School, Stage & Screen: From Broadway's 'Hamilton' to Netflix's 'Dead to Me'

A mix of Jimmy Fallon meets TED Talks, the series features interviews with CCM alumni

A new podcast created by UC College-Conservatory of Music alumni takes listeners inside the entertainment industry with stories and advice from Broadway performers, television actors, movie producers, make-up artists and more.

School, Stage & Screen Episode 3 features actress Diana Maria Riva (BFA Drama, ’91, MFA Theatre Performance, ’95), who stars as Detective Ana Perez in Netflix's Dead to MeHamilton stars Andrew Chappelle (BFA Musical Theatre, '09) and Raven Thomas (BFA Musical Theatre, '16) joined the podcast for Episode 2! The 11-part series releases new episodes every Monday through June 14, 2021. Listen online.

Jordan Glickson: My first day at Interscope, 50 Cent and The Game have a legendary falling out that results [intense string music] in shots being fired.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Brian J. Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music begins]

Leitten: Hey, I'm Brian, a filmmaker and producer.

Dylan Mulvaney: And I'm Dylan, an actor and content creator.

Leitten: We're the hosts of "School, Stage & Screen," a podcast that explores the transformative...

Mulvaney: [Interrupting] Brian! You're so old school, I've got this. [Music speeds, intensifies] We are going to get all the tea from industry professionals about college, their wins, fails and everything in between. 

[Hip-Hop beats return]

Brad Look: [Interview excerpt] We had David Bowie in our make-up trailer. He says 'uh, excuse me, dear boy, would you take some photographs of me in the jungles?' He wasn't even in the film!

Diana-Maria Riva: [Interview excerpt] My most recent production is a Netflix series called Dead to Me and I play Detective Ana Perez.

Mulvaney: This season's guests are all alums from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, which is also where Brian and I went to school!

Andrea Stilgenbauer: [Interview excerpt] I worked on High School Musical and High School Musical 2Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure — all of those.

Andrew Chappelle: [Interview excerpt] I did two episodes on Escape at Dannemora. I was in a scene with Benicio del Toro — my head was spinning!

Nicole Callender: [Interview excerpt] I am a stuntwoman. I am also an intimacy coordinator. 

Leitten: So what happens when guys get excited?

Callendar: One of the things I use, it's a strapless thong.

Mulvaney: So is that kinda like what a drag queen would use to like, tuck things away?

Callender: It's similar in design.

Look: [Interview excerpt] I approach alien make-up as if its a person, just from a different planet! [laughs]

Mulvaney: As a recent musical theatre grad, I want the inside scoop on what is happening on Broadway!

Chappelle: The beauty of Hamilton was that they were really great about leaning into our individual personalities for the roles. 

Leitten: After 20 years in the business, I love to see how the industry constantly changes. 

Stillgenbauer: [Interview excerpt] The producer role, it's just so hard to explain. It's a little bit of everything from the start of production, to breaking down scripts, to budgeting.

Leitten: I want to hear more.

Mulvaney: [Sings] More please!

Riva: [Interview excerpt] The creator of the show, Liz Feldman, told me, 'I thought you were just going to be a detective until I met you.' It's been a super fulfilling artistic journey.

[Record scratch]

Leitten: Dylan, bring us home.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen! 

[Leitten and Dylan laugh]

Brian J. Leitten and Dylan Mulvaney

School, Stage & Screen” is an exciting new podcast that focuses on success stories and fantastic failures from the entertainment industry. Separated by two decades of life experience, producer Brian J. Leitten (BFA E-Media, ’02) and Broadway performer Dylan Mulvaney (BFA Musical Theatre, ’19) delve into the differences between college and the real world with other CCM alumni like Diana Maria Riva (actor from Netflix’s Dead To Me), Andrea Stilgenbauer (producer of Kidding and The Affair on Showtime) and Brian Newman (Jazz Musician and Bandleader/Arranger for Lady Gaga's Vegas Residency “Jazz & Piano Show”).

A mixture of Jimmy Fallon meets TED Talks, the podcast is an exploration of transformative moments that will enlighten current students and graduates who dream of using their creativity to jump start their careers.

I think it's important to show the next generation of filmmakers, actors and performers that the people they look up to got their start somewhere.

Brian J. Leitten, co-host

“Through this podcast we have the opportunity to inform current students and recent college grads about the highs and lows of the entertainment business and share the wisdom our guests have accumulated, so that they can be informed on typical mistakes and encouraging successes as they begin their careers.” 

The episode schedule for “School, Stage & Screen” is below, including more information on this season’s guests.

With support from CCM, “School, Stage & Screen” is developed by Hyperion XIII Productions, co-hosted by Leitten and Mulvaney, edited by Blake Hawk (BFA E-Media, ’12) and executive produced by Robin Hopkins. Learn more about the creators in their bios below. The series features music by Ryan Fine (BM Commercial Music Production, ’17).

The podcast will be available wherever you listen to podcasts, including Apple PodcastsSpotifyDeezerTuneInStitcher and the CCM website.

Follow “School, Stage & Screen” for episode details, updates and more: TwitterInstagramFacebook.

Episode 3: "Netflix, and Sorkin, and Sitcoms, Oh My!" (April 19, 2021)

How many pilots don’t get bought for series? Brian J. Leitten and Dylan Mulvaney fangirl over their guest Diana Maria Riva, star of Netflix's Dead to Me. She shares key differences between theatre and film, and how she had to master those skills rather quickly.

Diana Maria Riva: Always make sure you don't have a live mic on your body, because you will leave set and go and engage in activities of all kinds, and conversations of all kinds that you do not want anyone to hear.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Brian J. Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music begins]

Leitten: Hey, I'm Brian, a filmmaker and producer.

Dylan Mulvaney: And I'm Dylan, an actor and content creator.

Leitten: We're the hosts of "School, Stage & Screen," a podcast that explores the transformative...

Mulvaney: [Interrupting] Brian! You're so old school, I've got this. [Music speeds, intensifies] We are going to get all the tea from industry professionals about college, their wins, fails and everything in between. This season's guests are all loans from the University of Cincinnati's college Conservatory of Music, which is also where Brian and I went to school.

Leitten: Today, we're talking with film and television star Diana Maria Riva.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!


Leitten: Dylan!

Mulvaney: Hi, Brian.

Leitten: How are you?

Mulvaney: Oh my gosh, I'm just I'm in my canopy bed right now. It's so funny. I just moved into this new apartment. I have this giant TV. And yet I'm still watching all of my shows on my like, 12-inch laptop for hours and hours. My poor eyes.

Leitten: You need an HDMI cord. And you need to tell me what you're binge watching right now.

Mulvaney: Okay, I am currently binge watching Gilmore Girls for the third time because it's like, it just is so easy to watch. What are you watching?

Leitten: I have definitely watched Gilmore Girls before when I worked at MTV, it was one of like the competitor shows. So I've seen the whole show

Mulvaney: [Sings] Where you lead, I will follow… 

you lead will follow super

Leitten: They talk super fast. It's not real. No one talks like that.

Mulvaney: I do

Leitten: Actually, you do, you do. I just started a new show on Amazon Prime called Invincible. It's like a superhero adult cartoon. But they dropped three episodes. And the rest are weekly. And I hate that.

Mulvaney: No!

Leitten: I hate it. I hate it.

Mulvaney: I mean, it's like, are we living in the 1950s? Like what's going on with that?

Leitten: Yeah. That’s worse than a weekly show when you drop three of them and then I have to wait.

Mulvaney: Well, you're gonna forget what happens.

Leitten: I have not watched WandaVision yet. I wanted to wait until all 10 episodes came out. And then I want to binge watch them all at once. I did that with the final season of Game of Thrones. And it made the experience so much better. How do you binge watch?

Mulvaney: I binge watch, like 14 hours at a time like I will, I can get through a whole season in a day. I am very fun-employed. And I will say I can one up you on the Game of Thrones. I waited till every single season of Game of Thrones came out before I watched any of and then I think I watched it all in maybe like two weeks or so, three weeks. It was the best three weeks of my life. I will say that I wish that I would binge watch or binge books like binge read books, because that would probably be really good for us. But when I'm watching TV, I convince myself that it's actually good for me. Because I'm like watching other actors and I'm you know, kind of like picking up on storylines and how writers work. But in reality, I'm just totally vegging out.

Leitten: You know what, I think it is advantageous, if you're paying attention for those things. If you're like watching a show, because you love it, you're not gonna pick up on the subtleties in the writing or the directing or the cinematography. But I will say there have been shows where I will binge watch and I'll take notes because I wanted to create something similar. And it's the easiest way to figure out how to make something is to break it down, watch it, take notes and see what you liked and what you didn't like.

Mulvaney: I think it's very interesting too is that once you really learn story structure you realize that so many of these shows are actually very similar and have you know the type A, Type B characters and this, this and this happens, and you're like, Oh my gosh, I start to see through it. But something very exciting is that our special guest that we're interviewing today is on one of my all-time binge worthy favorite TV shows.

Leitten: Very binge worthy!

Mulvaney: Hashtag Netflix

Leitten: She's been a star many other things but most recently Dead to Me on Netflix.

Mulvaney: Her arc in season two is just incredible.

Leitten: Should we get started doing?

Mulvaney: Heck yes. Without further ado, we have the gorgeous, funny, talented, inspiring Deanna Maria Riva star of Netflix is Dead to Me.

Leitten: She's a graduate from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Acting program. Let's get it started.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Diana Maria Riva! Thank you for taking the time. I think we both have been anticipating this for the last week.

Mulvaney: I'm fangirling.

Diana Maria Riva: Yay, I am too. I love being here and I love anybody who loves to put a light on to our beloved alma mater…

Leitten: Give us your 30-second IMDb bio,

Riva: I will. And it's always funny because when somebody meets you in public and they say, Where do I know you from? And then you start telling your bio they're like, Yeah, no, that's not it. And that's embarrassing. So I never liked to tell my bio but here I will I go back with series such as the West Wing and NYPD Blue. I had a good series of beautiful series on lifetime called Side Order Of Life. What Women Want was my first big feature. Did a lot of work with a series that we're on a little bit short lived with Rob Schneider called Rob. With Matthew…

Leitten: Matthew LeBlanc

Riva: Thank you because I kept thinking Matthew Perry no. Matthew Perry and I did Studio 60, which was another Aaron Sorkin show. And then I went on to do a series called Telenovela with Eva Longoria and great films that I had the opportunity to work on, such as McFarland, USA with Kevin Costner. And I just last in the last year Noelle with Anna Kendrick. It's a good nice steady road ride.

Mulvaney: Incredible. And you're based in LA

Riva: I am based in LA I came out here from Cincinnati, Ohio in ‘95. And it's been my home now

Mulvaney: Love it. Would you share your pronouns with us?

Riva: She/her.

Mulvaney: Thank you for that. And can you also share your current or most recent production that you were working on and what your job was there?

Riva: My most recent production is a Netflix series called Dead to Me with Christina Applegate, Linda Cardellini, James Marsden, and I play detective Ana Perez, or hashtag Poor Perez — like she's just having a hard time in life. And we are about to embark on season three, we're tentatively scheduled to go start filming in May. And that was a gift, that kind of came out of nowhere. And it's been a great ride. And one of those series, one of those show experiences that as the show, as the creator of the show, Liz Feldman told me last year that she thought this is one of the greatest moments, but she said to me, I thought you were just going to be a detective until I met you. And after she got to kind of see a little bit of what I could do and get to know me personally, she decided to take the story in a completely different direction for Perez. And so it's been a super fulfilling artistic journey and not knowing that this was the plan. And um now here in season three, her fate is all going to wrap up. So we're gonna see what happens.

Mulvaney: A huge Congrats, you and I have to be honest, Dead to Me was sort of like a phase of my quarantine. Like, you know, I had the Game of Thrones phase in our household. And then we went to Dead to Me. And it was so funny because it my dad, he's in his 60s, a football lover, and he started Dead to Me. And he's like, Oh, this is such a chick flick. And everyone's always crying. And then he just got wrapped up in it. And it became sort of like the nightly routine. For weeks there of just going through those shows. And so thank you for that. I mean, I think a lot of people had that Dead to Me phase of quarantine of 2020. So…

Riva: I mean, who hasn't had… this is where I feel like, you know, people can say artists are television film, what is it? Well, it was, you know, we're clearly not creating a vaccine, but we sure as hell entertained you guys while you were in quarantine. So I'm grateful to be a part of it. I'm grateful that you have that as my job as my career because I love it. And there's so many shows to discover during that downtime. So I'm glad you discovered that one. But it's that's a that's been a little gift to sit down and really dive into all those great projects that are out there.

Leitten: You're talking about Dead to Me and how the role has changed. Has that happened a lot in your career? And how does it feel when you know you come in for a role and then the creator sees something in you and like changes the whole role or adds you to the whole season just because they like you as a person and working with you?

Riva: Well, it is absolutely a compliment and it feels great and then and you feel uplifted because it's it's a sign of support. It's a sign of belief in your in your work. And it's been a part of my journey a lot because let's just be frank here. There aren't enough and there haven't been enough roles created with this in mind, this skin tone, this look this whatever, this, this background, and when we get breakdowns when we see the the roles that they're auditioning for. The descriptions are clear. white male, white women, you know, or all ethnic, all ethnicities, this is what they would put in, so if it doesn't say all ethnicities, it can be very difficult for a woman to go in for a role that's written for a white, female, you know, whatever. And it's been my team that believes in me that would go out there and say to these casting directors over the years, she can bring the soul, the spirit of this character. And they’re like, well, we're not, we're not casting ethnic is what, is that the sentence that they would use, we're not going ethnic for that role, which I don't think that that would be said today. But it wasn't that long ago, we're talking the last couple years. I think you would still hear we're not going outside for that role. And my, in the early years, my team would push and say, let her come in for this role. And I would go in and I would audition and the role would go from, you know, Michelle O'Brian to Sonia Ramirez, you know, after I got cast in it, and that's fine. That's the key to go in there and convince them to see you in this. But while bringing that that character’s spirit to life, and that's our job, that's what we go in there and do.

[Hip Hop rewind]

Leitten: I'm gonna take us back now back to Cincinnati, back to college.

Riva: Oh my God, who's got dirt?

Mulvaney: Insert like the Wizard of Oz tornado.

Riva: Yes.

Leitten: What was life like growing up in Cincinnati for you? And how did you decide on CCM and acting?

Riva: Growing up as a kid in Cincinnati, not a ton of kids were going to their parents and saying, I want to be an actor. I have faced parents who said, you know, ‘an actor?’ Like that's, that's not even, that's not even a business. You know, that only happens in Hollywood, with, you know, famous people, whatever. But I had gone to see when I was in the fifth or sixth grade, I had gone to see the Broadway tour of Annie that was in town, my grandmother took me to see it. And I was sitting there watching all these girls who were about my age, about 11/12 years old on stage singing and dancing. I fell in love with the whole thing that on the car ride home, I said to my grandmother, I'm going to be an actor when I grow up. That was my defining moment. And she looked at me and said, ‘okay,’ and that was it. That was it. It was okay. And when I told my parents, the only thing they ever said, was, okay, you have to get your education you have, we're not gonna let you just go to New York or go… and they were smart and saying that and this was before, they didn't know anything about the industry that either whether it was theater, television or film, they just thought just get your education, get your training, get armed, get ready to get prepared. And it was the best advice that that was ever given to me. So CCM came by way of in high school. So I went to St. Ursula Academy. There was a Drama department my freshman year, and then it disappeared and never came back. So there were there were really no arts there at the time. Now it's a different story now. And CCM had a Prep department on the weekends for kids. And I did it for four years. And I had a teacher from St. Ursula came up to me one day I was walking down the hall and she was like ‘you know what I was thinking about you the other day, Moeller High School is doing a production of West Side Story. You'd be great at that.’ I was like, oh, okay, I didn't know where Moeller was. I hadn't even, you know, I didn't even know where Moeller was. I'd heard of it, Of course, obviously. And I did get that role. And the next year I went I played Anita and it was just like groundbreaking for me to to break into, you know, the stage singing and dancing. And the same with the next year we did How to Succeed in Business was amazing experience. And if I hadn't gotten that little bit, I had to go in search of training and experience because when I went to audition for CCM, I was the underdog and all these kids were coming from performing arts high schools, and they had been dance training or whatever and I hadn't, I was just doing my little mini mummers at the prep department CCM and I audition for CCM in front of Michael Burnham and Diane Kvapil, who anyone might remember a long time there. And I was just, just a young girl doing you know, I just had a big heart. I didn't have all that experience. And I remember Michael Burnham saying to me what happens if we don't cast you in anything for like the first two years, just so you can do the work? And I just opened my eyes and if that's what you think I need to be able to get into this program to just work on myself and build my strengths so that I can perform by the time I'm, you know, sophomore year, junior, I'll do it. I said the words I have faith in the theater and Michael on Diane said that was the sentence that got me in to that school, and I was not expecting it. I talked about this all the time. When I came home. One day, my mother had, I literally walked into the kitchen and I see my mom over a teapot like this. And I was like, are you steaming it open? She goes no, I'm not, she was totally steaming it open. It was very thin. So we thought this is a decline because acceptance comes with a big pack and datata…. So we're already like looking at each other because it's okay. It's okay. You'll transfer. And I said okay. So I opened it up and it said Dear Diana Maria Riva, we are pleased to inform you! And we just lost it. And it was like, they took a chance on me, they rolled the dice on me. And it was that was, you know, aside from my parents, CCM and the little Drama department was that were the first entities to invest in belief and just my heart and soul and my dedication and green talent, not nothing that was, you know, bigger or noticeable yet.

Mulvaney: Was there a particular like class or production, while you were at CCM, that like, still has an impact on you or that you think super fondly about?

Riva: You know, my senior year, Mark McCabe, who was an adjunct professor, and he was also a graduate of the program to the Acting department years before, he was just there are two things that I did that one with, with Mark McCabe who taught improv and I love the art of improv, and I believe that it is fueled my ability in comedy, whatever you do, like that's at the core. And, and I had to test this situation at a chemistry test with an actor just two days ago. And it really was about those improvised moments between the two of us that I will forever love be grateful for and feel like it's at the core of a lot. And all my classes with k. Jenny Jones, who is a stage in combat…

Mulvaney: Love her. 

Riva: …master. And that that's why I said, like, I want to get on a horse with the sword. And the first person I'll be calling is, Jenny. I need help!

Leitten: Did you did you ever do a scene on a horse?

Riva: So I was cast in a pilot last year, that was a Western. And I had to go in and the creators of the show these two wonderful women wanted to cast me in their pilot, it was to play the town, madam. And the, the costumes were amazing. And everyone was so excited. And I had to when they call me to tell me, I had the part. I said, I need to make a request. I just want to ride a horse. And they're like, okay, that's fine. We'll make it work! So this what I had, we were ready to launch. I was two days from my first call time, and we shut down for COVID and the pilot.

Mulvaney: Is there any chance of seeing that in the future come back to fruition?

Riva: You know, they finally, by June, they finally had to release us, they couldn't hold us any longer. So I don't, it's it kind of and you know, what was so it, when they were talking to me about the project, I had to keep a straight face because I didn't, I couldn't give, show them my poker hand as to whether I was going to accept this offer, right? So they're like, let us show you the set and they pull out their iPad and they're showing the, the the old town up in the hills here in in in Santa Monica. That that's a Western town that's been built. I'm watching and I'm trying Oh my God. Oh my God, look at the saloon. That's the saloon. Look at the saloon doors like they’re real!

Leitten: Negotiating face. Keep your negotiating face on.

Riva: Oh, it was work. So yes, that hasn't happened yet. But hopefully in the future

Mulvaney: And being now where you are, looking back is there a class that you wish they would have had where — maybe they have it now — but or something that you're like, Oh, this should be taught.

Riva: Absolutely, and it's television and film. It's the, the, it was a little taboo to, to want and desire openly a career and television when I was there. I didn't plan for a career in television and film, it stumbled upon me. And it's been, you know, good. But it did. You know, I started off with a show on television before I knew how do I audition for television and film. So when that show was canceled, and I started to go out and you know, audition for television film, I did not know how. And I would go into that tiny little office, which was usually casting directors office with you know, producers there and I am enunciating to the back of the room the last row because that's all I know. And it was big and over the top and not, you know, not appropriate for this little screen that they're trying to imagine you on and they're four feet away from you. And I'm you know presenting to the crowd. And I remember thinking at the time like this, I am I'm not skilled and I'm not ready for this. And I doubted whether or not I was ever going to be able to stay out here and do this, because our school had nothing like that. That changed probably about two or three years later, when Richard Hess, who became the head of the department started seeing a need to train the students in this other area and this other medium so that they're prepared, whatever, whatever way they end up going, whatever journey to decide to take and that whole auditioning for the camera is a completely different beast than when you're auditioning for theater. And if you don't know how it will, it'll come to haunt you though it really takes a toll. So I'm glad I wish they had had it. I'm glad they do now.

Leitten: Well, I think also they they've combined them. And there's even more synergy at CCM between the Media Production Division students and Acting in Musical Theatre where there is that opportunity to get on screen experience, to do shorts with the CCM Film Lab and the CCM Idea Lab. So as things have progressed, I think in the business the college has done a really good job of, of making sure they're setting their students up in all majors for success.

Riva: Absolutely.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: So Deana switching gears, we have a question from a current CCM student:

Julianna Weis-Palacios: Hi, there. I'm Julianna Weis-Palacios, a BFA Acting major. Deanna, starting out in LA, how do you get representation interested in you? How do you make an agent want to sign you and send you out ambitiously? Should I be looking for an agent, manager, both? Which is best to have and when?

Riva: A lot has changed over the years from when I was in that position, and the way that you approach trying to get a manager agent. There's, there are showcase abilities, there are talent showcase abilities, are there are diversity talent showcases out here that you should look into if you fall into that category. And, you know, essentially, it's about getting a reel. If you're, if you're not doing a showcase, it's about doing student films, it's about doing, you know, non-union stuff, and putting yourself out there to get yourself a reel basically put together. Do you need a talent as a manager agent? Well you eventually need both, because the manager will handle the day to day more specific things. But if you have one before the other, the thing I always say is, whoever you end up signing with, let's say you have you do a showcase out here and an agent approaches you. What you want to hear in that meeting before you say yes, is that they have seven managers that they can think of that they wouldn't introduce you to that that could be a good fit. And the same with the manager before you sign with them in that meeting, you want to hear them say, I have six agents that I have, I want to have a scheduled meeting for you. And then wait and see if they get those meetings. And then you can sign with them if it works. So they should be working for you to help you find that other half that other piece. And if not, if they say I, you don't need an agent, you need a manager. That is not true. Maybe when films are being dropped into your lap and saying we will pay you millions of dollars to do that, then all you really need is, is maybe a lawyer to watch it. But I have a team that I've been with for so long, and I love them. And you want to make sure you get people who reflect what you want to do. If I didn't have who I have, I have fierce women on my team. And one of them has been with me since my very first agency when she was just an assistant at that agency. You need a team need a team that can see past the BS and a team that will push those help you push those doors down versus yourself and when you when you find that that's who you know is going to look out for your best interests.

Mulvaney: This information you just gave us is so valuable and it's not something that's even really discussed at school. And I think that having this info out there for kids to you know you you do the showcase and then you're out on your own and they don't know if they should get the manager if they don't know if they should get the agent and they're talking to other 21 year olds.

Riva: CCM students are always willing to say yes and that's because the discipline that comes out of that school is impeccable and I do believe that it is a tool and a shield that serves you well out here. I honestly out here, because I don't know New York I haven't I haven't lived and done my career in New York, but out here. You that discipline of going in the room being professional doing your job, doing your homework the night before, being hard working on set, knowing how to take direction, follow the lead of a director — that comes from our school.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Diana, how did you make the transition from college into the real world?

Riva: My last year of graduate school at CCM drama, we had to intern at a theater. I ended up interning at the Ensemble Theater and it just so happened that their false production that year was a play called Help written by Michael Weller. And he was coming in from New York and he chose the ensemble theater as the theater that he wanted to debut this new play. Then he was also bringing a director in from David Schweitzer from Los Angeles. We had to audition for the plague just as a part of our internship. It meant nothing. We were mostly doing crew work, but I auditioned. I ended getting the part.

Leitten: Wow.

Riva: And it was like the best internship ever. And that's what I did for my three months there. And that went beautifully. And I graduated couple months later. And then a year later, Michael Weller called me and said, I want to take the play out to Los Angeles. And I want you to continue the role. I never stepped foot in Los Angeles, there were two drama grads that lived out here. And I knew them. And I was grateful they were here because I was very scared to just come out here. And we did the play for three months. They paid me $25 because that was the rule…

Leitten: per day?

Riva: No, per week.

Leitten: Wait, per week?

Mulvaney: Per week, $25.

Riva: Yes, this was an investment. This was, I made no money. I was, it was about coming out here three months of showcasing myself maybe I'd get a commercial. Like that's literally what I thought. I didn't think, I thought when I come back, I'll go back into Chicago, New York when I come back or something. So I just took the woman who was producing the play, opened her home, she says my husband and I have a nice house. It's big. We don't have any children, you can stay with us. So I did. Luckily, I very lucky, good, ethical woman. And then in doing this play, someone that she had invited a writer named Robert Zednik had a show a pilot that he had just sold the ABC, and it started comedian named Greg Geraldo. And there was a part of a funny Latina receptionist, you know, ballsy woman. And after seeing me in this play, he went back to ABC and said, This is who I want to cast in this part. So then ABC called me because I didn't have any representation, I'd everything they said, We want to put you in a development deal. And I literally looked at the woman whose house I was, I was like, what's a development deal? She's like, oh, Give me the phone, give me phone! I was like, Okay. And she took, luckily, a beautifully ethical woman who if she didn't know any what to do, she knew who to go to, to figure out what to do. But she had been in the business a long time, her husband was a writer on Party of Five. And she was a producer. And she said, I'm going to start introducing you to managers, because you need protection. And then two big heavy hitting agencies came forward, but I had money on the table, I suppose. Like, I just got a development deal, what agency wants to come and take their 20%. And so they all kind of came out. And I didn't know who to trust. And I go in the room and I'm meeting with them. And they're like, you know, selling me things big time.

Leitten: Well, they hear the magical word development deal. That's, that's money in the bank.

Riva: It is. And, and luckily, again, this woman who was producing Help, said, started introducing me to managers, and they were big time managers, some of them. And then Beth, one day, the the producer that was producing help said to me, I just want you to know that if you ever feel comfortable enough, I'd love to represent you, I'll be a manager. And I'm like, Okay, that was it. For me, I knew she had my best interests at heart, I knew she was going to be protective of me at at minimum. So for me at the time, that was good enough. And she did go in and protect me. And we did make a good decision as far as agencies were concerned. And we were together for a long time until she actually left the business and moved. But that was a big deal to come here and do that. And when that ended, that I did, I went and did that pilot, I didn't know how to I didn't know multi-cam, three cameras, the only thing was, is that it was the closest thing to life theater, because that studio audience was there. And you were riding the waves of their reaction, their laughter, their silence, their happiness, whatever. And they were your fourth wall. I was very protected, and very well guided by good people when I first got here, because it's an overwhelming amount of stuff, if you have no experience in it, which I didn't.

Leitten: So what happened from that, that pilot? Where did it go? Did your career just with that development deal take off? Or did you have to kind of figure out life from there?

Riva: Well, it took off and it went on for only like eight or nine episodes and then was canceled.

Leitten: What was this show called?

Riva: Common Law. Very funny show some seasoned actors that that I would love to work with today again, and it was cancelled. And I didn't know what that meant. I'm like, Okay, well, so we'll just we'll get we'll do another pilot. Well, no, that's not how it works. It takes time and it takes you know, and whatever. So then I started getting I started being sent out on auditions. And that proved to be extremely challenging. I didn't know what I was doing. I think I mentioned that before. And I was too big and too broad and, and it was I for a year and a half. I booked nothing and then I worried about why did I come out here I'm a little concerned…

Mulvaney: So that first gig is almost a blessing and a curse at the same time.

Riva: Yes, I didn't assume anything, but I was just green when it came to this whole medium. I knew nothing. But I'll tell you, after one audition, I went into audition for the creators of Friends who were creating another show, and I was just, you know, putting on a show in that room thinking, Okay, I'm gonna make them laugh. And I remember when I walked out of the room, I closed the door, and I went down the hallway of Warner Brothers, and I sat there and I thought, and I had this conversation, what are you doing, you are making a fool, you are pushing and trying to entertain them instead of just living openly and naturally in that character skin, which goes back to the basics of what we know, the only difference is, is that it's got to be smaller and more intimate. And in that moment, I made that psychological adjustment. And then from there on out, I started auditioning getting other series. And, you know, the learning curve was was, you know, achieved.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: What did you do for that year and a half?

Mulvaney: Any odd jobs?

Riva: Yeah, it's, you know, you go from never stepping foot in this town. And agents are saying here, hi, hey, we'll take you and development deal or whatever, to working at a bathing suit store in Beverly Hills, which was eye opening. And I could have won, you know, written a series about the trials and tribulations that women have in a bathing suit store. And again, I got lucky that they the, the managers of the store, were wonderful at letting me go cut out and go to an audition real quick and come back. But it was it was a good year and a half, almost two years of selling suits and auditioning.

Leitten: One of my favorite Shows of all time is the West Wing. So I just I need to know how you got the part, what it was like on set, what it was like being surrounded and coming into a cast that had been solidified, had been working together for a while and being the new person and what it was like, for you like was easy coming into that.

Riva: So that was in I was in the last season with the cast. And the storyline was the presidential election, Alan Alda, going up against Jimmy Smits. So I was there with Janeane Garofalo, who was brought in that year and a few others that were just spectacular. This, the, the cast of The West Wing, as long as they had been together, I think that was year 10, maybe nine or 10. were brilliant, loving, happy people. So I was around Jimmy Smits and Bradley Whitford daily, and they were just good people who were happy to still be working and happy to have a show that had gone this long and been that loved. So there was nothing intimidating about being on that set within the company of, of those folks. And it was a place where you could be you know, you really had to follow the language. There wasn't a lot of room for improv, because we're talking about something so specific.

Mulvaney: Aaron Sorkin right?

Riva: Yeah, yeah.

Mulvaney: I heard that he sort of can, he'll change something like right before and you just you got to just do it. Right. Is that something that’s ever happened?

Riva: Right, well that happens all the time. But remind me to come back to Aaron Sorkin because at this point, he wasn't on the show, he had left the West Wing. Okay, but I did Studio 60 with him and I'll share with you a story, then I think that you'll appreciate about that. But when you're doing a multi-cam, so and you're taping in front of that live audience in that night, the team of writers for that show are off in the corner, and they have what's called a page of alternates. So if you do something in the joke doesn't land within the audience isn't laughing, they'll change it. It's like a football huddle, we'll cut at the scene. They'll come in while the, the comedian is entertaining the. the studio audience, the team of writers come in and they say, Alright, we're gonna cut this line, you're gonna add this instead of coming in on this, say this instead. And then she'll drop that line and come in and say, one on one, and we back up and we roll camera. And all those lines that just got changed in the moments in the beats have to happen right there. So you either know how to do that or you don't. When you're doing an hour long show like the West Wing, you don't have a live audience, you're shooting this one perspective at a time. So you have a minute to solidify with whatever has been changed. So that, to me is like I love doing that that like I feel like that's part of our improvisational background. You know, that's where we can really like live in that moment quickly and instantly. So that show was brilliant. In that case, we went through a lot. That was also the situation were in the middle of the campaign story that we were filming I think we were of 22 episodes we were on like Episode 16 or 17 when John Spencer died in the middle of filming, I had just seen him on Friday. He was in the makeup trailer the nicest guy in the world. And it had just been right after whatever that week's episode had aired. And every time I walked by says darling, have I told you how wonderful I thought you were in last week's episode — just so sweet and then by Monday he had died. Yes, it was just and to see the cast go through that heartbreak was just grueling. And then they wrote it into the story. If anybody remembers that final season of West Wing…


Leitten: Of course.

Riva: Yes, that that he that Kristen Chenoweth, her character walks in and finds him passed on his bed. And that was just you go back and watch those scenes and there, is there, we are not even a degree away of separation of what those characters were feeling. And so that was just an experience in and of itself there but 100% rewarding to the end.

Leitten: With the Studio [60] on the Sunset Strip, I always get that’s such a long name, I loved the show as well. How did you move from one to the other? And what was it like working with Aaron Sorkin?

Riva: So kind of when you get into that family, they do bring you back if they think you might be right for something. So I was asked to come audition for it. I wasn't offered the role. But I was asked to come in audition for it and I went into audition. And Aaron was the reader, which I was like, oh, Aaron Sorkin is here oh here we go. Aaron Sorkin is reading — wonderful kind man who is there to support the actor he believes in the actor. So I even remember in the middle of the one scene, he stopped and he says, You know what, we're misleading her. He said something to one of the writers like we have to change that because that line isn't giving her what she needs in that moment. I'm like, that's what Aaron says, not me. And the audition went very well got the part. And when we would do table reads, this was what so brilliant — first of all I did I learned at that time that he had studied musical theater when he was in college. So when we would sit at the table reads and table beats were ginormous. And this was again with Bradley Whitford was now the star of the show and Matthew Perry. And Aaron would say, if you could do me the favor, please don't add improvise, implement any extra language or anything. He says I write this like a symphony. I hear just the sounds and the music and the rhythm and the tempo. He was just like he was dancing to the rhythm. Yes, exactly.

Leitten: It's amazing. Just looking at your credit list on IMDB, like McFarland, USA. It's such an amazing story. I just watched it the other night. And, you know, telling that story and working with Kevin Costner…

Riva: It was really a great experience. That one in particular, because I was, this is my first time telling somebody his true story. So I felt the responsibility of you know, being accurate. And so in that, in that movie, I'm the mother of these three boys that are on this cross country team. And that whole family still live in McFarland, which I had never been to, and we shot a few days there in McFarland. And when I went up there to shoot this big scene, the big carwash scene where my character made something like 10,000 tamales for to raise money to buy the kids uniforms. That boys, the grown-up versions of these boys, these, the real boys, were background actors in that scene. So they came in, they introduced themselves to me, it was so great. And then I said, so where is your mom? And they're like, she's home. I'm like, she don't want to come down? And like, she's just not…like, that's fine. Like, let's just I want to meet. So they're like, ‘Mommy!’, you know, like, tell her to come down. And she didn't want to come, she was in the middle of making something. And they're like, well, I don't want to bother. But I'd love to meet the woman I'm playing, you know, and I, that was, I got to meet her. She finally came. She's very quiet, shy woman, very lovely. And then I felt, I don't know like, I have to do this woman, right, I have to do this woman justice. I need to sell her soul, you know, present her soul. And so I started asked the boys and like, what were things that she said, like, what were little phrases and things that she would say to you while you were growing up? And they gave me some great language of her. Like, she would always say, you know, she like make your bed and they say no, she would say “don't say to me, no.” And she would just like slap it. So I use that in the scene. I say, it's Kevin Costner. When I'm serving him food, he doesn't need it anymore. And he says no, and I just use it, “Don’t say to me no!” And it's just just trying to bring her to life.

Leitten: I think on that note, we need to go in the opposite direction. Dylan, it's that time.

Mulvaney: [Sings] If I could turn back time. [Singing stops]. So we've heard you know, we've gone through so many of your credits. Now, we would like to know when did you fail big time. We've got a lot of wins so far.

Leitten: A lot of will be honest, congratulations.

Mulvaney: What did you learn from that fail?

Riva: This industry is too big on failure. They're too big on making you feel that you failed because you didn't get it. On that note, always make sure you don't have a live mic on your body because you will leave set and go and engage in activities of all kinds and conversations of all kinds If you do not want anyone to hear, and I'll never forget one actress who shall remain nameless, came up to me. We were shooting this late-night scene. She comes up to me, she says, we were body mic-ed. Alright, so I reached back here and I think I've turned it off. And she's like, ‘Are your lips real? And if not, who did the top one?’ I’m like oh ‘top one?’

Mulvaney: Just the top one. I don't want whoever did your bottom. I just want the top lip.

Riva: Okay, they're real. I can tell you, can look at my son, my mom, my grandmother, at my sister's. It's all there. But that's the kind of stuff you don't want to be talking about a live mic. And have I done that a couple of times…

Leitten: Was that mic still live?

Riva: Yes, it was someone who was in the Sound Department said, ‘Hey, you have great lips,’ something like that, man. Thank you.

Mulvaney: Without naming anyone, have you ever had maybe sort of like, not a horror story, but can you give us a what not to do while on set or diva moment?

Riva: Well, I do say that for the most part, I've had good, lovely experiences with a lot of people. But bad behavior exists, it's out there and can come back and should come back to you know, bite you in the butt if you haven't learned from it. People do make mistakes and apologize. And they, they make amends. And they change. And I and I believe in that and in accepting that. But I will say that yes, I there was a project that I was working on that it got me to a point where I told my team, my quality of life is not worth sacrificing for the show. I, this is it's toxic. It's mean, it's hateful. And I will not always be able to stay calm and the grown up. I found this young girl who was a guest star staring. I was walking over to the craft service table and I found her and she's just staring at the food, like, doesn't know what to do with it or whatever. And the mother hen in me went up to her and I said, What's the matter? And she just turned and started crying. I said, Come on. And I pulled her in my room. And she was reiterating to me what happened and I had witnessed it. And I just said, This is not about you. Just put on your metal face and get the job done. Collect the paycheck and tell your prep, tell your reps that you don't want to work on this show anymore. And that's it. But trust me when I say it is nothing about you. We've all been treated this way by this individual. So I know that it's really about them. And I, you know, could that have caused a problem for me to say that, but all I was saying was being protective of her. I was just saying I don't want you to go home and question your career over this moment.

Mulvaney: Cuz this chould have been one of her first big, you know, breaks, she was probably so excited to be there. Big SAG paycheck…

Riva: Yes. And I'm sure she was it was because she was very young. The same thing happened to someone who was on the crew, I found this costumer that I adore. And she was very quietly standing outside the stage, it’s is a different project. And she was crying. And she told me what happened. I said, I honestly believe that this is a bad day, and not a you day. And I ran into her probably the same costumer. Two years later, I was walking on to go get a fitting for a different show. I didn't remember the situation. And she greeted me with the biggest hugs and love. And just as I will never forget that moment. And I was like, You know what, if we take care of each other, we're going to survive this far better than the industry itself.

Leitten: Have you ever had a mentor in the business or actively mentored someone that's coming up and trying to follow in your footsteps?

Riva: Well, I will say that all the the CCM grads that I come across in me whether through the showcase when they come out here or if I get introduced to them, Richard Hess knows and I've told the drama department too, that I'm available, meaning like reach out to me on Facebook or whatever. And I'll give you my email and we'll talk if you have questions, I'll do my best to guide you. I also encourage them to reach out to other alumni here, the younger ones that maybe can talk about things that are more that they're more familiar with at this time. And I also say that if you have a meeting with an agent or manager that and you want some background info, I'll tell you if I know them and if I don't, I'll see if I can get some, any background information on them just through other people, other colleagues of mine or whatever, but I try to make myself just available to, to guiding and supporting as much as I can because I just feel this town can be very cutthroat and very lonely. But if we stick together like this we’ll manage far better. Richard Hess, yes from the CCM drama department. He remains my mentor, he’s who's godfather to my son…

Leitten: Like actually your son's godfather?

Riva: He is, my firstborn. He's my son's godfather. And he, so I always call him compadré. I still reach out to him. It wasn't just months ago. It was just about a few months ago where the director on this project had given me a note that I just could not, I couldn't marry, I'm like, I'm not seeing it. I'm not seeing this note, and I'm trying, and I'm trying, I'm trying, I don't want to battle the director, I don’t want to go and do it his way. So then I do it my way. And then they'll decide later, what looks good. I literally had to email the script to Richard, I said, Richard, please read this and tell me what I'm missing. That wonderful, smart man sent me a voice message. And instead, you're missing this piece from her, you're looking at it from the aspect of what the director wants. But if you end the end as a result, but if you're not seeing that, what it what it is that she wants, in that moment, you'll never get to those two places. And that made all the difference in the world. We went and did a table read for the studio. And I did that note differently, and the director was happy. And it has I've done that many, many times with Richard, where I asked him to look at my work.

Mulvaney: Dead to Me is in LA. Is that correct? Yes. And what was that journey? Like? Did you have any idea that it was going to blow up as much as it has?

Riva: Had no idea had, no idea the character was going to go that far. And that storyline and it was just a testament to really that amazing writing and the, the performances by Linda and Christina, you know, this was a character arc that I have just relished in because this woman who wants to be like this, and she's broken inside. And then there's things about her heart that you just want to climb in, like this is, this sounds silly. But in this last season, they had this explosive scene where I discover who's with my partner, and I don't want to ruin it for anybody who hasn't watched it. And I watched that scene, and I watch it. And I'm like, Oh, girl, like, I feel sad for myself when I watch it. Because of her heart, and I, and I just feel like oh, my God, the ability to put on these character shoes and just swim in all of her emotions has been as an actor, just the most fulfilling, I, this is what I came for.

Mulvaney: And do you think we'll get to see more of you in season three and more of that heart sort of opening?

Riva: Yes. So I do know, ish, where the story is going. I think the, the creator is keeping it a bit up close to the vest. But yeah, there's more to come with this story. It’s gonna be good.

Mulvaney: I’m so excited! Well, we have just adored you. I was a fan before. Now I'm an even bigger fan of just you as a person. And just thank you for sharing yourself with us. It's just we're so lucky.

Leitten: This has been amazing.

Riva: Thank you.

Leitten: I feel like I've learned so much today.

Riva: Oh, gosh, if I can only just say one thing that makes somebody think and in a good way, then I'm happy. Thank you for allowing me to share that journey with you. Because it's, I do think it's a, it's one of those areas, those towns in the business that can really crush your spirit. But don't let it, just don't let it do what you want to do and, and share it, share it if you got it. So that's what I'm just trying to do. So thank you for letting me do that.

Mulvaney: Brian, you need to pinch me because I think I've fallen in love. I want her to be my mother. I want her to be my acting coach. She is everything.

Leitten: I mean, she would be a great mentor. She has so much experience and the ins and outs of auditioning.

Mulvaney: Also as like somebody who's so successful in Hollywood. It's so cool to see that she's very down to earth. And you know, there, there are still very kind people out there in this industry.

Leitten: She just she gives back so much, I we didn't really touch him on the interview. But I know she is extremely involved with the CCM Acting Showcase that happens in Los Angeles every year. Yes, she's like the mama bear to them. And it's great to see someone really giving back and helping out the, the next generation that's coming along. I think the thing that stuck with me the most from that entire interview is when she talked about going into the room and changing people's minds and going in and saying, I know you were looking for Mrs. Smith, but how about Mrs. Rodriguez and showing them,’ I'm going to give you what you want, that you didn't even know you wanted.’ That's so profound.

Mulvaney: And I mostly want her to finally get to ride that horse on TV like she so desperately wants to do. I believe that it's gonna happen because she's that kind of person and she deserves that. I love her.

Leitten: And season three, Netflix Dead to Me coming soon.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: On next week's episode, actor and stuff performer Nicole Callender discusses the role and intimacy coordinator plays on set.

Callender: I help make sure that the set stays closed in the heightened simulated sexual scenes. We advocate for the actors to make sure that everything that they are being asked to do is very clear and we help choreograph it so that it's done in a safe manner, and that there are no slip ups, so to speak.

Leitten: If you want to follow Diana's acting career, you can check out her Instagram handle in our show notes.

Mulvaney: She posts so much fun content and so does our podcast page! @schoolstagescreen one word on Instagram and Facebook and @schoolstagepod on Twitter.

Leitten: You can see exclusive bonus clips from our interview at the College-Conservatory of Music University of Cincinnati's YouTube page. Now known as CCM Acting BFA program is widely recognized for its quality and its history of training successful actors. Graduates are following careers in theater, film and television. Program highlights include training and voice movement and stage combat, acting for the camera training for a full year. Opportunities to act in film, classical and contemporary shows and new works. Senior Showcases for agents are held in New York and Los Angeles and in 2020 and 2021 Senior showcases were virtual due to COVID-19. Learn

Mulvaney: Thanks for listening everyone. See you next week!

Leitten: Our show is produced by Robin Hopkins and edited by Blake Hawk. Our associate producer is Shannon St. George and our assistant editor is Matt Harris. Our music is composed by Ryan Fine, check out his link in the show notes. A big thanks to Kevin Burke, Becky Butts, Stanley Romanstein, Mikki Graff, Curt Whitacre and Melissa Neeley-Nicolini. Our sponsor is the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. This has been a Hyperion XIII production.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music]

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen! 

[Leitten and Dylan laugh]

Hyperion XIII production.

To learn more about the UC College-Conservatory of Music, visit

Diana on Instagram @dianarivamaria

What’s next for Diana? The Gordita Chronicles

Click here to see Diana on Dead to Me

Instagram: @schoolstagescreen

Facebook: @schoolstagescreen

Twitter: @schoolstagepod

Brian on Instagram: @bleittz_delightz

Dylan on Instagram: @dylanmulvaney | TikTok: @dylanjamesmulvaney

Edited by Blake Hawk, Throughline Media

Song by Ryan Fine (BFA Commercial Music Production, '17)

Show art by Graff Designs

Video link:

Brian J Leitten (BFA E-Media, '02) and Dylan Mulvaney (BFA Musical Theatre, '19) give you a sneak peek at Episode 3 of the "School, Stage & Screen" podcast, featuring Diana Maria Riva (BFA Drama, ’91, MFA Theatre Performance, ’95), star of Netflix’s "Dead to Me." In this clip, the actress gives viewers an inside look at her 25+ year career in TV — including roles that got away and the "special skill" section of her resume! Listen to the full episode on Monday, April 19.

Episode 2: "Passing the 'Hamilton' Baton" (April 12, 2021)

Original and current cast members of Hamilton on Broadway; Andrew Chappelle (BFA Musical Theatre, ’09) discusses the difficulties of finding his voice as an artist, while Raven Thomas (BFA Musical Theatre, ’16) dishes about losing hers mid-show. From big breaks to national tours, Andrew and Raven share about their lives on and offstage.

Raven Thomas: I was on for the star and Goddess Emmy Raver-Lampman as Angelica in Los Angeles and the second show, I lost my voice. And I was like, ‘Not thrownin’ away my shot!’ Bam! And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, my voice is gone. Oh my gosh, my voice is gone. My voice is gone.’

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Brian J. Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music begins]

Leitten: Hey, I'm Brian, a filmmaker and producer.

Dylan Mulvaney: And I'm Dylan, an actor and content creator.

Leitten: We're the hosts of "School, Stage & Screen," a podcast that explores the transformative...

Mulvaney: [Interrupting] Brian! You're so old school, I've got this. [Music speeds, intensifies] We are going to get all the tea from industry professionals about college, their wins, fails and everything in between. This season's guests are all loans from the University of Cincinnati's college Conservatory of Music, which is also where Brian and I went to school.

Leitten: On today's episode, we have two stars from Broadway's Hamilton, Raven Thomas and Andrew Chappelle.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!


Mulvaney: Brian, it is our second week.

Leitten: Second week!

Mulvaney: Oh my gosh.

Leitten: We made it!

Mulvaney: Can you believe it?

Leitten: I can't.

Mulvaney: But I have sort of a bone to pick with you. Why did you not tell me that LA is so expensive to live?

Leitten: Because I've only lived there for two years. And most of the time I'm traveling. I moved there a year before you did? Well, a year and a half.

Mulvaney: Ok and you were in New York before?

Leitten: I was in New York in New York is pretty…

 Mulvaney: Equally as expensive. And then furniture, like who knew that furniture — like a couch — costs like $1,000? I didn’t!

Leitten: Oh, cuz you're, you have the new apartment.

Mulvaney: I have to furnish an entire… Yep, I, I've got my own studio. It's my first time signing a lease. And I just wasn't, I guess I just have that like, artist mindset where I'm like, ‘Oh, the money will come…’

Leitten: No, that’s not how it works.

Mulvaney: When you go to school and the arts, they do not do a budgeting class. And I feel like they should.

Leitten: You didn’t plan for your move? You didn't, you don't have like six months rent saved up, you don't have a savings account or a 401k?

Mulavaney: What you just said goes in a Musical Theatre major’s ear and it goes out the other. Did you have like a tip that you want to share with me after the fact now?

Leitten: I have so many tips. One: You should have at least six months rent saved up. You also as a freelancer, which we are, you don't pay your taxes up front. So you have to save 20 to 25% of every paycheck you get so at the end of the year, you have money to pay your taxes.

Mulvaney: This is my worst nightmare. The funny part is, is I actually did hire someone to do my taxes this year. And I think I spent more on the person doing my taxes than I actually like made in a month. And that's just how badly I don't want to do my own taxes. But this is all just totally stressing me out.

Leitten: No, it's, it's stuff you need to know especially when you're graduating college. I always tell my students you need to prepare and you need to plan

Mulvaney: In New York. I was prepared by eating dollar slice pizza, but in LA it's $38 avocado toast.

Leitten: You have to have your rent set aside. You have to have your gasoline money. You need to be able to pay for your Wi Fi.

Mulvaney: Brian, I appreciate the sentiment, but I really just need someone to go ‘Oh, Dylan, I know, it’s gonna be ok.’

Leitten: Oh, Dylan, I know. It might be okay.

Mulvaney: Yes! Okay. And on that note, we have a very exciting episode. You don't have to just listen to the two of us.

Leitten: Two guests today: Andrew Chappelle and Raven Thomas.

Mulvaney: And they got their BFA in Musical Theatre just like me from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music just like me!

Leitten: I have a BFA from there too.

Mulvaney: You get a BFA, you get a BFA, we all get BFAs! Raven actually was a senior when I was a freshman and so I am a little still starstruck interviewing her today because I mean she was, I look at her in that, that, those like wide eyed freshmen eyes that's like, ‘Oh my gosh, you are so talented. I can't believe I'm talking to you right now.’

Leitten: Both of them were on Broadway. Both of them are in Hamilton. Andrew has starred in a couple of hit TV shows

Mulvaney: And Raven has been doing some work at CCM since this pandemic started. So without further ado…

Leitten: Let's bring him in.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Let's start out with giving our audience a short introduction to each of you, Andrew, if you want to go first.

Andrew Chappelle: Sure. I started my professional career as Devon Stamps on the UPN show “Moesha,” which you know, now you can see on Netflix and I didn't work professionally again. until I graduated CCM and I worked at Mamma Mia! on Broadway. And then I did the first national tour Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. And then I was in the original company of Hamilton. And now I'm sitting here with you, yeah.

Raven Thomas: I graduated from CCM in 2016. And from there I went to the Muny and I was in Mamma Mia! and I got my equity card there. Then yeah, then I moved to New York, did a lot of auditioning my first three months I was there. And I booked Hamilton the national tour. And then I moved out to San Francisco. I toured for about two years, then moved to the Broadway company with Andrew in New York.

Chappelle: Mm-hmm!

Thomas: Mmm-hmm! That was really fun.

Chappelle: That was really fun getting to know you.

Mulvaney: Can you both share your pronouns with us? If you would?

Chappelle: He/him.

Thomas: She/her.

Mulvaney: Okay, now, if you are allowed to tell us what are you currently working on or had just been working on before pandemic…

Chappelle: During the pandemic, I was working on watching a lot of television in the hopes of getting on television. And then I just finished shooting I was on a new show that's going to be on Starz in June called “Blindspotting.” That was a movie that was written by Daveed Diggs, who was in Hamilton and his writing partner and best friend, Rafa [Rafael Casal].

Thomas: I was in the company of Hamilton in LA. And we were about to have our first preview that night, I was supposed to be going on for Peggy Maria. So I was like, in the middle of rehearsal that morning, and we had a meeting later on that day, and they were like, ‘we're temporarily closing.’ And, as we all know, it's lasted until now, and maybe a little further. But to fill my time, I was asked by my alma mater, CCM, to do a couple of projects with them. And I've learned so much by working with the students there and revisiting working with faculty new and old. And it's been it's been great to return back there and do some work.

[Record spinning, Hip Hop music]

Leitten: How did you decide on CCM and talk to us about your first year.

Thomas: I am from Oxford, Ohio, so an hour away from Cincinnati. And I didn't know what CCM was until my mom randomly took me to a performance of Rent and I saw Alysha [Deslorieux] perform on stage and I was like, ‘yeah, this is where I should go.’

Mulvaney: And she is a fierce Broadway Queen, everyone listening she is, she's working.

Thomas: I mean, I was just like, floored when I heard her sing “Waiting for Life” and then to have to go into my audition, knowing that there's already someone at that school that's as talented as that. I was so nervous. And I remember walking out after my audition at CCM, and telling my mom I got in. They didn't say it to me, but I knew I got in.

Mulvaney: Oh my god, I wish I had that superpower. That's like the best one to have. Yeah,

Thomas: Yeah I knew. I knew. I had a feeling after…

Chappelle: Speak it into existence.

Thomas: Yes! The same thing with Hamilton. I was like, I got it.

Chappelle: Mine was totally last minute. I didn't even know the school existed. I had I had my schools I applied to: Michigan, Carnegie Mellon, NYU excetera. I only applied to maybe six schools. There weren't as many schools as there are now. I mean, I feel like every everybody has a Musical Theatre program now. And I didn't know about CCM, I filled out all my applications, and everything was all set. And I was at school and my buddy was like, ‘did you apply for CCM?’ And I was like, ‘No, I don't even know.’ And he's like, ‘well, the application deadline is tonight, and it's the best school. I don't know why you're not applying for it.’ And I went home that night. And I was like mentally prepared to have to fill out this application for hours. Because you know, Michigan, it took me I watched Sound of Music twice during the application for Michigan. But that was when the applications were on paper and you had to use a pencil. And so I go to the CCM website and the application to apply for the school was so short, I was like this is it? Apply!

Mulvaney: Would you like to go to this school? Check yes or no.

Chappelle: Exactly. And then I scheduled my audition and then you know, they ended up giving me scholarship money. So it was a very easy choice to go.

Leitten: When you look back at your time at the school, what was the experience like because, I mean, I was tangential to the Musical Theatre to the Acting program and you know, we would hear about how tough it was and I think any performance major at CCM, you're the best of the best. And it can't be easy. I can't imagine it being easy.

Thomas: It was it, was really hard. I I was cast in a show every semester so not only was I doing classes, but I was also doing rehearsals from 7 to 11 every night except for Saturday. I also was getting a minor in Sociology I was there. So I was like, in the books in the rooms in everywhere. Oh, it was, it was insane. It was just, yeah, it was insane. It was absolutely insane. And I actually I got to work with I think I never worked with the same director there. While I was at CCM.

Chappelle: You did a show every semester?

Thomas: Yes, yes I did.

Chappelle: Girl. Wow, good for you. Well, you know, my CCM experience, you know, it's, it was shaped by my freshman year, unfortunately. When I, when I went there, the cut system was still a thing. So I basically lived my entire first year at that school in fear that I wasn't going to return the next year that that possibility existed.

Leitten: And what is that? What's the cut system?

Chappelle: The cut system is essentially where you would have like a series of what they call boards. You have like your initial like performance examination where you perform and then they give you critiques. And then you have another one where you perform and they give you critiques. And then it's a pass or fail situation. So if you fail, I forget what how it was done, but essentially, if you failed a certain number of boards, or if you failed the last board, then like you were not going to be able to return to the program.

Mulvaney: Andrew, I've got some good news for you, CCM Musical Theatre is no longer a cut system. So the current and future students do not have to worry about losing their spots in the program after starting school. And the cut system actually stopped in 2008, which is a great thing. Yay, CCM!

Chappelle: That being said, you know, the beauty of going to any school, but especially a school is all the CCM is to have that amazing, you know, network when you get out of there. So, so, you know, it's like, yeah, you're paying, you're paying for your four years there, but really, you're paying for, you know, the family, the family connection, when you leave.

Mulvaney: We actually have a lot of fun too, though, I will say in the Musical Theatre program, there are so many extra, you know, little parties and get togethers and events. And I think those, they'd, they really do become like your, your family, your class does.

Chappelle: Well, you know, who threw the greatest parties was Patty, Patty James, our tap teacher, jazz teacher. But then also there were some teachers that took special interest in in me personally, that really made a big difference, like Richard Hess took me on as his responsibility freshman year, because I just kind of had a breakdown one day, during the critiques or whatever. And I just wasn't understanding, they were basically telling me you need to learn how to pick material for yourself. And I was like, ‘How do I know how to do that?’ You know, I just don't know. And at the time, and realizing, I didn't really know how to do it, cuz there's actually not a real roadmap for someone who is biracial in the musical theater world. So it kind of made sense that I didn't really know what gear to shift to. But he was like, ‘Come to my office.’ He's like, ‘I'm gonna give you a different different musicals that we've done here at CCM, and then you choose, you tell me what role you can play in these musicals.’ And I have to sometimes, like reframe the way I remember the school. Do you know what I mean?

Thomas: Yeah.

Mulvaney: When you're in the thick of it, things feel really dramatic and dark and…

Leitten: Well, it's personal, you're being critiqued on your person, right? Not, not the way you edit something, not the way you've done something, you're being critiqued on your personality, essentially so that's got to be tough.

Chappelle: Yeah, definitely. But it also, you know, it also prepared us. I mean, when I think about the sheer amount of things we had to have prepared day to day, just for his class, but then when you add just your normal class load academics, you add in whatever you had to do for your acting class… It's like, oh, now I get three auditions like you know, in my inbox, I get three auditions one's due tomorrow, two are due the next day. You're like, ‘Oh, I can do this.’ You know, it's like, you know, you're, you've already gone through that, like, anxious, crazy moment in your life. You're like, ‘Oh, I felt this before. Okay, well, I'm just gonna do the one that's due first, get this, print this out and get to the highlighting,’ you know, so like, it does prepare you. But, you know, the thing that got me through that school, which kind of gets me through life period is just that quality of indomitable spirit.

Leitten: Andrew, we actually got a question from CCM Acting Professor Richard Hess.

Chappelle: Oh my god, Richard!

Leitten:So Richard says, ‘Dear Andrew, I've always found your life energy, your lifeforce, such a positive attribute. As a young student, you radiated energy in life. As an artist you play a role you bring the person you've become so far in your lifetime to the work. Can you tell us about how you use your personal energy and your core being your lifeforce, whether it's stepping into a rehearsal or entering a room to audition, or onstage, to play a role you've played many times.

Chappelle: Oh my goodness. Wow, I didn't expect that. You know, it's so funny. He like, he has like a heart print on me. It's, so that's so that was moving to hear that. Uh, I was actually watching Billy Porter in an interview the other day and he was saying how when he was trying to be somebody else he was bankrupt, literally. And when he clicked on and decided he was just going to be himself wherever he went, was when he was when his career really popped off. And I think it was just I think I lived for a long time kind of similarly where I was just like, ‘Oh, well, I don't know, do I want to be an out gay actor?’ Like, I'm not sure… And then the minute I decided that I was just like, ‘Well, no.’  Like is the is the alternative to being an out gay actor, being an in the closet like quiet, not happy person? I don't want that version of myself. So I guess I'm going to be the other version. And the beauty of Hamilton, going to Richard's question, was that they were really great about leaning into our individual personalities for the roles. So it was not your typical Broadway show where it's like, okay, like Kristin Chenoweth, like came out of the bubble and she stepped with her right foot and put her arm up on two and that's what you're supposed to do. Hamilton is a little bit more forgiving and loosey goosey when it comes like, oh, how do you feel you should do this. And slowly they'd kind of rein you in to their vision, but the bones of it were you felt like were your own. So all the parts, all of the parts that I played in Hamilton had me in them. And the part I played in Mamma Mia! was the same. I don't really know how to do it another way. Well, you did shows every semester Raven, so you probably didn't really feel that way. Did you?

Thomas: I never had a dream of like being on Broadway. Like someone asked me that when I was being interviewed once, like, did you have a dream of being on Broadway? And I don't know exactly what my dream was, I just know that I wanted to perform and like my path was leading me down that, down that path. So I just kind of kept saying yes. And so I mean, I was cast every semester, but I kind of, it was kind of like imposter syndrome, like especially as a freshman being cast, like with an outside director in “Little Shop” with two other women that I kind of like really looked up to, you know, as a freshman, and it was it kind of, and then again, with “Spelling Bee” and Mitch Mahoney, I played Mitch Mahoney. So that was like a whole like, I kind of felt like I had to level up. So I was just always being constantly challenged, like my critique with boards was a lot of go further go out of your box, like we know you can do this one thing, but like sing soprano. And I kind of actually pushed back against that I kind of wanted to be put in a box because I knew I could do it really well. Like I knew I had gotten this far being in that box. And so I think that not having that like dream of like ‘I have to be on Broadway’ kind of allowed me to just like fail through a lot of things and try a lot of things and not put that pressure on myself. But like you were saying, Andrew, like, I have to remember my experience at CCM isn't everyone else's. And like honoring the the, the people that didn't get… like there were some people not only in my class, but you know, in other classes that were struggling to get cast, not because they were not talented, but because you know, someone else needed a role or you know, there were just so many people in the program, and they can only take so many people in the show. And so I kind of always remind myself, like have that experience too. When I speak about mine.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Raven, you are currently working with CCM Acting and Musical Theatre Professor [CCM Associate Professor and the Joseph Weinberger Chair of Acting for the Lyric Stage in Musical Theater and Opera] Vince DeGeorge again. And we have a question from him.

Vince DeGeorge: One of the things I admire most about you is the depth of thought and perspective that you bring to a very complicated and challenging subject matter and situations. You bring a clarity and a willingness to see complex issues for what they are, complex. When working with you and watching you work with our students in the Musical Theatre department, it feels like you are both pulling from past experiences and working things out in the moment. So my question is where and/or from whom did you learn this way of relating with others? What in your life has led you to bring this combination of self-confidence and open generosity to your work? You have so many diverging and yet connected interests. It's as if you're both better defining as well as redefining yourself with each new thing that you do. How do you know when it's time to shift your focus and alter your path, how do you decide to say no to some opportunities and yes to others?

Thomas: I don't really know, I would say my parents. Actually, I would actually definitely say my parents. My dad, ever, he's a lawyer, he ever since I can remember, he's told me to be a leader and not be a follower. And I really took that to heart. I also have learned it from my boyfriend, my partner, Jeffrey Duffy, who I met on tour. He's kind of just really centered me and has brought perspective to my life and has kind of encouraged me to be more mindful and be more aware. And that has led me to reading books and getting into different types of movement and listening to everybody's stories. I think we forget sometimes that everyone has a story. And it's, it might be closely related to ours. But it also might be completely different. And I know it's cliche, but to like, actually put yourself in that other person's situation. And not only the things you know about them, but also the things you may not know about them that they don't share so openly. So I just try to honor, I try to honor every soul as if it was mine. And it's, it can be really hard.

Leitten: Yeah, I want to take you back. It's kind of a final part to the school section of our, of our podcast. I got to see Dylan, and the rest of the 2019 class perform in New York at the showcase the Senior Showcase. And I know each of you had that experience. What did that allow you to do? right out of college. And from that Showcase, what was your life like? Did you move to New York? Were you auditioning, did you book a part? Where did your life go from that that Showcase?

Thomas: After Showcase… well, I sang “Satisfied” for my showcase, putting it all out there. And I sent it to Andy Blankenbuehler in an email, and I got an agent from that Showcase. I got several meetings, and I and I found my agent through that showcase. And right after that, they put me on auditions, man, like I was going out for everything.

Chappelle: It makes it easy for your agent to get you auditions from Showcase because all the casting directors are there. So you know, you'll sign with an agency but Tara Rubin, Telsey, Bender — they, they're all there. So when you get submitted for Lion King, or Wicked or whatever, they have a reference for you. So it's kind of like it really works in your favor to have a beautiful seamless transition from school to, to work life. But I think the transition from school to real life, I think was maybe the best part of the whole experience, because you've been preparing for that for four years. So you're, you're over prepared. For this moment.

Mulvaney: I actually found that those first few professional auditions that I did post Showcase were actually easier than the CCM auditions we do. As far as like, I would get so nervous at CCM because some of the class would be watching your, you audition. And felt like this sort of like talent show kind of like really intense thing. And then you and then you're in New York, and you're like walking the room and it's just some, you know, cute girl being like, ‘Okay, like, what are you gonna do for us today?’

Chappelle: Well, also in, in New York, in New York, they want you to get your job. In your class, they don't necessarily want you to do anything.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Okay, we've all got them, especially as theater folks. Be honest. What were your side hustles before you got successful in theater?

Thomas: I started working at an at an amusement park doing shows when I was 15. Outside changing my wig, changing my costumes…

Chappelle: Cedar Point?

Thomas: Kings Island. For five years… six years, six summers. And then when I got to New York, I was babysitting. And I was working at lululemon. I also was, a summer, another summer job I did I was a chambermaid and I cleaned like eight cabins every day and then did Hairspray on a lake.

Chappelle: A chambermaid!

Mulvaney: I think you're one of the few people in America that could still call themselves a chambermaid.

Thomas: It was the best summer of my life. I have great friends from there. It was, I would go back in a heartbeat and do the same thing.

Chappelle: I'm very intentional with everything that I do and… period, always. And so I was very clear with my intention about moving. I was like I'm moving to New York to be an actor. I'm not moving to New York to do anything else. And so I basically just professionally auditioned for my until I got you know, Mamma Mia!. However, my money ran out probably after I'd been there for nine months because like, you know, I've, it's New York. They don't tell you how fun New York is. They really don't! Like New York is fun.

Leitten: Yeah, you need you need the entertainment line item in your budget that you didn't know about when you move there.

Chappelle: Correct. Correct. And so I got a job at Bloomingdale's, but I, you know, but I lied because I knew that they wouldn't they wouldn't hire me if I told them I was an actor. So I was like, ‘Oh, I moved to New York to become an actor, but it didn't go my way. So now I'm just like, I'm going to work here and just like focus on you know, fashion.’ Anytime I had an audition, I just would not go to work. I'm not, didn't move to New York to work at Bloomingdale's.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: What moment in your career so far has been your big break.

Chappelle: It's funny, because I feel like throughout my life, everything seems almost like insurmountable or unachievable. Like there was a time where I was like, ‘I don't know if I'm ever going to get into the actor's union.’ And then it happened. And then I was like, ‘I don't know if I'm ever going to get on Broadway.’ And then it happened. And I guess my biggest break was Hamilton because it was kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity, once in a lifetime experience to be there at the beginning of it all, so it's not lost on me that you know, I would listen to cast recordings, cleaning my room, and now I'm on the arguably most famous cast recording in existence. It's, it's nuts to think about. You know, Raven knew four parts in that show. I knew, I think six at one point, to know six parts in in that particular musical, definitely tests your limits.

Leitten: Did you perform all six of those parts that you knew at some point or another?

Chappelle: Oh, yes, baby. I performed them all many times.

Leitten: What were the, what were the six parts?

Chappellle: Lafayette, Jefferson, Mulligan/Madison, Laurens/Philip, Burr, King George and Man Five, were like, when it was all said and done. And then I, and then I released Man Five and just did the principals after a year or two years.

Thomas: I do. Woman Five, Peggy Maria, Angelica Schuyler and Eliza Hamilton.

Leitten: And was the Hamilton national tour you're, what you consider your big break?

Thomas: Oh yeah.

Mulvaney: Did either of you know that you had swing brain? Or did you have to build your swing brain? Was that something that came easy to you or…

Leitten: What is swing brain?

Mulvaney: Being a swing in a musical you're covering multiple tracks, you're either an onstage swing, meaning that you are part of the ensemble and you do the show every night or you're an offstage swing and you go on when somebody is ill or on vacation.

Chappelle: I mean, it was one of those things where it's like you either rise to the occasion or you fall on your face and you get fired and replaced. Period.

Thomas: I feel like I could have covered any role at singing wise because I knew everybody's words. Like no matter what, like I knew your words, because I was a fan before I was in it. So I think I have a little bit of a different experience. And also like the sisters are all… Andrew’s, Andrew’s like everywhere at one time. The sisters are always like together like Schuyler Sisters, you know, it's like, oh, Eliza does this and then Angelica does this hand. So that's not too hard to forget. So they're kind of like, they're like a group. The sisters are like a group. So it's easier, I think, for my brain to learn the choreography for all of them. Also, I got to be on stage every night as Woman Five. So I would just be like, Oh, what's that part? I don't know. Okay, Mandy just did it. And she has her left hand up. And so it's like, you just kind of you're working while you're working.

Chappelle: If you're doing your job, right, you're doing that.

Leitten: I mean, you must have been doing your job, right? Because at some point you I guess you would call it graduating… you graduated from the national tour to the Broadway show. How did that happen? Did you have to audition? Did they just say one day like you're going to the big leagues, kiddo?

Thomas: No, I still had to audition on my day off. Take a train from DC to audition for Tommy Kail, like people I know already. But it was fun. It was so fun because also being on tour, they don't get to see you. So I think it's also, you know, a safety precaution to be like, what is this girl doing? Right, you know, before we bring her to Broadway, but I mean, they've always been super supportive. And I remember being asked, like, which one would you prefer? And I was like, honestly, I need to see Michael Lavoie’s Hamilton again. So that's actually the reason why, I went to Broadway. I just like I needed to see Michael Lavoie do Hamilton like as long as I could.

Chappelle: It's also good that you got your Broadway show in before the pandemic though. I'm sure that you were happy to have squeezed that in.

Leitten: Raven when you went to Broadway. Andrew, were you still there? Were you both on in the show together on Broadway in New York?

Chappelle: Yes, we were. Yes.

Leitten: Please tell me there was like this CCM grad like moment like running and meeting each other in the middle of the set.

Chappelle: Oh, yeah. Well, also, you know, Alysha Deslorieux was in the original company. So I feel like there was actually a moment where all three of us were on the stage at the same time. I mean, yeah. There's, there's honestly so few… it's just good to catch somebodies eyes, who has been where you've been. And even if you don't, you'd like, I honestly haven't really heard a lot of Raven’s experience until today, but I do know that she knows what I know. You know, it makes it, it makes the world a little bit better for you. So it's about you know, sustaining, enjoying the journey surrounding yourself with good people. Surround yourself with good friends so that you can stay in the race, because I feel like that's just the key to, to, to it is just sticking with it.

Mulvaney: Your path is now LA. Is that correct? You're settled in?

Chappelle: I am settled in. I'm waiting. I'm anxiously waiting for Raven to return with Hamilton. When I was in Hamilton, I just didn't have the representation for it. It's such a specific especially in New York, New York TV and film is so pin, pin narrow, thin. And so when I switched agents, I was able to start auditioning for TV and film more. And it's a huge learning curve, figuring out how to get your tape correct, figuring out the nuance on screen and blah blah blah blah blah. But then I started booking work I did a two episodes on “Escape at Dannemora,” which would I would, I would equate to be my big break and television because I'd never done anything of that magnitude before. It was like 10 million an episode, Ben Stiller was directing it. I was in a scene with Benicio Del Toro… it was my head was spinning. I was like, oh, zero to 60, zero to 100. But again, CCM prepared before it, we were prepared to freak out inside and externally emit that like confidence. Like I you know, so yeah, I was frickin’ you know, messing myself from my trailer to the set…

Leitten: That just seems like an incredibly high moment in your career. But we, we really got to know the flip side of that. So Dylan, do you know what time it is?

Mulvaney: [Sings, clock ticking] If I could turn back time. [Singing, music stops] Andrew and Raven, we want to know, when did you fail big time. And what did you learn from that failure?

Thomas: Which one? The best and biggest is probably when I was on for the star and Goddess Emmy Raver-Lampman as Angelica in Los Angeles and it was a two-show day, and the second show, I lost my voice right before Schuyler Sisters. And I still had to perform. And [whispering] I sounded like this, it was just like a whisper [unintelligible]. And I don’t even remember, honestly. And I was like, ‘Not thrownin’ away my shot!’ Bam! And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, my voice is gone. Oh my gosh, my voice is gone. My voice is gone.’ I come down the steps. And I go I turned to Amber Iman, another goddess. And I go Amber, my voice is gone. And she was like, ‘Nah, girl, you're fine. You're just nervous.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, yeah, I'm just nervous. I'm just nervous.’ She's like, ‘you're talking right now. You're fine. You're fine.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, yeah, I'm fine [clears throat].’ Go out there. Nothing comes out. Nothing. Air, pure air. And Josh Henry is like looking at me, and Solea and Amber like looking at me like just the most supportive snaps of like sisterhood just like ‘keep going girl keep going.’

Mulvaney: Do you continue doing the show?

Thomas: Oh, no, honey, I was like I'm out. I'm out. I'm out. I'm out. It was because I had been on for… a length of time. And still rehearsing during the day and still being Woman Five on the shows I wasn't on for. And I took a…never again…I took a nap in between first and second show.

Chappelle: Never again. That is the devil do not take a nap between shows.

Thomas: Do not take a nap because your voice, she's literally like asleep.

Chappelle: She closes up shop.

Leitten: Did you have to take a week off two weeks off? How long did it take to get your voice back?

Thomas: No. I think my stage manager texted me the next day saying ‘Hey, are you up for Angelica tonight?’ And I said, I said sure.

Chappelle: Welcome to Hamilton where the phone is always ringing.

Thomas: Yeah. I remember Alex emailed me and I just didn't respond to his email. He was like, ‘Hi, honey, are you I heard what happened. Are you okay?’ And I was just like, never, I never sorry, Alex, I never responded to that email. I just couldn't find the words.

Chappelle: If Alex Lacamoire just happens to find his way to this podcast. So when I think failure I was thinking like big on bigger scale, but we could talk from the show because when it comes to Hamilton bloopers and mistakes there was one time I was on for Oke [Okieriete Onaodowan]. Oke played Mulligan/Madison for, for the first year and some change on Broadway. I was on for him I think cuz he like went to Burning Man or something. And I've been on for him for two weeks. And then he came back. But he came back like early, he came back like the night of a two show day. So I went from playing Mulligan/Madison for two weeks to playing Laurens/Philip, who's a guy who is around Mulligan/Madison they're in they kind of share a lot of the stage together and have a lot of scenes together. So we're in “My shot” and I'm standing there and I'm like, ‘Okay, I'm I, I'm just kind of like thinking ahead.’ As you do when you're a standby, you're always thinking like, three, three beats ahead, and I'm standing there and I'm looking at Oke, but I think I'm Oke. And like, ‘Hmm, well, if Oke’s there, who am I?’ And then it was like, ‘oh, oh my god, I'm Laurens/Philip.’ Now of course, up until this moment, I've done it letter perfect. You know, I've done all of it, said all the lines as Laurens/Philip. It was just this one moment where I was just like, sometimes you check out, sometimes you're like, you get to a spot on the stage. You're like, ‘Okay, I have a moment to relax’ and then you relax, you're on autopilot. By the time I realized who I was, I missed perhaps the most important cue in “My shot,” which was ‘let's get this guy in front of a crowd,’ which cues light change, turntable move, a set change, 14 dancers, a lift, the orchestra, the whole theater spins on it with a drone. Like there's like a million, there's like a million things that are all dependent on that one line. And I'm standing there thinking, ‘Oh, Oke is there’ and then I was like, and so I sent it late, but then the orchestra came in, it was definitely a thing. However, I, I pay attention to details. And they knew that at Hamilton and when you are detail oriented, and you make a mistake, you do not get in trouble for the mistake. So I literally like came backstage and they didn't even say anything to me. They were just like, they just kind of like looked at me because it's like, you know, there are people who make mistakes all the time. And then there are people who make mistakes because like we're human and you're used to doing something and, and they, it’s a human art form, they you know, they expect something like that. Now, if I made that mistake again the next night, then yeah, I probably would have gotten an email.

Mulvaney: Everybody gets one yeah.

Chappelle: If you make it, even if different, a different mistake the next night, then it's fine. But if you make a make a… that's a big mistake.

Leitten: When I go through resumes and credit sheets is I just kind of skip down to the end first and see what everyone's special skills are… including Dylan, I need to know everyone's special skills that they put on their on their resume.

Chappelle: This is actually so good to hear. Because I was under the impression nobody ever looked at those.

Leitten: First thing. I just love to see people's character because half the time I'm working with people that I connect with rather than they were the best on paper.

Thomas: I mean, I can ride a bike and rollerblade and I have sports, all types of sports on my special skills.

Chappelle: Woo-hoo. I love that ride a … that you lead with ride a bike

Thomas: and not just a stationary Peloton bike, I mean, like an actual moving bike.

Chappelle: But she does need training wheels.

Thomas: I don't really I don't really have any other special skills. I feel like, I'm getting trained in Gyrotonic maybe that could be a special skill.

Mulvaney: That is a special skill for sure.

Chappelle: What is that?

Thomas: It's kind of like, it's a form of physical therapy on a machine with assisted weights. It's kind of like Pilates. But it's its own special thing. I'm still in I'm in like phase three out of five right now. Just to become a level one. But oh, yeah, it's a whole ordeal and it makes sense.

Chappelle: You got to work on something in these in these times.

Thomas: Yeah.

Chappelle: So good for you. I always curtailed my special skills to whatever show I was going in for, so like when I was auditioning for Mamma Mia!, I knew that the big feature in Mamma Mia!, was that you had to do 10 Russian split leaps in a row. So that was my, my special skill for like a year because I was like, every time I go on for Mamma Mia!, I need them to know that I can do 10 you know, Russian split leaps in a row. And then you know, when you go into the audition, obviously, you have to be able to do it, which I could. But then after I left the show, I changed my special, I added to my special skills that I do drunk bagpipe playing, because that's what my character in Mamma Mia! did. We had, they gave me bagpipes, and they're like, ‘would you like lessons?’ Like after I've already booked the show. They're like, ‘would you like us to schedule lessons for you to learn how to play the bagpipe?’ And I'm like, ‘Yeah, I have no idea how to operate this instrument.’ And so the lesson consisted of them just generally instructing me on how to play a bagpipe. Not how to play a song because all I have to do is just, it's like a sight gag where you like, yeah, you pull the bag down with your with your arm and the little whatever, whatever those things are the tentacles deflate, and it makes a noise.

Leitten: Dylan, I know you have some really special skills.

Mulvaney: I had spelunking on there for a while because I was like really into spelunking, which is cave diving, as a gay 16 year old. Lassoing, because I was in Oklahoma, and then after a few years I was like ‘What other show?...’ and then now as a non-binary person I’m like do they need a they lassoing on stage? I don’t know, I took that off. Now I just have LOVES in all capitals animals and yoga instructor.

Chappelle: But I would say that loves animals is a severe understatement for you.

Mulvaney: It’s definitely the gimmick and that’s why I capitalize the loves.

Chappelle: I think you should change it to fixated in all caps.

Mulvaney: I actually asked, during Book of Mormon, I asked the stage manager if I could have two possums back there because the possum keeper was coming to the show that night and didn’t have someone to watch the possums. So, the stage manager said no, but I asked.

Chappelle: Surprise.

Thomas: Good on them though, good on them.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: Andrew, can I ask you, when you auditioned, were you auditioning for Lin-Manuel, or if not, when you started working with him, or even Daveed Diggs, what was that experience like, having conversations with them in between performances. What are they like?

Chappelle: I did not audition for Lin. I auditioned for Tommy, Lac and Andy. But I obviously was a fan of Lin’s work for In the Heights I did it for Showcase. Again, Chris Jackson was kind of a blue print for me because he was a light-skinned African American male in Musical Theatre who worked. And so you sort of look for these guide posts. So it was actually an amazing moment to meet Chris. I booked the show and we were working in tech, mind you I’ve been working the show for four weeks, we had introduced ourselves but until we sat down… and he’s the one who actually was talking to me about his personal struggle. He was like ‘George Washington owned slaves, I’m a Black slave owner’ and hearing him kinda of unpack that really zoomed in, like the perspective that was needed to do the show. And hearing how he navigated it and it was a little bit out of body because I saw him perform in In the Heights so much. You have to realize that Daveed was unknown when Hamilton happened. I did my due diligence obviously when I booked the show, so I looked him up online and I looked at his music videos, which I thought were really cool, with his band Clipping. But Daveed shot up because of Hamilton. So Daveed, honestly, hasn’t changed, he is the coolest, chillest guy. He, uh, Leslie, I call him a prince. He’s just like a prince. Just the kindest, warmest man. And again, like I got out to LA and I told him what the situation was and he found a space for me. So he’s, he’s been amazing.

Mulvaney: What’s a little networking tip, just for kids in college?

Chappelle: The tip is don’t think of it as networking. It isn’t. It’s just, I’m not friends with everybody, I’m not close with everybody. It’s, bond with who you bond with and if those people are in a position to help you they will help you. It’s impossible, to be like ‘yes, I’m going to go to this party and I’m going to meet this person and then I’m gonna ask them if they can give me a role in this thing..’ It’s like, how on Earth would you strategize that.

Leitten: What’s one final piece of advice that you have for someone whose finishing up their college career or is just starting out to show them that, you know, it’s possible?

Chappelle: Oh my god, I don’t know! I feel so bad right now for the kids, how do they do it?

Thomas: I think, kind of like Andrew was saying, there were so few Musical Theatre programs and now there are now many. And like, I’m sure that all of them, in some way, you can get something out of them. Because being an artist, you are vulnerable and open in those auditions, in those spaces where you’re kind of like, your other side of you is like ‘shutdown, shutdown, shutdown.’ You kind of just go with the opposite of that and just open up and kind of take the leap of faith and make the best out of whatever situation you’re in: audition, program, class. And just be authentically you and not like trying to please someone else or trying to take that note even sometimes, then you will be a successful artist and I would dare to say a successful person in life.

Chappelle: The main one I think is to celebrate your successes. I think so often, we’re so fixated on the next thing, the next thing, the next thing. And we forget to, well Aubrey would call it a yes moment. But you want to be able to feel that tremendous feeling of accomplishment as you continue to progress and achieve greater heights because, you know, the beautiful thing about being an actor is that we don’t actually have a lot of control over the jobs that we book. All we can do is like keep putting out name in the hat, hoping it gets picked, do the best that we can. And so like I say, when the stars do align for something to happen for you, it should be celebrated. It’s kind of like your message to the world, your message to the universe, that’s saying ‘thank you’ and ‘yes, more of this.’

Leitten: Lots of celebrations, lots of yes moments.

Mulvaney: I can’t wait to see both of you go do amazing things, you already have. So thank you for being amazing people and being with us today!

Leitten: Thank you for sharing your stories.

Chappelle: Thank you for having us! This was really fun.

Thomas: Yes. It was awesome.

Leitten: Thank you both, so much.

[Hip Hop Music]

Mulvaney: My heart is so happy. I’m so glad we talked with them. It was so nice to connect with other Musical Theatre people, it’s been a little while for me since I’ve gotten to do that.

Leitten: Yeah cuz you’ve been off stage for over a year now?

Mulvaney: Everyone has. But what I’m so happy about them doing is that they have found other avenues during this last year to find success and make themselves happy. Andrew now on “Blindspotting” on Starz, I cannot wait to watch that. And he lives in LA, so I’m gonna make him go hiking with me.

Leitten: We can all go hiking together.

Mulvaney: Yeah! And then Raven, is gonna be opening up Hamilton at the [Hollyword] Pantages [Theatre] and me and you will be sitting front row.

Leitten: Front row!

Mulvaney: Well back to the budgeting conversation, I don’t know if we can afford those tickets!

Leitten: I think we can. I’ll find some money in our show budget.

Mulvaney: We’ll find a way.

Leitten: I’m definitely excited to see Raven in Hamilton. I will be honest, I have not seen Hamilton live, I’ve seen it on Disney+.

Mulvaney: Ok well that’s something. What was it like to watch a musical virtually for you?

Leitten: It was great. I was in my friend’s backyard. We watched it on the Fourth of July and there were fireworks going off everywhere.

Mulvaney: Ok that’s very different. I got to see it twice. Actually I saw Andrew in it with my parents on Broadway and that was so great. He made that happen for us and I cannot wait to see it again. It’s like I’ve been listening to the album just waiting to be in that theater again.

Leitten: I love his story of how he found his voice and being confident and how that changed the way his career went. Like once he was happy with who he was and confident with who he was the roles started coming. And I think that’s just a message to everyone who is listening that, you do need to be yourself and be real and be happy and other people will pick up on that.

Mulvaney: Casting directors and producers, they can tell when you walk in a room and if your being your authentic self. Sure you can put on a character, but at the end of the day you have to be ok walking out of that room and loving yourself and who you are. And I think Andrew and Raven are both total examples of that.

Leitten: And again, you, me and Andrew front row watching Raven perform in Hamilton in Los Angeles, sometime in the next year. Fingers crossed.

Mulvaney: Fingers crossed.

[Mulvaney sings “School, Stage & Screen]

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: Oh my gosh. On next week’s episode we are talking with Diana Maria Riva from “Dead to Me” on Netflix!

Diana Maria Riva: [Interview excerpt] My most recent production is a Netflix series called “Dead to Me” with Christina Applegate, Linda Cardellini, James Marsden and I play Detective Ana Perez. And we are about to embark on season 3, we are tentatively scheduled to start filming in May.

Leitten: If you want to know what Andrew and Raven are up to, then their Instagram handles are in our show notes.

Mulvaney: Speaking of social media. It is time for you to pull out your phone and look up SchoolStageScreen on Instagram and Facebook. That is no spaces, SchoolStageScreen. And on Twitter our handle is SchoolStagePod, no spaces.

Leitten: And you can see exclusive clips that don’t make it into the podcast on YouTube by visiting, the College-Conservatory of Music University of Cincinnati’s YouTube page. Thanks for listening! We’ll see you next week!

Mulvaney: See you next week, everyone!

Leitten: Our show is produced by Robin Hopkins and edited by Blake Hawk. Our associate producer is Shannon St. George and our assistant editor is Matt Harris. Our music is composed by Ryan Fine, check out his link in the show notes. A big thanks to Kevin Burke, Becky Butts, Stanley Romanstein, Mikki Graff, Curt Whitacre and Melissa Neeley-Nicolini. Our sponsor is the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. This has been a Hyperion XIII production.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music]

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen! 

[Leitten and Dylan laugh]

Hyperion XIII production.

To learn more about the UC College-Conservatory of Music, visit

Andrew on Instagram @achapphawk

Raven on Instagram @ravenmichellethomas

Click here to see Andrew on Escape at Dannemora - Part 2 & 5

Click here to see Andrew on The Tick - Blood and Cake

Learn more about CCM Acting Professor Richard Hess

Learn more about CCM Associate Professor and the Joseph Weinberger Chair of Acting for the Lyric Stage in Musical Theater and Opera Vincent DeGeorge

Instagram: @schoolstagescreen

Facebook: @schoolstagescreen

Twitter: @schoolstagepod

Brian on Instagram: @bleittz_delightz

Dylan on Instagram: @dylanmulvaney | TikTok: @dylanjamesmulvaney

Edited by Blake Hawk, Throughline Media

Song by Ryan Fine (BFA Commercial Music Production, '17)

Show art by Graff Designs

Video link:

CCM alums Brian J Leitten (BFA E-Media, '02) and Dylan Mulvaney (BFA Musical Theatre, '19) give you a sneak peek at Episode 2 of the new "School, Stage & Screen" podcast, featuring "Hamilton" alums Andrew Chappelle (BFA Musical Theatre, ’09) and Raven Thomas (BFA Musical Theatre, ’16). In this clip, the Broadway stars share lessons they learned from working in the performing arts after college! Listen to the full episode on Monday, April 12.

Episode 1: "New G., O.G." (April 5, 2021)

CCM alums Brian J Leitten (BFA E-Media, '02) and Dylan Mulvaney (BFA Musical Theatre, '19) give you a sneak peek at Episode 2 of the new "School, Stage & Screen" podcast, featuring "Hamilton" alums Andrew Chappelle (BFA Musical Theatre, ’09) and Raven Thomas (BFA Musical Theatre, ’16). In this clip, the Broadway stars share lessons they learned from working in the performing arts after college! Listen to the full episode on Monday, April 12.

Brian J. Leitten: Welcome to the first episode of “School, Stage & Screen.”

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Brian J. Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music begins]

Leitten: Hey, I'm Brian, a filmmaker and producer.

Dylan Mulvaney: And I'm Dylan, an actor and content creator.

Leitten: We're the hosts of "School, Stage & Screen," a podcast that explores the transformative...

Mulvaney: [Interrupting] Brian! You're so old school, I've got this. [Music speeds, intensifies] We are going to get all the tea from industry professionals about college, their wins, fails and everything in between. This season's guests are all loans from the University of Cincinnati's college Conservatory of Music, which is also where Brian and I went to school.

Leitten: I think the first thing we need to do is tell everybody a little bit about ourselves.

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen!


Mulvaney: Oh my gosh, okay, well, I'm a Capricorn, my pronouns are they/them/theirs, and I'm from San Diego, California. I've been dancing, singing, acting my whole entire life, which brought me to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music for Musical Theatre, where I got my BFA and I just graduated from there in 2019. And right after graduation, I joined The Book of Mormon, the musical national tour where I played Elder White up until the shutdown. And now since then, I've joined TikTok, and I've gone viral there and on Instagram making funny videos, and now I’m living in Los Angeles. How about you Brian? Give me a little bit of your like IMDb if you will.

Leitten: I am a Virgo, my pronouns are he/him/his and I also have a BFA from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, but it is an Electronic Media, which is now called the Media Production Division. I studied there for four years before moving to New York and getting my first job out of college in the music and talent department at MTV. I produced and directed MTV’s “Made” for four years documentary TV show on that channel. And I was also the director of production at VEVO for five years before going out on my own and creating my own production company. And I pretty much travel the world filming with Olympic athletes, superstar artists, just to tell their stories.

Mulvaney: I never know where Brian is. Sometimes I just don't even ask because it's just an, it's a new city every zoom that we're on.

Leitten: Three days ago, it was Daytona Beach, Florida; today it’s DC and tomorrow it’s Albany. And then who knows from there? Who knows? I live in LA, and hopefully I'll be back there soon. after some of this work goes away.

Mulvaney: Okay Brian, I think we need to let them all know like, how do we know each other?

Leitten: Well, we've known each other for two years, like this is very close to our two year anniversary.

Mulvaney: Where are my flowers? And we met at the University of Cincinnati.

Leitten: Who would have guessed?

Mulvaney: And so you were an Adjunct Professor working at the University correct? And what program do you work on there?

Leitten: For the last eight years, I've been an Adjunct Professor of Documentary Film and Production in the Media Production Division. And each year in the class, we produce a documentary. And in 2019, we decided to produce a documentary about the graduating seniors in the Musical Theatre Department.

Mulvaney: You were this man that walked in with the camera and a plan. And yeah, it was great. It was just like, ‘Oh, my God, who is this guy filming us.’ But of course, we're Musical Theatre majors. We loved the attention. So it was very welcomed. And then I went off on tour you were filming. And then about a year later, I would say you know pandemic hit, and I get an email from you saying, ‘Hey, I've got this idea.’

Leitten: Do you remember me?

Mulvaney: I did! Of course, duh. And you basically kind of pitched me “School, Stage & Screen.” And here we are a year after that. And so what was like how did “School, Stage & Screen” start in your mind? Like, what was the brainchild for this?

Leitten: I think it started from COVID not having anything to do and my brain goes a million miles a minute. And I think I was reading an article about someone that had graduated from CCM, the College-Conservatory of Music and no clue that they had gone to school there. And I started just kind of researching who else had gone to school there. There's some big time Broadway stars and big time directors, television producers, actors on Netflix. And I just thought to myself, these people's stories need to be told. And I think through the work that I do as a professor, I've really focused on educating the next generation mentoring them into their careers. And this was just another opportunity to show college students and recent grads that there is a path to success in the entertainment industry. And here's a chance to show you some of the people that were in your shoes 5, 10, 15, 25 years ago, and you can learn from them. And my first inclination was I need to have a co-host that is of a different generation than I am. There's a couple years between us…

Mulvaney: Just a few! And I will say like, there are so many paths to take. And I think that's what I'm so excited about this podcast is, you know, you get a degree in one certain major, but then you can do so many things with that degree. And I think that hopefully our listeners will also learn all these different roles in production, in TV and in theater, that you didn't even know necessarily existed. So there's a lot going on that you know, we don't even know about.

Leitten: Speaking of that, let's play a clip from our interview with CCM acting alum Nicole Callender.

[whoosh transition sound effect]

Nicole Callender: I am a stunt woman. I'm also an intimacy coordinator and I also act. I've doubled for Nia Long, I've doubled for Kerry Washington, Janelle Monáe, Raven Symone, Rori Godsey. Oh, Regina King.

[whoosh transition sound effect]

Leitten: I can't wait to hear about her doubling for Regina King on “The Leftovers.”

[hip hop music plays on record, record stops]

Mulvaney: Brian, like how did you get to CCM? What was that path?

Leitten: Initially, I wanted to go to college to be a marine biologist. And I got into the University of Miami, Florida. I took a trip down there, sat in some classes and was utterly bored. And looking at the other colleges that I'd applied to and got into and got scholarship money from, Cincinnati was next on that list. So I actually came to the University as an undeclared major. And the first girl I dated in college was in the Electronic Media Division. And she told me about classes in television and film and I'd never once thought that you could go to school for that. And I was hooked.

Mulvaney: Did you do like many home videos or anything before going to college?

Leitten: No, I was actually on the other side of the camera. I was in the musicals in high school, I was in the plays, I was in show choir, I was in regular choir…

Mulvaney: I’m still waiting to hear you sing by the way, so I know that day will come.

Leitten: Karaoke the next time I'm in LA, maybe.

Mulvaney: I'll see you there.

Leitten: And I think even at that point, I wasn't really supposed to be in front of the camera or performer at a higher level. I was the one that was kind of always directing everybody. And like, coming up with choreography that might be interesting. I was the one that learned the, well, I learned the facilities of the lighting for the musicals, and I would design the lighting and then pass that information on before I graduated. So even in high school, I was really kind of directing and producing behind the scenes without realizing that was what I was doing.

Mulvaney: And what you would end up doing for a lot more years.

Leitten: Yeah. And I love it. It's, it's… I love being behind the camera so much more than being in front of the camera. Well, how did you end up at CCM?

Mulvaney: Well, I’m from San Diego, so it's a little farther away than you were growing up. But I had a gal from my town going to CCM and she was a junior when I was going to be auditioning — and those auditions, for anyone listening, if you're auditioning for musical theatre or like acting it is like, these stage moms are vicious. I mean, they're going ‘oh, you know, what is your daughter singing and how good of a dancer is your son’ and really very intense, but I got in. And they, CCM does this basically like Welcome Weekend for the accepted students. And I thought that was so cool because there were no other schools really doing that. You got to go see their Senior Showcase. You got to sit down in rehearsals, you got to perform for the teachers and work with them one-on-one and you got to hang out with the kids. And it was just, you felt like a college kid, like you felt… You know, you're like a 17/18 year old like, ‘Oh my god, like this is so fun.’ And that got me hooked because I knew that I could be happy. There was a bunch of other, you know, kids, and especially a lot of like queer people. I you know, I wasn't used to being around that many gay people, which was so exciting. And I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is the — it felt like Disneyland.’ And so yeah, that's how I ended up at CCM and it was an easy pick for me honestly.

Leitten: I think we like again, we should throw another clip in from two other people that were in the same major as you were that graduated before you, Andrew Chapelle and Raven Thomas, and hear a little bit about their audition experience.

[whoosh sound effect]

Andrew Chappelle: I felt like the kind of the key to life was just like learning how to audition. When you are auditioning in the real world, it’s just you.

Raven Thomas: Man, like I was going out for everything, like Andrew was talking — like you just get your thing, what this is the first one so let me handle that and then let's go to the next one tomorrow.

[whoosh sound effect]

Mulvaney: Okay, I just adore those two and good news for you. That is our next episode — is with those two amazing human beings, so you do not have to wait long.

Leitten: No just a week. Raven Thomas and Andrew Chappelle talk about Hamilton, which they were both in and it's really intriguing conversation.

Mulvaney: Now, before we leave our gorgeous CCM chapters of our lives and into the real world, did you have like a specific class or production that had like, a lot of impact on you?

Leitten: I don't know, if there was one class that impacted me. I think it was just the camaraderie of the students, especially senior year. Everybody worked on everybody else's senior projects. I acted in a friend's senior project. I produced a friend senior project. I don't actually think I had a senior project because I was working on so many other senior projects.

Mulvaney: We're gonna have to be going through your like transcript now and probably seeing that big F on that senior project. But somehow you still got the degree. And you know, CCM, it's so funny going in, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, it's Disneyland.’ It's not always Disneyland. It is a very tough place. I mean, you have to want to do what you're doing, your major, so badly, because you're going to spend 12 hours a day doing it, but it's the people there that help you get through. And I think, of course, I learned so much. But I also just learned from watching other people or, or learning like those basic life lessons.

Leitten: Yeah. And it's tough CCM, almost all of the majors you have to audition to get in. And it's, it's one of those things where you hear people talk about look left, now look right, only one of the three of you is going to make it in this business.

Mulvaney: I wish I could like tell myself when I was at CCM, that to stop trying to prove myself because I already was accepted. I think that you get there and you're still trying to be like, ‘look how good I am, look how good I am.’ But you already got in. So just you know, enjoy working on material and not, you know, feeling like you have to constantly be like proving yourself, you know. It's good to want to be talented and want to find confidence, but you don't have to go into overdrive. I wish I knew that.

Leitten: Yeah. And I think I, I should have chosen a little more direction. You know, there's different tracks that you can study in the Media Production Division, and I kind of was all over the place. And I probably should have focused a little more. Halfway through my junior year, I was ready to go to the next big city. I went from little town Indiana, to Cincinnati, Ohio, and I was ready for New York or Los Angeles.

Mulvaney: Funny enough, I think the one class that I took at CCM that has to do with what I'm doing now — and I didn't realize it — was Comedy Web Series. And it was you'd write skits and perform them and edit them and it's like TikTok now! And I, looking back, you know, years have passed and since I took that class sophomore year, and it's like, oh my gosh, like I had no idea how much that would matter. So, like you said, you didn't necessarily know you were going to be a director or, you know, I didn't know I was going to be making these comedy videos. But here we are.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: So you've graduated a few years ago

Leitten: A couple years ago.

Mulvaney: What was that transition like? I know, we just said New York, was New York the answer?

Leitten: Yeah. New York was the answer. I was in the quarter system when I went to school at CCM, and my senior year, fall quarter, I interned at MTV for the full quarter. So I was living there and there were only certain classes that were offered in the fall that you had to take to graduate. So I had to come back and do an extra quarter in my fifth year of school before actually graduated. My job at MTV was mind-blowingly amazing. And six weeks into my internship, they gave me a full-time job. I remember them asking me if I wanted to be someone's assistant. And I was like, Of course I do. And then when they told me it was paid, I was like, of course I do! I think that year, I got everybody the best Christmas presents in my family ever because I was so excited to be like, ‘Look, I earned money. I did this on my own.’ And they told me I could keep the job if I dropped out of college. And I did not. My parents help pay for college, so I finished college. And luckily my internship coordinator who became a close friend and my first mentor in New York and who was the executive producer of our podcast…

Mulvaney: Hi, Robin!

Leitten: She looked out for me. And when the next job opportunity came up, she put my name in the hat. She got me an offer and within two or three months of graduating from college, I had a job offer in New York and, and I moved there.

Mulvaney: Brian, this is sounding like you didn't have any weird odd jobs or, you know, struggling artists moments, like please tell me that's not true. I guess I shouldn't wish the odd jobs on you but usually… did you not have one?

Leitten: I don't think I had odd jobs, I had like jobs. I, in college I worked at Barnes and Noble because I loved reading, I still do. I worked at Montgomery Cyclery and Fitness, which is one of the biggest bicycle shops in the country. I worked at the Gap…

Mulvaney: Okay, I will accept these. These are acceptable, but this is coming from someone, why I asked you this is because at one point right before I got Book of Mormon, I was, I had actually that morning it was I worked at starting at a 4:30 a.m. shift. I got hit by a car. And then I still went to work handing out deodorant wipes in Penn Station at 5 in the morning.

Leitten: That is quite an odd job.

Mulvaney: And I will tell you the reason I did that is because I refused to take like a job that was like regular hours. Like I only wanted to do like one offers, like I, like I wanted to just like do a day of handing this out. And I wanted to do a day of holding this sign and because I never wanted to get so invested in a side hustle that I forgot what I was in New York to do.

Leitten: I don't think I ever really had that odd job. I I worked at Max and Irma's for two or three months right before I left Cincinnati, and I was a horrible waiter. Horrible.

Mulvaney: But I think everyone should do it at some point just so they know. It is you need to treat your waiter treat everyone with respect

Leitten: Treat everyone with kindness.

Mulvaney: Yeah, and give them a nice tip.

Leitten: When I left my first job at MTV, just for some extra money, I did PA on a Fall Out Boy video. And at one point, all this colorful confetti was thrown up in the air and sprinkled around and you know, that fell through into the band performing and somehow the floor had gotten wet. And at the end of it, they're like, okay, cut. Let's do that again. And I'm a PA. So I'm doing all the grunt work. And they're like, ‘Okay, everyone, all the PA is come in, brush all the confetti into the middle and then pick it up and get back on the ladders and we're gonna throw it’ and sagging wet confetti. It was disgusting. And then at the end of the night, they needed one or two people to stay longer. And I had nothing to do and I was trying to meet more people to get more work. But then I got paid like eight hours of overtime. And it was a phenomenal paycheck for one day of crappy work. That's the oddest job I've ever had, I would say.

Mulvaney: And so would you consider MTV to be your big break?

Leitten: Definitely, definitely. I wasn't doing full on production when I started there. But over the course of a couple of jobs, I was able to like work my way into production. So I got to PA on a bunch of shows, I was an executive assistant to the producers of shows, I got to give notes on shows before they went on the air. A couple of my ideas became shows or became performances inside other shows. And towards the end of my first five years at MTV, I kind of shifted over to And I got to interview every single musician that came into MTV for an entire year. And it was a phenomenal experience of being around superstars and having to keep your cool. And also figuring out how to tell a story doing an interview, editing those into short bites that go on the internet. And that was kind of like my first foray into producing and from there, I jumped in and started working on “Made” and I for four years I produced that I went into the field and I shot full episodes on my own.

Mulvaney: I watched that as like an 11 year old I'm pretty sure.

Leitten: Yeah, probably.

 Mulvaney: Wasn't “Next” another show too? Like a dating show.

Leitten: Yeah, “Next” was a dating show on a bus. But I did not work on that show. But my friend did do the voiceover for that show.

Mulvaney: Okay, it all comes. Yep, it's six degrees.

Leitten: I want to throw it back to you. What was your first job out of college?

Mulvaney: My first job well, that was the passing out of deodorant. But I got very lucky. And my first audition in New York — We do a big showcase in Cincinnati and New York, but New York is for all the agents and managers and casting directors. And it went really well for me. I had my first audition was Book of Mormon, which was my dream show. And I actually think, Brian, that when we recorded that documentary in Cincinnati, the last interview you asked me ‘if you could be in any one show right now, what would it be?’ And I said Book of Mormon, because when I was 17 years old, I went into an open call for it. And I kept just getting callback over callback for callback…

Leitten: Before college, you auditioned for Book of Mormon?

Mulvaney: I was auditioning for it in Los Angeles. I wrote that I was 18 on the piece of paper. And then I got to the final, final, final and I had I put my 18th birthday It's my start date like date available. And I just messed up the tap dance so bad. And I was like totally kidding. They met they email me ‘Dylan, we love you. Can you just practice your tap a little bit?’ And that's, I ended up going to college because of that experience. Like if I had nailed that tap, I might have not gone to CCM and have that experience.


Well, you lied, you fibbed. You embellished, you faked it.

Mulvaney: I embellished and I did, I faked it till I made it, everyone.

[whoosh sound effect]

Mulvaney: And that is going to be a reoccurring segment on the podcast this season, when our guests faked it ‘til they made it.

Mulvaney: Anyway, I still knew the casting directors. They were excited for me to get to New York. It's my first audition. And I got the job after like a few weeks of living in New York, and I went on tour. I graduated in April, I was on the road in June. Wow. So I would consider that my big break his Book of Mormon It was so crazy to because I'm from San Diego, I got to make my debut in that San Diego Civic Center, which is the the theater that I grew up going to see all the shows that when I was young, I probably saw over 50 musicals there.

Leitten: Were your friends and family in the audience?

Mulvaney: For sure and I blacked out. I mean, I cannot remember a thing that entire weekend. But it was like so emotional because you go to school for something like musical theatre, and you're like, ‘Oh my gosh, am I actually going to be able to use this degree like, can I do this?’ And to have that confirmation was like, just the, my favorite feeling in the world was taking that first bow. So that is something that I think I missed so badly during this this past year is that I just I want to have that connection with an audience again. I want to feel that that same energy happening.

Leitten: Performing in front of your friends and family on your opening night. That sounds like a pretty good moment.

[whoosh sound effect, clock ticking]

Mulvaney: [Sings] If I could turn back time. [Speaking] Okay, everyone, welcome to the first segment of turn back time.

Leitten: I want to know if you look back in time, what was your like biggest failure, whether it was in school or right after college?

Mulvaney: My turn back time, Brian, it was during Book of Mormon and like I said, I was on such a high all this. Well, I've did about 250 shows before we closed and I would say maybe around show 151, 180 you start to go on autopilot. And it was one I think we were in maybe, gosh, Memphis or somewhere in the towards the south or who knows. And I just didn't go over my lines at all. And the Book of Mormon especially the opening number is called “Hello.” And it is so quick. I mean, it's line, after line, after line. And so you have to be on top of it. And I just felt so confident ‘Look at me, Dylan. I've been in it for so long. I'm going to hit the autopilot button.’ So the first guy goes “Bonjour.” Then I go, “Hola.” And then the third one goes “Ni-hao.” And then I say “Me llamo Elder White.” So it went something Brian, could you actually, I know you're a singer. So you will help me out? Can you do? Bonjour? Then I'll go and then you say No-hao, ready?

Leitten: Yep [snaping to keep time] Bonjuor.

Mulvaney: [Indistinguishable groan]

Leitten: Ni-hao!

Mulvaney: And I didn’t, I forgot what I was supposed to say. It came out [indistinguishable sound] People could, like I messed, nobody else could sing because it was ridic.. like you, I just totally threw everyone. People were laughing. People were so confused. Like onstage, the cast is like, because you are you're part of that rhythm. And so I had such a learning lesson in that moment. It's like, always just go over your lyrics in your mind. Don't think you're too good to like, practice.

Leitten: I think after that story, every guest that comes on this show we need to do turn back time with.

Mulvaney: I agree. Can I hear your turn back time?

Leitten: I think we definitely have to call it the fact that about 30 minutes ago, I forgot to press record on this conversation.

Mulvaney: Oh, yes. I should have known what your turn back time was. And I will say I wasn't very frustrated with you. But we we did have a blip there.

Leitten: We did. But going back in my career. There's plenty of times where I've failed. And I think you have to learn from every moment and kind of keep those lessons close to your heart. I would say pretty early into my career at MTV when I was interviewing everyone that came through. I was doing an interview with Nelly Furtado, who I absolutely loved and probably was a little like starstruck. And I forgot to press the record button and didn't realize it till about 23 minutes into a 30-minute interview. And I just hit the record button and didn't say a thing. And as we got to like the manager saying ‘we don't have any more time we got to get going.’ I just threw in there, ‘Oh, yeah, we have a couple more questions. I know she's coming back to TRL next Tuesday, maybe we could do five more minutes then?’ And they're like, ‘Of course we can.’ I was like, great. I will never tell anyone what happened. But I did have to tell my producer afterwards. I was like, ‘Oh, my God. I don't know how to tell you this. But I forgot to press record.’

Mulvaney: Everyone gets one. And you have now had two, but that’s okay.

Leitten: But it didn't happen since then. Until 30 minutes ago.

Mulvaney: Wow. Well, that's a that's a really good full circle moment, actually.

Leitten: Yeah. And what I did, once that happened, I had my desk, I had a television, and I put a post it note that said, ‘always press record,’ and I put it on the television. And for those first five years at MTV, every time I messed up, I would put a post it note on the television, and eventually I couldn't watch the television anymore, because there was all my mistakes. But it was a constant reminder to like, make sure I was working the right way.

Mulvaney: I think my post it note would be, ‘sing the right lyrics, please.’

Leitten: Don’t go on autopilot.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: So both of us, it seems like we've been on the road a lot. We've gotten a lot of places. Now, how do you feel like you keep your life balanced as someone in the arts?

Leitten: I don't think I have a balanced life, I'll be honest. My brain runs a million miles a minute. And if I'm not working on something, I'm trying to create something. In the last two years, I've tried to start writing scripted narrative content, and the ideas keep coming. And I can't keep up with myself. I do make a lot of time to go hiking, backpacking, camping, mountain biking. I moved to California to do that. And I grew up doing that. I'm an Eagle Scout and it's a part of me. I have to be out in nature, even though I'm completely allergic to it. So I do spend a lot of time in the wilderness outdoors. I absolutely love it. And that's, that's probably the best way, by spending time with friends try not to talk about work. But as a freelancer, when you're running your own business, you're on 24/7 365.

Mulvaney: Was that scary to like, decide to leave these huge companies like MTV, VEVO… and be like, ‘Oh, no, I'm going to create my own production company.’ How did you decide to do that?

Leitten: It's incredibly difficult. Because these other companies I was, I was staff, I had a salary, I had benefits, I had vacation. And when you go freelance, you're giving up that security. You don't know who your next client is, you don't know what your next project is. And it's something that if I tried to do it right out of college, it would have been extremely difficult. The fact that I did it later in my career, I've had 10-15 years of contacts, who I've worked with and who I can, you know, tell I need work or reach out to and show my reel and say, ‘do you have any work for me?’ But if I had to do that early on my career would have been a difficult decision. But it's, it's difficult. You're the CFO, you're the COO, you're the CEO, you're the creative director, I did my own website, I do my own bookkeeping. You have to wear a lot of hats.

Mulvaney: I know. And I think actually, even the younger generation, including myself is now figuring out how to do that not because we wanted to, but we kind of just have to during this time, because I mean, I I liked being told what to do. I liked being on a stage and somebody saying stand here, stand there. And now there's nobody to do that. So I have to do that for myself and I, in a way this past year I think has given artists a lot of power and ownership over what they are producing and what they're putting out there. Like it's, it's kind of fun. I'm still young, I'm like, ‘Oh yeah, I'm my own CEO. I'm my own you know bookkeeper...’ No, I'm not my own bookkeeper. I still need all the help and that's my favorite part about this podcast is because we get to learn you know people's different tips and tricks because I, neither of us probably lived the most balanced life, but a lot of these people do live very, you know, full lives with kids and dogs and you know, all the things that as an artist you, you know, hope to maybe have one day and it's obtainable. You can have it too.

Leitten: You can! Someday I will, but not anytime soon. I'm too busy.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: You know what, I want to know something. You were touring with the Book of Mormon for close to a year and there's got to be some secrets that you can spill. I want to know what the 411 is on touring nationally.

Mulvaney: Okay, you don't get a day off. You're traveling on Mondays. You, you can see everybody's faces in the audience. So you know if you're yawning or you're taking a nap like, we can see you. You know, people just running around naked backstage and it's like a, you are literally in a family. It is a group of 50 people and you're with them every second of the day because you don't have your family with you. You're, you know you aren't in one city, with your own apartment, you're going from hotel to hotel. So it's, it's exhausting in that way, but it was the most fun ever, ever, ever.

Leitten: Did you have a stage parent? Like who's in charge of you? Because I can't imagine they're letting you go on your own?

Mulvaney: Well, they [laughs] nobody should’ve let me go, I hope, at no age should I ever be left to go anywhere on my own. We have a company manager, this is kind of interesting, actually. So there's a company manager and an assistant company manager, they are like your parents, basically, they print out your flight tickets, they book your rental cars, but they also throw the parties. And so they're the ones that you know, on Thanksgiving, you've got this giant, you know, we're in Mexico City at the palm restaurant. And you know, there's they got turkey and everything. So there are those people too. And there's so that's what's interesting is, you know, you see a bunch of people on stage, but there is a probably the exact amount, if not more of those people working backstage as well.

Leitten: That's incredible.

Mulvaney: Any film secrets for us?

Leitten: Oh, be careful what you say. And watch the kind of contracts you sign if you get into reality television, because what you say can be manipulated. It can be taken out of context, it can be rearranged. Editing. IT can be editing. And a lot of that is in contracts, like make sure you got a good lawyer, make sure you read through your contracts. There are contracts that I have marked up, because as the producer, interviewing and doing the questions, they want the right to adjust when I'm saying and I don't want that to happen. So I'll go and I'll redline it and say, ‘you can use my voice but not in a negative or untrue portrayal of what was said,’ like a good editor can make the producer be the be the bad guy.

Mulvaney: You can get into a lot of gray areas.

Leitten: So have a good lawyer, because you never know the kind of craziness that goes into a contract.

[Hip Hop music]

Leitten: I think this podcast is born out of knowledge about growing about learning. And I want to know if you have anyone in your life that helps you that mentors you that, you know, looks to take you to the next level when you're ready.

Mulvaney: Actually mine, I'll bring it back to CCM. There's a faculty member named Katie Johannigman, she joined the faculty relatively young, she had, she was a graduate of the school a few years before I was and they brought her on as an adjunct. And because she was young and fun, and had all these new ideas, I think we really clicked and she saw something in me that I didn't know if other people saw, especially, you know, celebrating my femininity, and my quirkiness and all those things that I was scared of showing, because you just hear in theatre, you know, ‘oh, you need to be able to play straight’ or ‘you need to be the manly man.’ I think she celebrated those things that now I realize those are my powers. So when I get, you know, most of these roles that I'm auditioning for today are, you know, feminine, or they're non-binary. And that is so exciting. And I, I wish that I had more of that energy at school. But how about you any mentors that you're still in contact with right now?

Leitten: I've actually been really lucky. My parents like right off the bat, great mentors in the professional world. Robin Hopkins, executive producer of this show, was my internship coordinator turned, you know, very close friend. She was the one who'd been living in New York for 10 years before I got there, who knew how to do everything, would tell me exactly how to do it. And then I'd go do it my own way, and come back and say, ‘Oh, you were right, Robin, I should have done it your way.’ So she was a big influence on my first five years in New York City. And then from a work perspective, my first couple of bosses were really great about taking me to the next level when I was ready. And most recently, when I was at VEVO, I had a really great boss in Scott Rich, who saw something a little more than just being a producer and director and helped me be able to be a better people manager and to look at like, what is that next step in my career? And how, you know, how do I prepare for it? I've been really lucky when it comes to mentors. And in that same sense, I have turned it around and become a mentor, right? Like I've had eight years of college students, some I still talk to some I still work with, some have become incredibly close friends. And you know, it's like I have all the experience I want to share it. I want to share the mistakes I've made so that other people don't have to make them.

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: I'm excited for everyone listening to tune in to these incredible interviews that we have coming your way

Leitten: We have an amazing lineup. I will say I am just as excited as you are to share these interviews with our audience.

Mulvaney: If there is a job that you would consider in the entertainment industry, we are going to cover it.

Leitten: What do we have? We have Broadway stars…

Mulvaney: We have producers of television, we have music directors, we have intimacy coordinators, stunt coordinators,…

Leitten: Hair and make-up!

Mulvaney: Hair and make-up

Leitten: Some made amazing hair and make-up stories from a legend in the industry.

Mulvaney: It has broadened my mind as far as all the possibilities there are, and a lot of pivots along the way. So you know, these people didn't always just start out as one thing and they did it you know, six years later. They went from A to B to C to D…

Leitten: There's a path.

Mulvaney: Maybe not always a forward path, but it's, it's, it's an all over the place kind of path.

Leitten: So make sure you stick around every week. Every Monday we're gonna have a new episode, and enjoy “School, Stage & Screen.”

Mulvaney: See you next time!

[Mulvaney sings “School, Stage & Screen]

[Hip Hop music]

Mulvaney: On next week's episode, we are taking a deep dive into all things Broadway with an original cast member from Hamilton, Andrew Chapelle, and a current LA cast member of Hamilton Raven Thomas, and we're going to cover all things musical theatre.

[whoosh sound effect]

Raven Thomas: I never had a dream of like being on Broadway. Like someone asked me that when I was being interviewed once like, did you have a dream of being on Broadway? And I don't know exactly what my dream was. I just know that I wanted to perform

Andrew Chappelle: Hamilton is a little bit more forgiving and loosey-goosey when it comes to like, ‘oh, how do you feel you should do this?’ And slowly they kind of rein you in to their vision but the bones of it were you felt like we're your own.

Leitten: Thank you so much for listening. To learn more about “School, Stage & Screen,” check out all the links in our show notes. If you want to know more about the College-Conservatory of Music, visit Make sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook @schoolstagescreen — one word — and Twitter @schoolstagepod. Our show is produced by Robin Hopkins and edited by Blake Hawk. Our associate producer is Shannon St. George and our assistant editor is Matt Harris. Our music is composed by Ryan Fine, make sure to check out his link in the show notes. A big thanks to Kevin Burke, Becky Butts, Stanley Romanstein, Curt Whitacre and Melissa Neeley-Nicolini. Our sponsor is the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music. This has been a Hyperion XIII production.

[Mic taps, "1, 2, 3, 4" countdown]

[Orchestral music]

Leitten: I'd like to thank my classmates, my professors and my mentors. And now, I'm ready for the real world!

[Orchestral music stops. Record scratch. Hip-Hop music]

Mulvaney: [Sings] School, Stage & Screen! 

[Leitten and Dylan laugh]

Video link:

CCM alums Brian J Leitten (BFA E-Media, '02) and Dylan Mulvaney (BFA Musical Theatre, '19) introduce themselves and give you a sneak peek at Episode 1 of the new "School, Stage & Screen" podcast. Listen to the full episode on Monday, April 5!

Hyperion XIII production.

For more about UC's College-Conservatory of Music, visit

Instagram: @schoolstagescreen

Facebook: @schoolstagescreen

Twitter: @schoolstagepod

Brian on Instagram: @bleittz_delightz

Dylan on Instagram: @dylanmulvaney | TikTok: @dylanjamesmulvaney

Edited by Blake Hawk, Throughline Media

Song by Ryan Fine (BFA Commercial Music Production, '17)

Show art by Graff Designs

"School, Stage & Screen" Upcoming Episodes

  • Ep. 4: Nicole Callender (MFA Theatre Performance, ’92), Actress, Stunt woman and Intimacy Coordinator for Power Book II: Ghost on Starz | April 26
  • Ep. 5: Brad Look (MFA Make-Up & Wig Design, ’88), Emmy-award winning special effects and make-up artist | May 3
  • Ep. 6: Jordan Glickson (BFA E-Media, ‘02), Vice President of Music and Talent at Vevo | May 10
  • Ep. 7: Stanley E. Romanstein (MM Choral Conducting, ’80; PhD Musicology, ’90), Dean of CCM | May 17
  • Ep. 8: Randa Minkarah (BM Broadcasting, ’82), Co-Founder of Resonance AI | May 24
  • Ep. 9: TBA | May 31
  • Ep. 10: Andrea Stilgenbauer (BFA E-Media, 02), Producer of Californication, Kidding and The Affair on Showtime | June 7
  • Ep. 11: Brian Newman (Jazz Studies, att. ’99-’03), Jazz Musician and Bandleader/Arranger for Lady Gaga's Vegas Residency “Jazz & Piano Show” | June 14
A headshot of Brian J. Leitten

Brian J. Leitten is an Emmy award-winning director and producer specializing in music and documentary film. His production company, Hyperion XIII, has spent the last decade at the forefront of filming expedition races and wilderness content.  In 2012 Brian became the Director of Production at Vevo, developing new programs for artists to showcase their personalities. Prior to Vevo he produced and directed MTV’s “Made”, which gave high school students the opportunity to realize their dreams through hard work, dedication and a lot of dancing.

In 2012, Brian founded the Emmy-nominated Production Master Class at the University of Cincinnati and has been teaching documentary studies to the next generation of storytellers. In 2014 the PMC took home the top honors at the Broadcast Education Association Awards and received an Emmy nomination in June 2015. In 2017, their documentary film, Expedition Alaska, won Best Northwest Feature at the Spokane International Film Festival and the President’s Award at the DocUtah International Documentary Film Festival. For his dedication to the ever-changing classroom experience, Brian received the prestigious “Outstanding Young Alumni Award” from the University of Cincinnati in 2014 and the “Outstanding Alumni Award” from the Electronic Media Division in 2019. 

A headshot of Dylan Mulvaney

Dylan Mulvaney (they/them) is a non-binary actor and content creator living in Southern California. After graduating in 2019 from the BFA Musical Theatre program at CCM, they joined The Book of Mormon National Tour playing Elder White for nine months, until COVID-19 struck. Other theatre credits: The Old Globe, Cygnet Theatre, Joe’s Pub, Moonlight Stage and Diversionary Theatre, where they won the Stage Scene LA award for Best Actor in BARE: a Pop Opera. They have spent the past eight years leading the musical Living Over the Rainbow in various workshops including NYC, LA, and Dallas, with hopes to play the show to an audience in late 2021. In pandemic times, Dylan joined TikTok and has had multiple viral videos, soon to hit 50 million views. They are currently writing, producing, and developing their own content in Los Angeles. They hope to spread joy and some laughter in 2021 and beyond.

A headshot of Robin Hopkins

Robin Hopkins is an award-winning actor, writer, producer, and podcast host. Her acting and writing credits include Boardwalk Empire, Louie, Hindsight, Mi America, VH1’s Big Morning Buzz Live and Divas, MTV’s Teen Mom Reunion Special and O Music Awards. Robin was the Executive Producer for the Amy Schumer podcast: 3 Girls, 1 Keith, and is currently the co-host of the popular People’s Choice award-winning podcast If These Ovaries Could Talk where she chats weekly with LGBTQ families, highlighting, normalizing, and lifting them up for all the world to see. She is also the co-author of the book "If These Ovaries Could Talk: The Things We've Learned About Making an LGBTQ Family." Learn more at and

A headshot of Blake Hawk

Blake Hawk is a screenwriter and editor, having worked since 2017 as a writer and script consultant for companies such as Boulderlight Pictures, Utopia and independent producers and directors. Blake first worked as the Lead Editor for SpinMedia, overseeing their collective brands including Vibe Magazine, Spin Magazine, Pure Volume, Celebuzz, and more. Going freelance in 2014, Blake has worked on projects for Nike, Pepsi, JCPenney, Beats by Dre, IvyPark/Parkwood Entertainment, Spotify, Dr. Oz, TVG Network, Fullscreen, Warner Brothers, Netflix, Interscope Records, as well as an award-winning campaign for Herbal Essences.

About Hyperion XXII Productions

Hyperion XIII is an award-winning television and film production company. Hyperion tells compelling stories focused on the outdoors, sports, music education and documentaries. The company has worked with MTV, Vevo, Facebook, Fox Sports Network, Outside Television, beIN Sports, Dr. Oz, Morgan Stanley, McDonald's and Clean & Clear. 

Learn more at

About University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music

Declared “one of this country’s leading conservatories” by the New York Times, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music is a preeminent institution for the performing and media arts. The school’s educational roots date back to 1867 and a solid, visionary instruction has been at its core since that time.

CCM offers nine degree types (BA, BM, BFA, MA, MM, MFA, AD, DMA, PhD) in nearly 120 possible majors. The synergy created by housing CCM within a comprehensive public university gives the college its unique character and defines its objective: to educate and inspire the whole artist and scholar for positions on the world’s stage.

CCM works to bring out the best in its students, faculty and staff by valuing their unique backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. CCM’s student population hails from 43 different US states and 32 different countries. The school’s roster of eminent faculty members regularly receives distinguished honors for creative and scholarly work, and its alumni have achieved notable success.

CCM is comprised of eight academic units, which span the spectrum of the performing and media arts:

  • Composition/Musicology/Theory,
  • Ensembles and Conducting (Choral Studies, Commercial Music Production, Jazz Studies, Orchestral Studies and Wind Studies),
  • General Studies,
  • Keyboard Studies (Harpsichord, Organ and Piano),
  • Media Production,
  • Music Education,
  • Performance Studies (Strings, Voice and Woodwinds/Brass/Percussion) and
  • Theatre Arts, Production and Arts Administration (Acting, Arts Administration, Dance, Musical Theatre, Opera and Theatre Design and Production).

CCM’s world-class facilities provide a highly creative and multidisciplinary artistic environment. In 2017, the college completed a $15-million renovation of its major performance spaces, ensuring that CCM’s facilities remain state-of-the-art.

CCM is an accredited institution of the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD) and the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) as well as a member of the University/ Resident Theatre Association (U/RTA). The University of Cincinnati and all regional campuses are also accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

CCM stands as the largest single source of performing arts presentations in the state of Ohio. The annual calendar boasts nearly 1,000 public events, ranging from solo recitals and master classes to fully-staged opera and musical theatre performances.

Visit us online at

Featured image at the top: "School, Stage & Screen" graphic. Design by Mikki Graff.