Alumni Accomplishments

Our alumni succeed on and behind the professional stage as well as on screens large and small.


Joan Allen ('89)

Allen is a Tony award winner for her performance in Burn This. She is an original founding member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago. A three-time Academy Award nominee for her performances in Nixon, The Crucible and The Contender. Joan has also appeared in the movies The Bourne Supremacy/Ultimatum/Legacy, Pleasantville, Face/Off, The Ice Storm, The Notebook and The Upside of Anger.

Tracy Arnold ('98)

Arnold recently made her Goodman Theatre debut and currently appears in Other Desert Cities with another NIU graduate, Linda Kimbrough. Her Chicago credits include Private Lives and A Midsummer Night's Dream at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Lady Windermere's Fan, Red Herring and The Chalk Garden at Northlight Theatre, As You Like It at Writers' Theatre, Lady Madeline at Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Top Girls at Remy Bumppo Theatre Company. She has also appeared for thirteen seasons with American Players Theatre in Wisconsin in some twenty-five classic theatre productions from Wilder to Chekov to Shakespeare.

Sydney Barton ('77)

Barton owns the successful Barton Mural & Trompe L'Oeil Studios.

Lydia Berger ('97)

Berger performed Arsenic and Old Lace at the Drury Lane and was a company actor for the American Theatre, where she appeared in Picasso at the Lapin Agile at New American Theatre in Rockford. She has appeared in After the Ball at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. The production was also aired on PBS Television. She has also acted with the Artists' Ensemble in Chicago.

J. Nicole Brooks (formerly DeAnna Brooks) ('01)

Brooks is a writer and actor whose work has been produced in England, New York and Chicago. Her play, Black Diamond: The Years the Locusts Have Eaten at the Lookingglass Theatre was nominated for a 2007 Jeff Award for New Play. She appeared in the world premiere of RACE directed by David Schwimmer at Lookingglass Theatre, where she also is an artistic associate. She appeared in The Goodman's Immediate Family, and her film credits include Barbershop 2, and the Nicholas Cage film, The Weatherman. She is a recipient of the 2009 TCG Fox Fellowship Award in Acting and 2010 Black Theatre Alliance Leading Actress in a Play Award.

Tony Casale ('02)

Casale is currently working in Chicago after several great years in Los Angeles working in television and film. Some recent credits include Scandal and a recurring role as Surgeon Dave on Grey's Anatomy, but perhaps his most exciting television experience was working side by side with Betty White in an episode of Off Their Rockers on NBC. After graduating from NIU with a BFA in acting, Tony worked with Trap Door, Journeymen, Defiant, Remy Bumppo and many other great Chicago theater companies. Tony also taught theater to Chicago teenagers in the After School Matters program and Gallery 37 for the Performing Arts.

Dan Castellaneta ('79)

Castellaneta is the well-known voice of Homer Simpson on FOX Television.

Caitlin Cavannaugh ('14)

Caitlin is a resident artist with the Purple Rose Theatre Company in Michigan and is represented by Shirley Hamilton Inc. in Chicago. Caitlin played Jacques Roux in "Marat/Sade" in the 16th Annual Sabanci International Theater Festival in Adana, Turkey and is a recurring favorite at the Texas Shakespeare Festival.

Katie Classen ('05)

Classen was in the Full Monty at the Drury Lane, Chicago.

Inny Clemons ('95)

Clemons had a recurring role on the CBS television series Judging Amy. Other work includes the feature films Strange as Angels, Live from Baghdad and Book of Love. Inny has also appeared in the television series King of Queens as Edwin.

Elizabeth Fletcher ('91)

Fletcher first appeared in the Raven Theatre Company's (Chicago) 1991 production of Vampires in Chicago and quickly became a core member of the ensemble after several more productions. She was awarded the 2005 Jefferson Award Citation for Actress in a Principal Role as Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Another award-winning performance was as Lorna Moon in Golden Boy. Other work includes Marvin's Room (Lee), Social Security (Trudy), Dancing at Lughnasa (Agnes), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Maggie) and The Odd Couple (G. Pigeon). Liz also performed in Strawdog's Race and The House on Mango Street with Chameleon Productions. In addition to acting, Liz also specializes in hair, makeup and costumes.

Wood Harris ('94)

Harris has appeared in several recent movies, including, As Good As It Gets and Remember the Titans. He also appeared on Showtime as Jimmy Hendrix.

Elizabeth Hayden ('02)

Hayden taught Meisner technique at the Piero Dusa Acting Conservatory in Los Angeles, and managed an arts camp for children in Santa Monica. She relocated to Portland and performed with Mt. Hood Rep, Profile Theatre, Shaking the Tree and Hand2Mouth. Currently, Liz teaches drama through Northwest Children's Theatre, Lakewood Performing Arts Center and Profile Theatre.

Linda Kimbrough ('68)

Kimbrough is currently appearing in Other Desert Cities at the Goodman with another NIU graduate, Tracy Michele Arnold. She is a Jeff Award-nominated Chicago actress and has appeared in major roles at the Goodman Theatre (thirteen productions), Steppenwolf Theatre and Next Theatre Companies, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Regionally, she has performed in numerous productions of the Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre, Maltz Jupiter Playhouse, Cleveland Playhouse and Indiana Repertory Theatre. Two Chicago productions and her roles have been reprised in New York City and as part of the Galway Arts Festival in Ireland.

Amanda Long ('13)

Long is currently appearing in the BoHo Theatre production of Veronica's Room and making an impressive and bedazzling Chicago stage debut, according to the critics.

Adair McDonald (formerly Cohoat) ('02)

McDonald has worked at numerous non-equity theatres in Chicago--one of her favorite roles was Bunty Mainwaring in The Vortex by Noel Coward at Boxer Rebellion Theatre. Adair has also done commercials and some industrial work.

Christopher McLinden ('03)

McLinden was recently seen in The Old Lady Shows Her Medals and Man of Destiny (Shaw Chicago), Vincent in Vincent in Briston (Appletree Theatre) and Treplev in Seagull (Writers Theatre). Other Chicagoland credits include Lysander in Midsummer Night's Dream (First Folio Shakespeare), Lyngstrand in The Lady from the Sea (Greas Joan & Co.) and Nicky in The Vortex (Boxer Rebellion Ensemble). In addition to his BFA from NIU, he also studied at the Moscow Art Theatre. He can be seen in the Indie-film 5-22-77. Christopher is a company member of Bruised Orange Theatre Co.

Bud Melto and Bill Phebus ('68)

Melto and Phebus are partners in Williams Gerard Productions in Chicago.

Justin Mentell ('05)

Mentell appeared in the film G-Force, a Disney film produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, released in 2009. The indie film Palo Alto, in which Justin played Ryan, a college student, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2007. He played Garrett Wells on the TV drama Boston Legal. Justin tragically died in an automobile accident in 2010.

Joe Minoso ('04)

Minoso currently plays a recurring character on the TV show Chicago Fire. He's also appeared in series Boss, The Chicago Code, The Beast and Shameless as well as playing a supporting character in the films Man of Steel and Polish Bar. He was the lead in the film The Return of Rich Joe as well as the American Theatre Company's Living Out, was a guest star on Fox television series Prison Break and played the role of George in Madison Reps Our Town.

Alice Pacyga (B.F.A. '99, M.F.A. 2004)

Pacyga has played supporting roles for the Shattered Globe Theatre in Down & Dirty Romeo & Juliet and Orpheus Descending. Alice is a graduate of The Second City Conservatory program and one of the founding members of The Cupid Players where she performed as an improviser in Cupid Misfires His Eros and Journey to the Center of the Journey. She has been seen in A Long Way from Chicago, Stuart Little and The Velveteen Rabbit all at LifeLine Theatre. Alice has taught acting and improvisation for Prologue Theatre, LifeLine Theatre Co. Outreach and The Improv Playhouse. Alice can also be heard on the radio pitching sandwiches for White Hen Pantry.

Stephen Pilkington ('07)

Pilkington recently appeared in the Tony-award winning Broadway production of One Man, Two Guvnors. Other credits include Lady Windermere's Fan (West End), Romeo and Juliet and The Comedy of Errors (Acting Company Theatre), Pinter's Mirror (Shakespeare and Co.), Nights and Fights, Schemes and Dreams (Public) and What You Will/Twelfth Night (BRT).

Ligia Popescu ('97)

Popescu has served as the assistant dramaturg/literary manager at the Court Theatre as well as the literary manager at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. She has also worked as the PR/Marketing Director for Apple Tree Theatre and Marketing Coordinator for Chicago Scenic Studios. Ligia has served as Associate Producer for several local productions, including the documentary, The 95th, shown on PBS, and the feature film, Design, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. She is the Marketing Director for the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago.

Steven Rishard ('98)

Rishard has appeared in the films Meanwhile, Shelter, Joy De. V and Drawing Angel. Television appearances include Unforgettable, Treme, Kings, Law and Order and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He has been involved with many theatres in both New York and Chicago including plays like The Bacchae, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Quartet, A Heartbeat to Baghdad and Big Love.

Stephanie Scott ('91)

Scott recently moved to Atlanta, GA, after working as the Office Coordinator and Program Director for the Illinois Theatre Association since her graduation from NIU.

Grant Simmon ('00)

Simmon worked for the Drury Lane Theatre's production of 1776, which received Chicago's coveted Joseph Jefferson Award for best production and best direction/musical. He has also directed events like Lollapalooza, the Hangout Musical Festival and President Obama's inauguration.

Andrea Stark ('91)

Stark is a Jeff Award winning actress for her role of Dawn in WRENS at Rivendell Theatre. She has performed in numerous productions in Chicago and on the east coast. Her favorite roles include Little Red in Into the Woods and Laura in The Glass Menagerie. Film credits include Journeyman and The Paterson Manor (Indie). Andrea has also been seen on several television series, including Early Edition "Home Groan" and America's Most Wanted. She is a professional acting, voice and dialect coach, teaching at Glendale Community College and Nickelodeon Studio. Andrea is a two-time finalist with the literary magazine, Glimmertrain. Her original piece After the Ball has been produced in Colorado.

Kurt Sutter ('97)

Sutter prior NIU experience included teaching and directing for The Gately-Poole Acting Studio in New York and directing productions at The Nat Horne Theatre. After receiving his MFA from Northern, he began writing plays and cultivating ideas for the screen, which lead to his role as a staff writer on FX's, The Shield and ended the show's seven-season run as Executive Producer. Kurt continues his relationship with FX, with his new critically acclaimed series, Sons of Anarchy. Along with his TV work, Sutter has feature projects in development at Warner Brothers and Paramount.

Mike Tuman ('02)

Tuman played a supporting role in The Royal Hunt of the Sun for the Journeymen Theatre Company. Tuman was also an assistant choreographer for The Romance Cycle at the Court Theatre.


Becca Pearce ('15)

Pearce is now a stage manager for touring dance competitions through StarQuest International and is out on tour every weekend.

Design and Technology

Bill Auld ('05)

Auld has served as the technical director for Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre, and the venue technician for the La Jolla Playhouse Forum Theatre. Broadway credits include technical director of the off-Broadway production of Lookingglass Alice and the tour of Disney's Tarzan. He is also a flying director for Hall Associates Flying FX and has worked as a theatre technician in the UK, France and Canada.

Lisa Bernacchi ('99)

Bernacchi is a lighting designer working at Schuler Shook, where she is a CAD and electronic visualization specialist. She has worked as an electrician at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre on Navy Pier, Northlight Theatre and Light Opera Works.

Michael Leonard ('97)

Since graduation from NIU, Lenoard has received an M.F.A., earned a prestigious American Film Institute internship in LA and has been designing and rendering in Los Angeles.

Patty Makatura ('91)

Makatura has been painting professionally for well over a decade. She is the owner of Makatura Murals Gallery (Seattle, WA), a business that creates murals and commissioned art pieces for both residential and commercial spaces.

Scott Marr ('82)

Marr is the Production Design Director and Scenic Director for the Lyric Opera of Chicago and is a USAA scenic designer.

Dan Ostling ('92)

Ostling is a Tony Award-nominated scenic designer for the Tony Award-winning play Clybourne Park. He has worked at numerous regional theatres across the country including the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), New York Shakespeare Festival (in Central Park), Lincoln Center, Playwright's Horizon, Shakespeare Theatre (DC), Long Wharf, McCarter, Huntington, Goodman, Steppenwolf, Oregon Shakespeare, A.C.T. (San Francisco), Berkeley Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, Mark Taper Forum, Seattle Rep and Portland Center Stage among others. He was a tenured Associate Professor at Northwestern University and has continued to teach there each fall.

Travis Schafer ('05)

Schafer is the head of the scene shop at UPSTAGING, a major supplier of services for the Concert Industry. Travis joined the Board of Directors of the Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb in 2010.

Chris Solger-Binder ('82)

Binder is a Jeff Award winning lighting designer in residence at the Lyric Opera in Chicago, the Steppenwolf Theatre, Steppenwolf Studio and the DePaul Opera Theatre.

Sean Walters ('02)

Walters is the new assistant technical director at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

Nathan Wyman ('98)

Wyman is currently the Director of Jewell Theatre Company at William Jewell College in Liberty, MO. He teaches all of the technical theatre/design coursework and designs at least two main stage shows each academic year. As a freelance designer for theatre, he spent time in the UK where he designed sets and lights for Running With Scissors Theatre Co. in Hertfordshire, England. Nathan's visual artwork (mostly Mixed Media Assemblages) is also available for gallery exhibition.