Alumni Spotlight | Prominent Graduate Alumni | Prominent Undergraduate Alumni
UC San Diego's Department of Theatre and Dance has an extensive network of alumni all over the world.
Browse through the profiles below to learn more about some of our prominent alumni, or look through our
alumni database to see information on our former students.
|Prominent Graduate Alumni|
|Christopher Acebo – MFA Design 1998
Christopher is the Associate Artistic Director of the Orgon Shakespeare Festival. His work at OSF includes collaborating with Bill Rauch, the Artistic Director, in season planning, creative team selection, casting, long term artistic planning and producing all productions at the festival. He designs three productions for the festival every season. Christopher has designed the world premiere productions of The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl (Yale Rep and the Lincoln Center Theater production); The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler by Jeff Whitty; Hold Please by Annie Weisman, The Beard of Avon by Amy Freed (South Coast Rep); Electricidad (Garland Award – Best Costumes) and Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner by Luis Alfaro (The Goodman Theatre and Mark Taper Forum); Living Out by Lisa Loomer (Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum); Water & Power and Chavez Ravine by Culture Clash (CTG/Mark Taper Forum). Zorro in Hell by Culture Clash (Berkeley Rep/La Jolla Playhouse); Bordertown by Culture Clash (San Diego Rep); The Falls by Jeffrey Hatcher (Inaugural production Dowling Studio/Guthrie Theatre); A Long Bridge Over Deep Waters by James Still (Cornerstone Theater). Christopher has designed productions for other regional theatres including Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, Pasadena Playhouse, East West Players, Portland Center Stage, Missouri Rep, San Diego Rep, Sledgehammer, among others. For seven years he was an ensemble member of the nationally acclaimed Cornerstone Theater Company and has designed set and costumes for several productions including An Antigone Story, For Here or to Go?, As Vishnu Dreams, Crossings, As you Like It, among others. He is a recipient of an NEA/TCG fellowship and a member of the faculty at CSULA. He received his MFA from the University of California, San Diego and his BA in Political Science from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Upcoming productions include the world premiere of My Wandering Boy by Julie Marie Myatt (South Coast Rep) and Romeo & Juliet at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Other notable productions: Nickel & Dimed (The Guthrie), September Shoes (Denver Center Theatre Company), The Model Apartment (La Jolla Playhouse), Two Gentlemen in Verona (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), The Cherry Orchard (Yale Repertory Theatre), Zoot Suit (Goodman Theatre); and several production at South Coast Rep including The Countess, Hebeas Corpus, California Scenarios and the annual holiday production of La Posada Magica by Octavio Solis.
Danny Burstein – MFA Acting 1990
Danny continues working in NYC on & off Broadway as well as appearing on TV in shows like Law & Order, Louis, Conviction etc. Recent film credits: Deception opposite Ewan McGregor and Transamerica opposite Felicity Huffman. He is currently playing the role of the Taxi Driver in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown at the Belasco Theater on Broadway. Previously, he was seen as Luther Billis in South Pacific (Tony Award, Drama Desk nominations and Outer Critics Circle Award) and The Drowsy Chaperone (Tony Award nomination). On HBO, he can be seen playing Lolly Steinman in Boardwalk Empire, directed by Martin Scorsese. He is most proud of his two sons, Alexander (16) & Zachary (13) and his beautiful wife, Rebecca (she said not to tell her age).
Collin Larkins – MFA Stage Management 2004
Collin spent the summer of 2004 at La Jolla Playhouse as an ASM and then took over for Steven Adler (ahem, Provost Adler) as the PSM on Continental Divide and Love of Three Oranges in July. He then moved up to Los Angeles to start a career at Walt Disney Feature Animation. After learning the ropes as a PA on Chicken Little and Meet The Robinsons, Collin was promoted to production department manager on Bolt, staring the voice talent of John Travolta and Miley Cyrus amongst others. Since, he has worked in the art department, render team, and most recently EFX. Remember, as Rhino the Hamster says “You can achieve incredible things if your awesome!”
Carmelita Becnel – MFA Stage Management 1999
Carmelita left UCSD right before graduation to ASM on Anna Deavere Smith’s House Arrest at the Mark Taper Forum. Fortunately, on the day of our UCSD Theater & Dance graduation ceremony, Anna and Eva Barnes threw her a surprise graduation ceremony following the day’s rehearsal - speeches, music, flowers, cake, and diploma included! From there she went back home to Louisiana to work with director Barry Kyle on two fabulous productions, then to the Alley Theater where she stage managed on season contracts for four years. Some of her favorite projects at the Alley include the world premiere of Edward Albee’s The Play About the Baby, directed by Edward and starring Marian Seldes and Earle Hyman; The General from America, written and directed by Richard Nelson; The Trip to Bountiful, directed by Michael Wilson; and Jitney, directed by Jonathan Wilson. Jonathan Wilson brought her to Hartford Stage Company for the production of Sophocles’ Electra, which quickly led to a permanent position as Resident Stage Manager of HSC. At HSC she worked with the talented Michael Wilson and Jeremy Cohen for three wonderful years. Her favorite memory of HSC is Eight by Tenn project (eight obscure one-Acts by Tennessee Williams, divided into two alternating programs), with Elizabeth Ashley, Amanda Plummer, Denny Dillon, Annalee Jefferies, Jennifer Harmon, and Kevin Geer. She been fortunate enough to work with such fascinating people as Athol Fugard, Horton Foote, Joe Brancato, Gregory Boyd, Pam McKinnon, Erik Rosen, Regina Taylor, and Gordon Edelstein. Currently, she is the Production Stage Manager at the Program in Theater and and Dance at the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University, where art serves as enrichment to the students and they are “encouraged to explore their artistic interests and talents” while pursuing their majors.
Bobby Bowman – MFA Playwriting 1996
Bobby was the Executive Producer on NBC’s “My Name is Earl”, where he ran the writers’ room, managing 16 writers. He recently signed a new three-year “overall deal” with 20th Century Fox. He also written for “Family Guy” and “Yes Dear”.
Jefferson Mays – MFA Acting 1991
Jefferson most recently won the 2004 Tony for Best actor in a lead role for his performance in I am my Own Wife. Mays continues with the SITI company, under the direction of Anne Bogart. He recently appeared in Bogart’s production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives at ATL, and played The Actor in The Woman in Black at CenterStage. He can also be seen in the Des McAnuff-directed feature Cousin Bette. New York theatre credits: I Am My Own Wife, Quills, Lydie Breeze, Culture of Desire (NY Theatre Workshop), Moe’s Lucky Seven (Playwright’s Horizons), Orestes (Obie Award, Engrade Arts), Bella Belle of Byelorussia (WPA). Regional credits: Fortinbras, Macbeth, Life During Wartime, Tartuffe (La Jolla Playhouse), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Long Wharf and Williamstown), Not Suitable for Children, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Cherry Orchard (McCarter Theatre), Misalliance (Long Wharf), Private Lives, Miss Julie (Actors Theatre of Louisville), The Woman in Black, The Lover, The Show-Off, Triumph of Love, Servant of Two Masters, She Stoops to Conquer (Center Stage), The Beauty Part (Yale Rep), The Importance of Being Earnest (Dramalogue Award), Alice’s Adventures Underground (SITI). Film credits: The Big Brass Ring, Cousin Bette, Liberty!, The Low Life, Sling Blade, Grey Night.
Ty Granderson Jones – MFA Acting 1982
is developing several projects via his production company, Creole Celina Films; A full-length feature film, “The Cool and Creepy”, that he wrote and developed as a Sundance Feature Film Project screenplay. The film is being developed and produced with Ty’s German partners via German financing; A 30-minute single camera television pilot, “The Madness”, which Ty also wrote; and a Pilot Presentation/Short Film called “Napoleonic...” which Ty also wrote, produced on location in New Orleans and starred in with a stellar cast. Ty teaches a master Acting for Film class at the world renown New York Film Academy. And travels frequently by invitation to various Hip Hop/Rap conventions due to the popularity of a character Ty played called 40 Dog in the Rap cult classic CB4 produced by, co-written by and starring Chris Rock. Ty will be returning to the stage and revisit a role he created in the original play, Window of Opportunity produced by The Doors’ legend, John Densmore and will recreate the role for the independent film version.
Tom Nelis – MFA Acting 1990
Tom is a dynamic and versatile stage actor who makes his home in Brooklyn, NY with his wife Cynthia and daughter Rosemary. Nelis moved to NY shortly after graduating from UCSD in 1990 with an MFA in acting. He has become popular on the local theater scene there, with performances on Broadway as well as regular appearances at The Public Theater, New York Theater Workshop, The Signature Theater, Manhattan Theater Club, Theater For A New Audience, Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Ontological Hysterical Theater, En Garde Arts and New York City Opera. He has also traveled far and wide amongst the Regional Theaters, including recent stops at The Old Globe (The Sisters Rosenzweig) and The La Jolla Playhouse (Wintertime). In 1992 he became a founding member of SITI Company, which is headed by former UCSD professor Anne Bogart. Over the past fifteen years SITI has produced some twenty five productions and presented them in over twenty countries throughout the world. SITI has garnered a slew of awards along the way including an OBIE award for Nelis for his portrayal of Marshall McLuhan in The Medium. Nelis is currently appearing at Playwrights Horizons in Doris to Darlene, and in the new year will head to The Humana Festival with Lee Blessings new work High Falls.
Neil Patel – MFA Design 1991
Neil has designed for theater, opera and dance and most recently for television. He lives in New York CIty with wife Maria Mileaf (MFA Directing 1990) and two children: Pia (10) and Emlyn (7). Neil has worked on Broadway in Side Man, Off Broadway at the Public Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop and BAM as well as both Regional and International Opera at the Santa Fe Opera, New York City Opera, Edinburgh International Festival and the Nikikai Opera Theatre Tokyo. He also continues to work in the regional theater, sometimes returning to La Jolla Playhouse where Des McAnuff gave him his first professional job in 1989 for Lee Blessing’s Down The Road! Recently, he was the scenic designer for the La Jolla Playhouse’s Page-to-Stage production of Peter and the Starcatcher. He works repeatedly with Anne Bogart and the SITI company. Currently, he is the production designer of In Treatment for HBO which is taping in NYC at Silver Cup studios.
Rachel Axler – MFA Playwriting 2003
Rachel Axler's television credits include Childrens Hospital, How I Met Your Mother, The Goodwin Games, New Girl, Bored to Death, Parks and Recreation, Veep, and The Daily Show. Axler has won four Primetime Emmy Awards. In 2006 and 2009, Axler won two Emmys for her work on The Daily Show as a part of the writing team. In 2016 and 2017, she won two Emmys for Outstanding Comedy Series for her work as Supervising Producer on Veep.
|Prominent Undergraduate Alumni|
|James Avery – BA ’79 Drama and Literature
The late famed actor who was the iconic father figure ‘Uncle Phil’ in the hit television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He’s role of Uncle Phil was ranked among TV Guide’s “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time.” In addition he’s television, voice roles and film credit span 30 years including "CSI", "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", "Dr. Dolittle 2" and much more. Mr. Avery created an ongoing arts fellowship on our campus. Click here to check out his IMDB webpage.
Aimee Bender – BA ’91 in Theatre
Aimee Bender is an acclaimed novelist and short story writer. She earned her undergraduate degree at UC San Diego, and later earned her MFA in Creative Writing from UC Irvine under the tutelage of Judith Grossman and Geoffrey Wolff. Bender has received two Pushcart Prizes and was nominated for the James Tiptree, Jr. Award in 2005. Her short story, Faces, was a 2009 Shirley Jackson Award finalist.
Lee Montgomery – SP ’11 BA in Theatre
Actor, playwright and director. Created “God Particles” an International Academy of Web Television 2015 Awards Winner http://www.godparticles.tv/
Kendra Miller – SP ’09 BA in Theatre
Founder and artistic director of Walkabout Theatre in Chicago which recently received a MacArthur grant.
Robert Brill – BA ’88 in Theatre
Designed for theatre, opera and dance. His design work spans three decades both internationally and in every major city throughout the United States. As a Broadway set designer he received a Tony nomination for his work on Assassins. He is now a Design faculty at UCSD’s Theatre and Dance Department.
Russell Ewing – BA ’13 in Theatre
Actor performed in Theatre and television. Roles include Unusual Suspect (TV), Sweeney Todd (Sweeney Todd/Lead), Les Miserables (Grantaire/Supporting).
Christopher James Cortez – BA ’12 in Theatre and Dance
An actor whose work includes La Jolla Playhouse-Yoshimi Battles in the Pink Roborts, San Diego Musical Theater- Chicago (Ensemble) TV credits: Zoey 101, Unfabulous, Tony Park in It Ain’t Right. Film credits: Harold Cisneros in Fifth Form. Commercial credits: Nike, Skype, Suzuki, Hewlett Packard and Target.
Thomas Miller – SP ’12 BA in Theatre and Political Science
Thomas was recently featured in The Trip’s production of Three Sisters at the La Jolla Playhouse’s WoW Festival.
Whitney Adams – BA ’08 in Theatre
A costume designer for film, theatre, dance and operas. She was a Costume Design Assistant on “The Great Gatsby” which won the 2014 Academy Award for Best Costume Design. She is also the costume assistant/stylist on the new Channel No. 5 Campaign with Gisele Caroline Bündchen. In addition she has worked at Madison Square Garden, The Russian Arts Theatre, The United Palace Theatre and many more.
Samuel Hunter – S2 ’11 BA in Theatre and Psychology
Samuel Hunter has also created Interrobangdeparture theatre.
Justin O’Neill – SP ’11 BA in Theatre and Political Science
Founder of Hungry River Theatre.
KJ Sanchez – BA ’89 in Theatre, MFA in Acting '92
Is currently a director, actor and playwright. She's been on stage at The Humana Festival, The Goodman, Berkeley Rep and New York Theatre Workshop. She is also the voice of many characters on the cartoons Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go. Directing credits include The Diary of Anne Frank at Milwaukee Rep, 26 Miles at Round House and The Giver at Asolo Rep.
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