Alumni In the News

Anteaters in the Arts: Michelle Caumiant Zehnder

Michelle Caumiant Zehnder, B.A. Dance, ’76, continues to inspire students with clever choreography and carefully crafted lesson plans. Zehnder has taught ballet and jazz for the past nine years at the OASIS Senior Center of Newport Beach, for students ages 50 and up. Zehnder states that “it is a joyful experience to be able to dance and see the enthusiastic faces of my students, who feel pleased to take a class.”

Zehnder credits professors at UCI in the ’70s, James Penrod, Janice Plastino, and Antony Tudor, for awakening her love of dance. She enjoys choreographing for classmates and being inspired by their pieces. Zehnder recalls surprising moments at UCI, such as when a T.A. suggested thinking of being in church to feel calm and thus achieve balance on pointe. She remembers that Plastino nurtured individuality, Tudor graciously imparted his experience in the dance world, and Penrod encouraged kindness by example.

Having taught all ages, Zehnder says that seniors...

Meet LA’s Art Community: Linda Stark Likes the “Challenge of Resurrecting a Bankrupt Image”

HYPERALLERGIC's Meet LA’s Art Community: An interview series spotlighting some of the great work coming out of Los Angeles. Hear directly from artists, curators, and art workers about their current projects and personal quirks.

In the 16th installment of the series, writer Elisa Wouk Almino interviews alumna Linda Stark, MFA '85.


UCI Alumni in Bay Area Musicals' THE FULL MONTY

CTSA Alumna, Briel Pomerantz, B.A. ‘07, will be performing with Bay Area Musicals’ first 2020 production, the 10-time Tony Award-nominated musical, The Full Monty.  The musical includes a soulful score that will leave the audience awestruck as they witness the journey of a group of maverick men who cast off their inhibitions in an attempt to achieve their goals.  The musical was deemed by The New York Times as “A blaze of pure mass appeal…” and to have “...a winning, ear-catching pop score.”  Briel Pomerantz is a versatile actress, having played roles such as Miss Watson in Big the Musical, The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, Molly in White Guy on the Bus, as well as many more.  She is excited to be joining Bay Area Musical for this production and her CTSA family wishes her good luck!  For more information on The Full Monty, Bay Area Musicals, or how to purchase tickets for the performance, please visit...

An Experimental Stage: Morgan Embry

Written by Christine Byrd

In the few short months since graduating, Morgan Embry, M.F.A. ’19, has criss-crossed the country as a lighting designer for live music concerts. When she has time to spend in one place, it’s usually Los Angeles, where she’s busy showcasing her immersive art installations and — alongside a team that included other UCI graduates — winning the grand prize at the first Los Angeles Immersive Invitational.

Embry discovered and honed her talent as a lighting designer while earning her master’s degree at UCI, where she worked almost constantly in the state-of-the-art Experimental Media Performance Lab (xMPL) in the Contemporary Arts Center.
“UCI gave me confidence to pursue what I wanted to do,” Embry says. “It was the nature and design of xMPL, and the sheer amount of technology available, that allowed me to create live immersive experiences, which I realized I really had a knack for.”

Built in the style of...

Alumni: Erik Smith

Erik Smith, M.F.A. ’19, got his start with Cirque du Soleil back in 2013 as an undergraduate in the UCI Department of Drama. Smith took a class in advanced stage management where he met Emily Carr, a guest lecturer from Cirque du Soleil. It was always a dream of Smith’s to work for Cirque, so Carr recommended that he apply for the Stage Management Internship the company offers. He applied and was accepted to be an intern at Zumanity in Las Vegas.

Fast forward a few years to when Smith decided to return to the Claire Trevor School of the Arts as a Graduate M.F.A. student in Stage Management. “I knew going back to graduate school that I wanted to use my time at UCI to propel my career forward and work for my dream company, Cirque du Soleil,” says Smith. “In the middle of my first year, I proposed to create an education program in partnership with Cirque as my M.F.A. thesis project.” Smith’s vision paid off, and...

Anteaters in the Arts: Maryjo Lang

Having admirably contributed to over 300 movie soundscapes, professional Foley mixer and UCI alumna, MaryJo Lang, B.A. Drama, ’74, has amplified the creative landscape of Hollywood sound design for over 25 years. Lang was deemed “a force of nature” in Foley mixing by Cinema Audio Society president Mark Ulano and was awarded the Cinema Audio Society’s President’s Award for her exceptional work in the field. Ulano went further to say that Lang’s “understanding of how to tell stories with sound has made her a filmmaker of iconic stature.” Lang has been acclaimed as the Foley mixer in Hollywood, developing Foley sound effects that helped drive films’ narrative and emotional aspects. She has been instrumental in the development of many Oscar-winning soundscapes, in films such as Braveheart, The Dark Knight, The Matrix, Inception, and The Ghost and the Darkness. Lang has also received three Cinema Audio Society awards for her...

Skye Schmidt: Photographer/Dancer

Skye Schmidt: Photographer/Dancer

by Terry Schilling | December 23, 2019 / Irvine Community News & Views

Capturing magical moments in dance takes a professional dancer and a seasoned photographer.  I was lucky enough to meet an artist who is both: Skye Schmidt.

UCI Alum in Bay Area Musicals’ GYPSY

UCI alum Cassie Grilley will play “Agnes” in Bay Area Musicals’ GYPSY production.  A 6-Time Tony Award-winning performance, the musical GYPSY is based on the memoirs of famous striptease artist, Gypsy Rose Lee. The story specifically focuses on Lee’s mother, Rose, who has been deemed “the ultimate show business mother” and follows her attempts to raise two daughters to become performing artists.  The show also captures the difficulties of a life of show business. The performance will run from November 9 - December 8 at the Alcazar Theatre in San Francisco. Congratulations to Cassie on this fine accomplishment!  Tickets range from $50 - $100 and may be purchased online: To save $10 on tickets, 

Use the code: BAM10.  For more information, call 415-340-2207 or email


Art of Social Change

Two more UCI faculty and alumni receive Guggenheim Fellowships

When a shiny sculpture of a rabbit by the most commercially successful living artist sold for a record-breaking $91 million at auction earlier this year, UCI art professor Daniel Joseph Martinez shrugged.

“We don’t remember the people who sold the most,” he says. “We remember the people who changed the trajectory of ideas.”

Two UCI artists were recently honored for doing just that. Martinez, a UCI professor for 29 years, and alumna Hồng-An Trương ’08, were among the 168 artists, writers and scholars selected from 3,000 applicants to receive The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship this year, recognizing both “prior achievement and exceptional promise.”

“To be in the legacy of all of the artists and scholars who have received the Guggenheim over the years, that’s an...

Anteaters in the Arts: Kelly Perine

“Hard work is the best-kept secret in Hollywood!” That was the advice Kelly Perine (M.F.A. ’98) gave to a class of 12 graduate students on a recent visit to his alma mater, the Department of Drama.

Perine is no stranger to hard work. Growing up, his innate ability for acting led him to Lake Forest Academy near Chicago, Illinois, where he studied stage acting. Perine went on to Pomona College in California for his BA in Film Studies and ultimately UCI. Today he is a working television actor, writer, director, producer, and comedian with an extensive list of  professional credits that include everything from sitcoms such as Seinfeld and One on One, dozens of national commercials and films, to his award-winning short Downward Hiro.

“Hard work is the best-kept secret in Hollywood!”

Kelly spent the afternoon offering advice to students for a road map to face the harsh realities of the...