Alumni Spotlights

//Alumni Spotlights
Alumni Spotlights 2017-11-06T19:15:23+00:00

Graduates from FIU’s Department of Theatre are Worlds Ahead. Click on the stories to the left to find out more about our successful alumni family.

Danny Pino '96Joseph Haj '84Andy Señor Jr. '13France-Luce Benson '99Apphia Campbell '06Marina Catalán ‘11Adriana Gaviria '97Peter Mir '12Tatiana Pandiani '13Jennifer Rumberger '04

img_0322From playing Star Wars as a kid with his brothers to starring in critically acclaimed TV series and films, Danny Pino was meant for stardom.

Pino, who graduated from FIU with a bachelor’s in theatre in 1996, most recently starred in Robert and Michelle King’s political satire television series “BrainDead” on CBS. Previously, he played Detective Nick Amaro for NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” and is best known for his seven seasons as the iconic Detective Scotty Valens on the Warner Brothers series “Cold Case.”

Pino also guest stars in a major recurring role in Shonda Rhimes’ hit series “Scandal” for ABC and has portrayed a wide range of characters, including the sociopath Armadillo Quintero on the acclaimed series “The Shield” and Desi Arnaz in “Lucy,” a bio-pic focusing on the tumultuous lives of Lucille Ball and Arnaz.

“Theatre was something I was interested in since Mrs. Brumett’s sixth grade music class at Rockway Elementary School. I had a vivid imagination and my brother Juan (also an FIU alum) and I would fabricate all kinds of fictional situations using ‘the Force’ on our little brother, Jaime,” said Pino.

Graduating from Miami Coral Park Senior High, Pino grew up in the shadows of FIU where his mother, Consuelo de Armas, also graduated with her master’s in education. He said she is someone he has always looked up too, and is grateful for the executives, staff and friends he worked with at the university.

“It’s safe to say I wouldn’t be ‘living the dream’ were it not for the faculty of FIU’s Theatre Program. The program offers majors a well-rounded education where you learn that risk is encouraged, failure is applauded and a craft is honed during stage time.”

Pino said he first entered as a double major in theatre and engineering, but his liberal education from the Honors College helped him realize his growing passion for acting. He also received a scholarship through the Department of Theatre that helped him pay for a successful career.

“Like most Cuban-Americans from my generation, a career in the arts caused trepidation in the hearts of my parents until we realized a scholarship could help pay for school.”

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Danny Pino, ’96 performing “Working.”

“The department made studying acting realistic.”

Pino said he remembers a purposely delayed blackout on an intimate scene where Lilly, his girlfriend then and now wife, and he were to start the action of taking off her corset with their parents in the audience… However, the most memorable moment was inaugurating the Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts Center in a joint production of “Fiddler on the Roof” with the Dance Department and School of Music.

“The friends I made while at FIU and the alumni who are achieving fulfillment in their own professions, bringing all of us pride, are the essentials of what being an alumnus means to me. They inspire and ground me, simultaneously.”

Despite his many successes as an actor, Pino said his greatest accomplishment is his family alongside his wife who also graduated with a bachelor’s in theatre in 1997.

“Being a father and husband is the most important thing in my life. It’s what makes me happiest, what is most fulfilling and what is most real — it’s what I am the most grateful for.”

“I am also grateful for the opportunities I’ve had as an actor, the artists I’ve collaborated with and the people I have brought a measure of entertainment to.”

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Lilly Bernal Pino, ’97 and Danny Pino, ’96 as Hodel and Perchik in “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Because it’s easy to spend time, attention and resources off campus, Pino encourages FIU students to take advantage of what the university provides: live theatre, music performances, Greek life, student government, intramural sports, guest speakers and service clubs.

“FIU, like life, will be what you make of it. To theatre students: like any other career, profession or craft, commit yourself to studying theatre, to understanding it and to living it. There may be shortcuts to fame, but there are no shortcuts to a career in the performing arts.”

People from the FIU community Pino thanks include: Marilyn Skow, Therald Todd, Phillip Church, Leslie Ann Timlick, Wayne Robinson, John Stack, Jaime Canaves, Steve Sauls, Mark and Rosalie Rosenberg, Eva Delgado, Modesto Maidique Olga Hernandez, Larry Lunsford, Rusty Belote, Sara and Howard Lipman, Eddie Hondal, Maria Martinez, Lori-Ann Cox, Josefina Cagigal, Linda and Danny Price, Ruth Hamilton, Flor Dabaja, Lourdes Meneses, fellow alumni from the Theatre Department, his brothers at Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity and friends from other Greek organizations and alumni from the Honors College.

To read more about Pino, click here.

Written by: Camila Fernandez

joehaj_webJoseph Haj is the current artistic director of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.  Before moving on to the Guthrie, He served as the Producing Artistic Director at PlayMakers Repertory Company, the theater in residence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for nine years. Haj has directed at theaters throughout the United States including Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C. Outside of traditional theaters, Haj has directed projects in a maximum-security prison in Los Angeles, in the West Bank and Gaza, and in rural South Carolina.

Upon receiving his M.F.A. from the University of North Carolina, Haj launched his career as an actor, performing with the theater’s foremost directors including Garland Wright, JoAnne Akalaitis, Anne Bogart (as an original member of SITI Company), Peter Sellars, Sir Peter Hall, Robert Woodruff and others. He made his Guthrie debut in The Screens and performed in The Skin of Our Teeth, Troilus & Cressida, Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V.

Haj was the 2014 recipient of The Zelda Fichandler Award, was named by American Theatre magazine as one of the 25 theater artists who will have a significant impact on the field over the next quarter century, and was recipient of the respected NEA/White House Council Millennium Grant awarded to 50 of America’s finest artists.

Haj received his BFA in Acting from FIU in 1984.

fl-cuban-rent-follow-jpg06bAndy Señor Jr., ’13 was surrounded by show business from a young age having been raised in a family that worked in the entertainment industry. In college, he focused on theatre and worked closely with Professor Philip Church. His love of the profession continued, and he went on train at the Public Theatre Shakespeare LAB, where he appeared in All’s Well That Ends Well.

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Andy Señor Jr., ’13 directing Rent.

Señor then made his professional debut in the Tony Award-winning musical Rent as “Angel,” playing the role on Broadway, London’s West End, and U.S. and international tours. He later became the assistant director on the Rent revival off Broadway, and went on to re-stage the production in Tokyo, Japan. Also, he directed the historic production of Rent in Cuba, in Spanish, which received global accolades and extensive international media coverage.

Most recently, Señor worked with Jeffrey Seller as assistant director on the new musical Fly at Dallas Theatre Center and is currently associate director to Jerry Mitchell on the Broadway-bound Gloria Estefan musical, On Your Feet. He is the artistic director of the District Stage Company in Miami. His film and television credits include Dummy, Lola, Ed (NBC), appearances on Regis and Kelly and The Rosie O’Donnell Show, and as a presenter on the Latin Billboard Music Awards, as well as many commercials and music videos.

Señor was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award at the 14th annual FIU Torch Awards Gala for his positive impact on his profession, the community and the university.

France-Luce Benson is an award winning New York based playwright. She is currently working on Deux Femmes on the Verge de la Revolution (Dramatist Guild Fellowship), The Deportation Chronicles (Ensemble Studio Theatre w/ the ACLU), and was just awarded a new play commission from the Ensemble Studio Theatre for their 2017 season. Other plays include Fati’s Last Dance (currently in production at Loyola Marymount University in L.A.), Boat People (Princess Grace Award 2016 Runner Up), The Devil’s Salt (Alfred P. Sloan New Play Commission), The Talk, and Risen from the Dough (Winner of the Samuel French OOB Festival 2016).

France-Luce is a 2015-2016 Dramatist Guild Fellow, a winner of the Samuel French OOB Festival, winner of NPNN Award for Best New Short Play, Recipient of Djerassi Resident Artist Fellowship, Eugene O’Neil National Playwrights Conference Observer Fellow, Princess Grace Award Runner Up, and Ensemble Studio Theatre Lifetime Member. Her plays have been produced by the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Crossroads Theatre, The Fire This Time Festival, The Billy Holiday Theatre, and Loyola Marymount University.

She has been published in several anthologies, including: The City Theatre Anthology 2015, Bricolage Urban Scrawl 2005-2015, and 48 Hours…in Harlem. She has also contributed to The Dramatists Magazine (Season in Review 2016), served as a panelist and workshop leader at Citywrights Conference 2015, and a Lead Teaching Artist for Girl Be Heard.

She is an Associate Professor at St. Johns University, and a proud member of the Dramatist Guild, and New York Women in Film and Television. She earned her BFA in Theatre from FIU in 1999 and an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University.

1Apphia Campbell is a trained singer and actress from the U.S. She has been performing since the age of four, when she decided that she wanted to be a performer professionally. She attended Florida International University, where she graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Performance and a minor in Political Science.  While in school, she steadfastly pursued singing and theatre. Campbell was a founding member of a theatre company called “Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe,” which has been in existence now for 10 years and has won several awards for performance in Sarasota, Florida.

She moved to New York after graduation, where she performed in regional theatres and off-Broadway houses singing, dancing, and acting. In 2009, she moved to Shanghai, China where she has been singing blues, jazz, and pop in venues such as Cotton Club, Park Hyatt, Brick, and Le Meridian Hotel.  She wrote and produced a Christmas show called “Josephina’s Holiday,” a modern day Motown Christmas story. She also performed with Blue Lane Theatre group as Inez in “No Exit,” for which she received several great reviews.

“Black is the Color of my Voice” is the third play Campbell has written, and the one she feels most passionate about.  It opened in Shanghai in May 2013 and performed eight sold out shows. She then took it to New York for the Midtown International Theatre Festival, where it was also received to great acclaim.

Campbell lives for performance, and firmly believes that pursuing one’s passion is a way of appreciating the gifts you have been given. To read more about Campbell, please visit her artist page.

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Marina Catalán has one goal: to be famous.

After acting in nearly a hundred different productions, Catalán brings talent to the entertainment industry. For Telemundo Productions, she has appeared in popular telenovelas, such as Una Maid in Manhattan, Tierra de Pasiones and Mi Corazón Insiste; the latter winning Novela of the Year at Telemundo 2012 Premios Tu Mundo.

“I want people to hear my name and get the same sensation I get when I hear Meryl Streep’s name. As any actor, I am constantly auditioning for commercials, dubbing work, television and voice overs. The key is to never stop,” said Catalán.

She has performed in films, such as I Love Miami by Alejandro Padilla as well as plays, including Twelfth Night and The Ruby Sunrise at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center. The play, La Madrina, is a one-woman show produced, written and performed by Catalán for which she won Best New Actress at the Miami II Festival de Teatro de Pequeño Formato.

Catalán said she enjoys how her profession is unpredictable since she can be given any character role to play at any given moment. A week’s work may include a combination of dubbing, casting for commercials and doing backstage work.

“A slow week may turn into an exciting rollercoaster ride in a matter of seconds. Long rehearsals, learning lines and developing a character is something I feel passionate about –  It completes me.”

“I like that it challenges me every day to be better, to keep going and to never give up. One job may lead to another and the more you go out there to get noticed, the more opportunities will appear. After being in the business for years, directors, producers, actors and agents give you direct bookings because they know what you can bring to the table.”

At the age of 19, Catalán moved to South Florida from Chillán, a small city in southern Chile to pursue her dream in show business. However, before starting at FIU, her legal status only allowed her to work in low-wage jobs. To keep her aspirations alive, she took non-vocational theatre classes, TV commercial courses and workshops.

“It wasn’t easy, but that was the price I was willing to pay if I wanted to stay in the U.S. and make my dreams come true. Most graduates find themselves lost because they don’t know where to start, but by the time I went to Miami-Dade College and FIU, I already had my resume and was working in Telemundo productions.”

She advises theatre students to take advantage of the education that is offered at FIU. She said it is important to learn all aspects of theatre, including set design, production and costume design.

“Be kind and respectful of other people’s work. Anyone involved in a production is important, even the person cleaning the restrooms. Teamwork and respect are key ingredients to any successful production. Be prepared and keep training yourself – there is always something that can be learned.”

“If there is nothing in the world that can make you feel the way acting does, then don’t give up, don’t quit.”

To read more on Catalán, click here.

Written by: Camila Fernandez

adriana-gaviriaAdriana Gaviria is an actress of theater, television and film as well as a voice-over artist. She is also co-founder and co-artistic producer of The Sol Project, Steering Committee Member for the Latina/o Theatre Commons (LTC) and a former recipient of the Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC)/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Artistic Leaders Fellowship.

She has performed at regional theaters across the nation—most notably Yale Repertory Theatre, Syracuse Stage, Dallas Theater Center, Denver Center, ArizonaTheatre Company, Pasadena Playhouse, Marin Theatre Company, Alabama Shakespeare Festival and Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

In New York, Adriana has worked with numerous theater companies including the Immigrants’ Theatre Project at the Public Theater, the Lark, FringeNYC/Fringe NYC Encores Series at Classic Stage Company/Lion Theatre, Pregones, Repertorio Español, Working Theater at the Abingdon and New York Stage & Film at Vassar.

Adriana has also appeared in a variety of commercials as well as on television and film. Her television credits include “Person of Interest” and “Law & Order: CI.” Her passion for working with youth and young adults have led her to volunteer with organizations such as Young Playwrights Inc., The 52nd Street Project and BookPALS.

Ms. Gaviria received her BFA from Florida International University and her MFA from the Yale School of Drama.

She is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA and the Actors’ Equity Association.

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Peter Mir is the Co-Founder, Production Director, and a performer at Villain Theater, which opened in 2015.  Peter has always felt that improv is at the heart of all of his creative endeavors, and is working towards broadening Miami’s theater scene and making improv an accessible tool for actors in Miami through Villain Theater.
Born and raised in Miami, Peter began performing improv in 2003 as part of the group Impromedy.  He graduated from Florida International University with a BA in theater in 2012.  Following a brief spell in New York’s east village at Teatro Circulo, he returned to Miami to continue his theater career.

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Tatiana Pandiani is a live performance director based in New York City.

Originally from Buenos Aires, she grew up around tango salons, antique stores and dance studios. Diplomatic childhood meant home was always temporary and in cities such as Kingston, Miami, Atlanta, and Boston. She studied Performance and Philosophy at Florida International University (BFA, Summa Cum Laude) and Directing at Columbia University (MFA) where she learned from masters such as Anne Bogart, Brian Kulick, Gregory Mosher, and Michael Lachiusa. Her work combines live performance, dance, music, and storytelling to challenge and entertain today’s audiences; it is inspired by the work of Maria Irene Fornes, Frida Kahlo, Pina Bausch, Bob Fosse, Bertol Brecht, and Astor Piazzola.

Most recently she directed The Co-operatives by Derran Moss-Dalmau at LATEA Theatre as part of the International New York Fringe Festival. Prior, she directed Everyday Afroplay at The Bushwick Starr and Assassins at Princeton Summer Theatre. She assisted directed The Glass Menagerie directed by Sam Gold at Toneelgroep Amsterdam, Ivo Van Hove’s company. Other work has been seen at The Bridge, La Micro, Truant Arts, Wertheim Performing Arts, MicroTheatre Miami, The Koubek Center, and Hangar Galleries. Tatiana is also a teacher and currently teaches at The Heschel School in Manhattan.

In the future? Modern classics, collaborations with choreographers and composers, new South American plays, and NORA, a musical piece inspired by Ibsen’s A Doll’s House combined with true stories of mothers and wives across the country. Currently she is in residence at The Habitat Theatre, directing for La Micro Theatre, and teaching and directing at the NYU/ Atlantic Theatre Conservatory. She wrote an original piece, 1989, that will tour to Miami in 2017.

www.tatianapandiani.com

Jennifer Rumberger is a Chicago-based playwright and actress. Her play Night in Alachua County will be produced by Wildclaw Theatre in the fall of 2017 at the Den Theatre in Chicago. Most recently, her short play, Entangled Black Holes, was produced as part of the Living Room Playmakers December site specific show, XV. Her short play Mare Cognitum was produced by the Gift Theatre Company as a part of TEN 2016, their annual production of ten short plays. Other recent productions include Open Blue Sky at the Stella Adler School of Acting in New York City, and The Bride, produced by the Living Room Playmakers at the Chicago Fringe Festival. Her full length plays Laura’s Party and Open Blue Sky had recent readings with The Gift Theatre Company in Chicago and Black Box Acting Studio, and her short plays were produced this year by the Commission Theatre Company, the Living Room Playmakers, the Gift Theatre Company, and Black Box Acting Studio. Night in Alachua County was selected for development at the 2014 Seven Devils Playwrights Conference. She has performed readings of her nonfiction prose with The Genesis Ensemble and the Gift Theatre Company this year. She was a 2015 nominee for the PoNY Fellowship and a 2015 semifinalist for the P73 Playwriting Fellowship, and a 2016 finalist for the Ingram New Works Playwrights Lab. She is an associate playwright and founding member of the Living Room Playmakers. She received an MFA in Writing for the Screen and Stage from Northwestern University.

Department of Theatre
Modesto A. Maidique Campus
Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts Center
10910 SW 17th ST - WPAC 131 Miami, Florida 33199
Contact
PH: 305-348-2895 | Fx: 305-348-8413
E-Mail: carta@fiu.edu