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Alumni Spotlights2021-11-17T17:36:53+00:00

Many of our alumni have distinguished themselves nationally and internationally in all aspects of the entertainment industry. Below are just a few of our successful alumni.

Danny Pino '96Joseph Haj '84Andy Señor Jr. '13France-Luce Benson '99Victoria Collado '12Adriana Gaviria '97Tatiana Pandiani '13Apphia Campbell '06Michelle Fraioli '10Caroline Spitzer '12Damian Charkiewicz '11Jackie Martinez '08Yecid Benavides '05Jennifer Rumberger '04Alex Parayuelos '12Jason Michal Torres '10

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Danny Pino is a television and film actor with multiple starring roles on hit television shows and movies. Pino graduated with a BFA in Acting from FIU in 1996 and has an MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Pino was Detective Scotty Valens on the hit CBS show Cold Case, which aired from 2003-2010. He then landed another starring role as Nick Amaro on NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit from 2011-2015. He is currently starring as Miguel Galindo on FX’s Mayans M.C.

Pino’s film credits include Larry Mora in the 2021 film Dear Evan Hansen and Desi Arnaz in the CBS film, Lucy.

He also recently starred in the Los Angeles production of Key Largo with Andy Garcia at the Geffen Playhouse.

Pino is married to fellow alumna Lilly Pino Bernal.

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.

Andy Señor Jr. was born and raised in Miami, Florida. In the summer of 2021 he made his film directorial debut with the HBO Original Documentary Revolution Rent, executive produced by Neil Patrick Harris.

He was the Associate Director of Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s musical On Your Feet! on Broadway, Netherlands, and UK West End Productions as well as Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway production of Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn. He served as Associate Director on the new musical FLY at Dallas Theatre Center with Jeffrey Seller.

Andy made his professional debut in the Tony Award-winning musical RENT as “Angel,” playing the role on Broadway, London’s West End, and US National and International Tours. Later he became the Assistant Director to Michael Greif on the RENT revival Off-Broadway and went on to re-stage the production in Tokyo, Japan and the historic production in Havana, Cuba.

Most recently he directed two new Nilo Cruz plays, Tsunami and Farhad and the Secret of Being.

Señor graduated with a BFA in Acting from FIU and in 2015 was honored by the university with a Torch Award for his distinguished career and his positive impact on his profession, the community, and the university.

Señor also recently created the Señor Family Scholarship Fund to support young musical theatre students. You may donate to the fund here.

As a playwright and arts educator, France-Luce Benson was named “Someone to Watch” in 2019 by American Theatre magazine. She is a recipient of a Miranda Foundation grant for her play Detained, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation New Play Commission for her play The Devil’s Salt, a Princess Grace Award runner up for Boat People, and most recently was honored by The Lilly’s with The Lorraine Hansberry Award (including a $10,000 prize).

Additional honors include: Zoetrope Grand Prize for her screenplay Caroline’s Wedding; Dramatists Guild Fellow 2016-17, Sam French OOB Festival Winner, and NNPN Award for Best Play, and three time Kilroy List Honorable Mention.

Residencies include Djerassi, the Camargo Foundation in France, and Instituto Sacatar in Bahia, Brazil. Her plays have had productions, workshops, and readings at Crossroads Theatre New Jersey, City Theatre of Miami, The Playwrights Center in Minneapolis, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, City Theatre of Miami, Loyola Marymount University, Global Black Voices in London, and in New York: New Black Fest at The Lark, The Billy Holiday Theatre, and the Ensemble Studio Theatre New York, where she is a company member.

She’s been published by Sam French and Routledge Press. After graduating from FIU, she went on to earn an MFA in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.

Teaching appointments have included UCLA Extension, St. Johns University, Columbia University, Dramatists Guild Traveling Masters, and P.S. Arts/Inside Out in L.A.

She is currently based in Los Angeles, California where she serves as the Community Engagement Coordinator at The Fountain Theatre.

Victoria Collado is a Cuban-American director currently living and working in New York City and Miami.

She is best known for directing the smash-hit immersive theatre piece, AMPARO, which enjoyed a sold-out eight month run in Miami. She is the director and co-founder of Abre Camino Collective, which she founded with creative partner Vanessa Garcia. Abre Camino is a collective comprised of visual, theatre, literary, and performing artists redefining the American narrative through radical storytelling.

She recently directed The Cubans by fellow alumnus Michael Leon at Miami New Drama. Victoria has directed for Repertorio Español, MCC Youth Company, Sheen Center, IATI theatre, Juggerknot Theatre Co., Microteatro Miami, Columbia University, FIU, and others.

Her production El Burlador de Sevilla received various nominations from the ACE awards, and won for Outstanding Ensemble. She was a Van Lier Directing Fellow with Repertorio Español, part of the Directing Corps in the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and a recipient of the SDCF Observership.

Victoria was the assistant director to Tony Taccone in John Leguizamo’s Latin History For Morons on Broadway.

Victoria was the guest director for FIU’s A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings in 2018, and is slated to direct The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for FIU in Spring of 2022.

Adriana Gaviria is an actress, voice-over artist, writer, director, advocate, and creative producer.

She is the Founding Member/Artistic Producer of The Sol Project, Producer of SolFest, and was Producer for LTC’s Miami Regional Convening in 2019.

She serves on the national advisory boards of 50 Playwrights Project, FIU Theatre Alumni, and Parent Artist Advocacy League, and on the national steering committees for the Latinx Theatre Commons and DRAMA.

She has performed at regional theaters across the nation — most notably Yale Repertory Theatre, Syracuse Stage, Dallas Theater Center, Denver Center, Arizona Theatre Company, Pasadena Playhouse, Marin Theatre Company, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater; and in New York, Pregones/PRTT, The Public, Repertorio Español, IATI, Classic Stage, Working Theater, Immigrant’s Theatre Project, New York Stage & Film at Vassar, among others.

She recently appeared in The Cubans at Miami New Drama working alongside several FIU alumni. She is currently developing North Star Projects, creating content and events that educate, empower, inspire, and build community. She has an MFA from the Yale School of Drama.

Tatiana Pandiani is director-choreographer who works in English and Spanish.

She serves as the Associate Director for the First National Broadway tour of What the Constitution Means to Me by Heidi Schreck which recently closed on Broadway. Tatiana directed the international tour of La Negrophilie by Zakiya Markland at the Frank Collymore Hall in Barbados, the Ubumuntu Arts Festival in Rwanda and the Kampala International Theatre Festival in Uganda. Tatiana has served as director-choreographer and co-book writer for the ongoing development on the bilingual musical Azul, Otra Vez [Blue, Revisited] at Musical Theater Factory, Tofte Lake Center, New York Theatre Workshop, BRIC, The Drama League.

As a choreographer, Tatiana has been working with Latin Indie musical artist in concerts & music videos. Other recent: When My Mama was a Hittite by Melis Aker (Park Theatre, London), Christina by Alexis Sheer (Cleveland Playhouse, workshop), Dike by Hannah Benitez (Urbanite Theatre), Friends with Guns by Stephanie Alison Walker (NYTW, workshop), Nanas by Leonardo Gonzales (LATEA & IATI), Field, Awakening by Melis Aker, (Signature & Corkscrew Festival).

She has also been developing new plays with Alexis Scheer, Melis Aker, Monet Hurst-Mendoza, Hannah Benitez and other exceptional writers with the support of institutions such as Long Wharf Theater, Cleveland Playhouse, Urbanite Theater, NYTW, Miami New Drama, Westport Country Playhouse, Pipeline Theatre Co., Timucua Arts Center, Lanesboro Arts, The Park Theater (UK). These collaborations are her favorite part of the work.

Upcoming: LEMPICKA (Associate Director to Rachel Chavkin), Torera by Monet-Hurst Mendoza (Long Wharf Theater), Whitewashed by Hannah Benitez (Island City Stage, Ft. Lauderdale), developing choreography for a new adaptation of Blood Wedding directed by Whitney White, and many stops on the Constitution tour.

Tatiana is the New Works Director at Miami New Drama where she oversees play & musical commissions, development programs, workshops and playwright relationships. She is an adjunct professor at Hofstra University and the Atlantic Acting School. She was a NYTW Directing Fellow and is a recipient of the 2018/2019 National Directors Fellowship from the O’Neill Center and the Kennedy Center.

Proud Member of SDC. Representation: Paradigm Talent Agency. MFA: Columbia.

Apphia Campbell is originally from United States and graduated from Florida International University with a BFA in theatre performance.

In 2013 she wrote her critically acclaimed piece, Black Is The Color Of My Voice and opened in Shanghai to rave reviews before performing in Edinburgh, selling out prestigious houses such as St. James Theatre, Wilton’s Music Hall, and Oxford Playhouse.

In 2017, her new show with Meredith Yarbrough, Woke, was presented as part of the Made In Scotland Showcase, won a Scotsman Fringe First, a Highly Commended award from Amnesty International, and was shortlisted for The Filipa Bragança Award and Scottish Art Club Theatre Award.

In 2018, she continued to tour Woke and was featured in the Guardian’s 50 shows to see at the fringe and Vogue’s 5 shows not to miss in 2018 Fringe. In 2018, she also became a member of the BBC Writersroom.

In 2019, she made her debut on London’s West End with Black Is The Color Of My Voice which had rave reviews and a sold-out run. She also had a London premiere of Woke at the prestigious Battersea Arts Centre.

In 2019, she appeared on BBC’s The Novels That Shaped the World for the Handmaids Tale segment. She also appears in an episode of Urban Myths: Orson Welles later that year.

In 2019, she received her first commission from the BBC for a children’s story, called Zachary The Zebroid which aired in February 2020. She also wrote for Birdie’s Dilemma for Scenes for Survival which premeired on BBC in collaboration with NTS Scotland.

Recent credits include The Last Bordello (David Leddy, Director) Woke (Caitlin Skinner, Director), Black Is The Color Of My Voice (Arran Hawkins, Director), The Color Purple (James Harkness, Director), and Soul Sessions (Cabaret)

Michelle Fraioli is the Theatre Manager of Broadway’s Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

While attending FIU as a performance major, she worked in the box office and in the summers worked as a part-time usher for The Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park.

After graduating, Michelle moved to NYC and started working at New World Stages, one of New York’s premier Off-Broadway venues. She worked her way up to becoming the full-time Theatre and Bar Manager of all five Off-Broadway venues. Shortly thereafter, she was recruited by The Shubert Organization to join their Theatre Management Apprentice Program before being hired at the Barrymore Theatre.

Caroline Spitzer is a Cuban-American New York based costume designer.

Caroline is also an assistant costume designer for Broadway, Film and Television.  Recent assistant designer credits include Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story film (design by Paul Tazewell), and the Broadway production Hello, Dolly! (designed by Santo Loquasto), which won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Costume Design of a Musical.

Caroline’s recent design credits include the world premiere of The Cubans (Miami New Drama), Tina Howe’s Singing Beach (Theatre 167), and Uncle Vanya (Lee Strasberg Institute). She designed numerous operas while attending the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music including Cosi Fan Tutte, and Hansel and Gretel. 

In 2012 Caroline received the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival’s National Award for Outstanding Costume Design for The House of the Spirits.  She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Florida International University. ​

Caroline is a proud member of United Scenic Artists Local 829 and the Ring of Keys Organization.

Damian Charkiewicz is currently a Video Design Specialist at Technical Multimedia Design, Inc., located in Burbank, CA.

Damian specializes in designing, commissioning, and programming video systems for theme parks, brand/visitor centers and museums. Some of Damian’s recent work and projects include Disney’s Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, design and in-field work for Shanghai Disneyland®, the Zootopia themed attraction for Shanghai Disneyland®, the Frozen attraction for Hong Kong Disneyland®, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, The Ford Rouge Factory Tour, Museum of the Bible, The Epcot Experience Center, Kennedy Space Center, Circle Room at the Grand Ole Opry and many more.

Damian received his BFA in Theatre from Florida International University in 2011 and his MFA in Theatre from Penn State University in 2014.

Jackie Martinez is a Cuban-American costume designer currently living in Los Angeles.

She has been the assistant costume designer on such projects as HBO’s Here and Now, Apple’s For All Mankind, the upcoming Disney+ series The Falcon and Winter Soldier, and currently, season 3 of HBO’s Barry.

Costume design credits include Top Secret (LA Theatre Works, China Tour), Spring Awakening (UCLA Theatre), The World of Steam (web series acquired by the Jim Henson Company), and the feature film We Go On.

Jackie has an MFA in Costume Design from UCLA and is a proud member of The Costume Designer’s Guild, Local 892 and the Motion Picture Costumers’ Union 705.

Yecid Benavides Jr. is a Bolivian-born, Miami-based filmmaker.

He directed, wrote, and starred in Engaño a Primera Vista, the most-watched film in all of Bolivian history and the biggest box-office hit of the last 14 years in Bolivia. During the quarantine, they released their film online and had over one million views in two weeks.

He and his family own a film production company, Artistas Latinos Corp.

Jennifer Rumberger is a Chicago-based playwright.

Recent productions include Night in Alachua County with Wildclaw Theater, Open Blue Sky at Stella Adler/Tisch School of the Arts, and The Bride with the Living Room Playmakers and Chicago Fringe Festival. She has been commissioned by the Gift Theatre Company and the world premiere of her play, The Locusts, was slated for Fall 2020 (postponed due to Covid-19).

Jennifer’s work has been developed or presented in New York, Houston, Chicago, and Florida by The Lark Playwrights Center, id Theatre Company, The Gift Theatre Company, Black Box Acting Studio, The Living Room Playmakers, Commission Theatre Company, Wordsmyth Theatre Company, White Rose Miami, Northwestern University, The Seven Devils Playwrights Conference and Chicago Dramatists.

She also writes nonfiction prose and has performed at live storytelling events in Chicago.  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 a founding member and associate playwright with the Living Room Playmakers in Chicago. MFA: Northwestern University.

Alex Parayuelos is an LD/Programmer based out of Las Vegas, NV.

His work spans over many different facets of the entertainment industry, from corporate events and theater to festivals and concert tours. His experience in large festivals, tours, and high corporate clientele, makes him a well sought out programmer by some of the industries’ biggest players.

Recent accomplishments include; Meek Mill: The Motivation Tour, Blue Origin’s Blue Moon Launch, & his continued involvement with rock band 311.

Alex is a member of IATSE Local 500.

Jason Michal Torres is a touring wig, hair, and makeup artist/supervisor.

He was part of the wig, hair, and makeup team for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in San Francisco, as well as the 706 local union steward for the Bay Area. Prior to this, he toured with the first national tours of Disney’s AladdinBeautiful, the Carole King MusicalSomething Rotten, Rodger’s & Hammerstein’s Cinderella; as well as the second national tours of Anything Goes and Memphis.

Jason has also done some work on Broadway with Aladdin and Something Rotten and has worked with various regional opera companies including Opera Carolina, Piedmont Opera, and Florida Grand Opera.

He has an MFA in Wig & Makeup Design from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and is a proud member of IATSE Locals 706 & 798.