and '08 Olympics.
Early in Edelman’s 44-year career, he orchestrated songs for the "Godfather of Soul" James Brown; performed as the opening act for the Carpenters; toured with Frank Zappa; wrote songs for Barry Manilow, the Fifth Dimension and Blood, Sweat and Tears; and conducted for Dionne Warwick and Jackie DeShannon, whom he married. At one point, he reached "cult" status in England and was booked for a solo show at the London Palladium.
Ryan Breslin, CCM '11, was nominated for the 2012 Fred & Adele Astaire Award as Outstanding Male Dancer in a Broadway Musical for his performance in "Newsies: The Musical," which recently became an "open-ended" show, meaning there is still time to see his dazzling feet in action at the Nederlander Theatre.
Winner of the 2012 Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Choreography, the show was inspired by the real-life "Newsboys' Strike of 1899." The book by Harvey Fierstein deals with an unlikely band of underdogs who take on the biggest names in publishing in a remarkable fight for justice and fair pay.
Breslin was nominated for the Astaire Award along with Matthew Broderick and Hugh Jackman, but all three lost to Leslie Odom Jr. in "Leap of Faith."
Also in the show with Breslin is Garett Hawe, CCM '09.
Aaron Lazar, MFA (CCM) ’00, joined the Broadway cast of "Mamma Mia!" in June 2012, playing the role of Sam Carmichael. In mid September 2012, he was featured on Broadway.com’s “Broadway Buzz” column.
May of this year was a particularly busy month for Lazar as he shot the season finale for CBS's "Person of Interest," starred in Gentlemen "Prefer Blondes" at City center in New York City and performed his solo show "Look for Me" in the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Late last year, Lazar as he appeared in Clint Eastwood's movie "J. Edgar," playing Prosecutor David Wilentz with the star Leonardo DiCaprio.
Kaitlyn Davidson, CCM '09, made her Broadway debut as an actress in the new Gershwin musical "Nice Work If You Can Get It" in April 2012. She was 8 years old when cast in her first musical in Kansas City, playing an orphan in "Annie Warbucks."
GENERAL BROADWAY LINKS: Read about other alumni on Broaday by picking from the following:
Peter Jackson's new movie, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," brought forth a demand for toys — which was answered, in part, by Daniel Meyer, DAAP '71. Meyer is director of marketing and design at The Bridge Direct, a Florida-based toy company that landed the worldwide toy and game licensing rights for the Warner Bros.' film last fall.
Before joining The Bridge Direct, Meyer had worked for Fisher-Price, then as brand manager for Jakks Pacific, a major toy and leisure-product company in Florida, where he designed action figures and play sets related to the movie "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian." At that time, he placed a likeness of his own face on the Telmarine soldier action figure.
Lisa Howard, CCM '97, has an important role in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part Two," which brought in nearly $341 million its opening Nov. 16, 2012, weekend. Wearing red contacts and a red wig that took an hour to put on, the musical-theater grad is the vampire Siobhan (pronounced “Shi-von”), the head of the Irish coven, which works with Bella, Edward and Jacob to defeat the corrupt vampire leaders, the Volturi.
This was Howard's first film. She has done a little TV — "Ugly Betty," "Late Show with David Letterman" and a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade — but is best known for her Broadway performances.
In 2005, she nabbed a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Ensemble Performance for playing the diva Rona Lisa Peretti in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." Most recently, she had a starring role on Broadway in "Priscilla: Queen of the Desert," preceded by "9 to 5" and the "South Pacific" revival.
Brad Look, MFA (CCM) '88, the Emmy-winning makeup artist, has recently been busy working on some major motion pictures, including "The Hunger Games," "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" (for which he was a special-makeup-effects artist) and "Lincoln" (a Steven Spielberg movie due out on Nov. 16, 2012, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones).
Debbie Denise, CCM '73, and Jessica Peel-Scott, DAAP '93, were instrumental in bringing the box-office sensation "Oz: The Great and Powerful" to the theaters in 3-D in March. As of April 14, the film was the highest grossing of 2013 with audiences entranced with the visual-effects masterpiece and inventive-costume showcase.
Debbie Denise, an expert in 3-D, is executive vice president of production at the Academy Award-winning visual effects and animation studio Sony Pictures Imageworks, which Disney hired for the film. She oversees production of all the company's films, which have included "Harry Potter," "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Men In Black 3."
Jessica Peel-Scott was one of two assistant designers considered "key collaborators" to the head costume designers. The team spent weeks researching fashion trends from various periods to develop the costumes, then oversaw a staff of 60 who clothed Emerald City citizens, workers and attendees at a traveling circus, 36 Munchkins (who averaged 3 foot-6) and 48 Winkies (Emerald City guards, who averaged 7-feet tall and wore feathered hats to add another 20 inches). Peel-Scott has also worked on "Spider-Man 2" and "Second Hand Lions."
Tony-winning composer Stephen Flaherty, CCM ’82, and his professional partner Lynn Ahrens just completed filming on the musical-comedy movie "Lucky Stiff," featuring songs by Flahety and Ahrens and based upon the team's first show — about a hapless shoe salesman who takes a dead bod on vacation to inherit $6 million. Starring Jason Alexander, the movie is expected tol be released in late 2013 or early 2013.
The show was originally performed at Playwrights Horizons off-Broadway in 1988, when it won the Richard Rodgers Award. The next year, it was produced at the Olney Theatre in Maryland, where it won the Helen Hayes Award for Best Musical. The show had its British debut at the Theatre Royal in Lincoln in 1994. In 1997, it had graduated up to a West End production. More recently, it had its New Zealand premiere in January 2011 in Marlborough.
Creative-writing alumnus Matt Dunnerstick, A&S '01, received eight film-festival awards for writing and directing his first independent feature film "The Custom Mary" — enough acclaim that the movie will soon be released internationally. In January 2013, he made a particularly impressive showing at one of the country's largest black film festivals, San Diego Black Film Festival, with a win for Best Cutting Edge Film and Best Religious Film.
The two genres seem a little odd for one picture, until one reads the movie synopsis: "When a young Latina meets an African-American lowrider mechanic, she struggles to reconcile her faith and blossoming love affair while becoming dangerously involved in a religious attempt to clone Jesus."
Five CCM alumni who form the group Eighth Blackbird won its second Grammy in February 2012 — this one for their recording of Steve Mackey’s "Lonely Motel." The sextet studied as an ensemble at CCM in the late 1990s. Members in the group are Michael Maccaferri, MA (CCM) '00, clarinet, founding member; Matt Albert, AD (CCM) '00, violin and viola, founding member; Nick Photinos, AD (CCM) '00, cello; Matthew Duvall, AD (CCM) '01, percussion; and Lisa Kaplan, AD (CCM) '00, piano, founding member.
After winning $60,112 on three rounds of "Jeopardy!" in early May 2013, John Anneken, PharmD '13, reappeared on the quiz show on May 20, 2013 (the delay due to the show's two-week college tournament). Although the show was taped in California earlier this year while he was still a student, Anneken was sworn to secrecy as to the results, leaving friends and fans nervously watching all three four with no idea that he would remain in the competition this long. The May 20th show, however, was his last.
A postdoctoral researcher at UC, Anneken is a quiz-show aficionado who applied for Jeopardy four times over 14 years, beginning at age 12 with the first of two applications for special youth competitions.
"The hardest part of the contestant experience was waiting and waiting and waiting to get started," he says. "The time I was on the stage playing was relaxing compared to the anticipation."
On May 1, he dominated most of the game and won $18,911 after answering the final Jeopardy clue in the theater category. He added $14,000 with another victory May 2 and $27,201 more on May 3.
The show airs in Cincinnati on FOX's channel 19 at 7:30 p.m.
The TV series "The Waltons" celebrates the 40th anniversary of its premiere in September 2012. The show's creator and narrator Earl Hamner, CCM '48, HonDoc '08, wrote a funny recap of the early reviews the show received, including one that offended him so badly that he nearly canceled his New York Times subscription.
In his blog, he also presents a charming history of the show that ultimately won six Emmy awards, six Christopher Awards, the Golden Globe Award from the Foreign Press Association, the People’s Choice Award and the highest award given in broadcast journalism, the coveted Peabody Award from the University of Georgia. He also noted, "In a magazine called Twin Circle, which is the voice of the National Catholic Press, a picture of the cast of 'The Waltons' was given equal space with a picture of the Pope. At that point, I began to worry that we had gone too far."
Hamner explains how the show changed his family's lives back in Virginia because the characters were based on his real relatives and how his hometown became a tourist destination.
Although the writer is mostly known for his tales of growing up in Virginia, he also wrote episodes of the Twilight Zone, was the screenwriter for the original "Charlotte's Web" and produced the 1980s series "Falcon Crest."