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.
From 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.”
“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.”
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.
Joseph 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.
Andy 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.
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.
Apphia 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.
Written by: Camila Fernandez
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.
Adriana 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.
Ivan Lopez can be considered a master story-teller. Here, in his own words, is the story of how he found his calling in theatre.
“The summer between my sophomore and junior years at FIU, I took an Introduction to Acting class that completely changed my life. Up to that point I was focused on becoming an attorney. I had been the lead attorney on my high school’s state champion Mock Trial team and was working for the managing partner at one of South Florida’s biggest law firms. I took the class because I thought it would be fun and an “easy A.” Instead, found my passion that summer, and there has been no turning back since.
After a great amount of deliberation, I took the plunge and auditioned for the theatre program. I instantly felt like I had a found a home. I acted in six Mainstage productions during my time in the program. Then, because I couldn’t get enough, in the summers I produced shows with my friends in the DM-150 theatre. For my senior project, I wrote, directed, designed and acted in a one man show about Lee Harvey Oswald called The Lone Gunman. After three years in the program, I graduated cum laude with a BFA in Theatre in 2003. Since the program didn’t just focus on acting, I developed a love for all aspects of the theatre – something that would serve me well in years to come.
After graduation, I took a year to figure out my next step. I decided that pursuing an MFA was something I wanted to do. I auditioned for the National Theatre Conservatory in Denver, Colorado and was one of eight students accepted to the program in 2004 out of over 600 applicants. My three years at the NTC were truly transformational. I spent 70 hours a week focusing solely on the craft of acting and further developing the artistic voice I discovered while at FIU.
After earning my MFA, I moved to New York City, because frankly, that’s what everyone in my class was doing. I began auditioning for shows and commercials and booked a few things, but after a while I started realizing that my passion was starting to diminish a bit. I realized that I didn’t just want to be an actor; I wanted to be a storyteller. I produced a few shows with friends in New York and felt the passion start to re-ignite.
When it became clear that I wanted to produce my own work, I was inspired to move back home. One of my best friends from my FIU days, Melissa Almaguer, was also producing her own work. We had produced a few shows together during my time at FIU and we loved working together. After many conversations about art we began to develop a unified vision for a production company. I moved back home in 2010 and White Rose Miami was born.
White Rose Miami is not a traditional theatre company. We are, in many ways, blazing our own path. Instead of operating by seasons, where we would produce x number of shows a year, we decided to let our creativity and passion be the guide and work project by project. This style of working has led us to produce some truly unique events. Our friendship and trust, something that was developed over a decade ago at FIU, has allowed us to create a safe environment for our creativity to develop and flourish.
In 2011, we kicked things off with a production of David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Proof. As we began looking for venues in which to perform the play we quickly discovered that it cost a lot of money to produce a show and we simply didn’t have it. Instead of giving up however, a friend offered us his backyard, we built a porch (the play takes place on a Chicago porch), and performed the play outdoors. The audience commented on how they felt transported because they didn’t have to work so hard at believing they were outdoors. This cemented our love of non-traditional spaces. Since then, we have continued to follow the flow of our creativity. We have produced a variety of artistic events. Some highlights include:
An Evening of Art and Whimsy: a beautiful backyard in Coral Gables became the set for an evening of live music, performance artists, an art installation, some short films, and the presentation of seven short plays I wrote during my time in New York. The evening was capped off with a champagne toast and the releasing of floating lanterns into the night sky.
Willow: our first original full length production told the story of The Experimenter, a soul tracker on a quest to save the love of his life, whom he has never met, from lifetime after lifetime of loneliness. The play featured original music and dance and the collaboration of three writers; myself, Melissa, and Jennifer Rumberger, another fellow FIU alum.
O, Miami’s Poetry is Dead Parade: we collaborated with O, Miami (a month long poetry festival whose aim was to spread poetry throughout Miami) and brought Cuban poet José Martí back to life (Martí’s poem Cultivo una rosa blanca was the inspiration for our company name).
Miami Time: our short play festival that celebrates the diversity of the city we call home. We have produced this event twice at PAX, traditionally a music venue in downtown Miami. The event has become a hit with audiences and has become a staple for our company.
Apart from my work with White Rose Miami, I have been an adjunct professor at FIU for three years teaching dramatic literature classes as well as the same Introduction to Acting class that ignited my passion over a decade ago. Every time I walk through the campus, I am astonished by the rapid growth of the university and draw a great deal of inspiration from it as I look to continue to grow in my own career. I will always consider FIU to be my home.
Currently, I am working on a few writing projects, including a novel. I consider myself a “Creative Explorer.” My personal mission is to explore the depths of my creativity and inspire others to do the same. So while I have a strong sense of where I’d like to go, I am never afraid to go in a new direction if my creativity guides me there. I live for the journey.”
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.