Entertainment and Creative Arts

Entertainment and creative arts industries have a vast reach on American culture and society, spanning a diverse range of career opportunities. This industry brings in alumni with backgrounds from a variety of different creative fields. From film & media production to theater and illustration, there are professionals who have drawn from their experiences at UChicago to make their mark on media, television, the silver screen, the stage, and beyond. Alumni will share their experiences about how they took advantage of their UChicago experiences and developed the skills they accrued from their education to ones they now use in the work force.

Roundtable Participants

Brian Ashby, AB'06

Filmmaker, Scrappers Film Group

Mr. Ashby is a documentary filmmaker and a principal of Scrappers Film Group, a Chicago-based production company. He graduated from the College in 2006 with a degree in Political Science. His college activities included WHPK and a concert-promotion RSO he founded. Spending four years on his first film, Scrappers (2010), established his commitment to making socially engaged and formally exploratory work. In These Times called the film "a moving portrait of the precariousness of life and work at the bottom of the American economy, in one of the country's wealthiest cities." He recently co-directed the web series Central Standard: On Education, examining disparities in public education in Chicagoland and is currently co-producing and co-editing The Area, which follows the displacement of a Chicago neighborhood by an intermodal freight yard. Scrapper Film Group, founded 2013, works in the fields of feature films, web journalism, branded content, and nonprofit communications. (Table 30)

Andrew Cutler, AB'12

Instructor/Associate Artistic Director, Black Box Acting/First Floor Theater

Mr. Cutler graduated from the College in 2012. While still at the College, he co-founded First Floor Theater, where he still serves as Associate Artistic Director. He also attended the Academy at Black Box, and subsequently was hired as an Instructor there, where he still teaches in both the Studio and the Academy. As an actor, he has appeared onstage at Actors Theatre of Louisville, A Red Orchid Theatre, The Artistic Home, many productions with First Floor Theater, and several other theaters in Chicago. (Table 31)

Matthew Dean, AB'00

Director of Operations, Rockefeller Chapel

Mr. Dean graduated from the College in 2000 and continued on to graduate studies in Art History. As a student arts leader, he was a founding member of Golosa, section leader in Motet Choir and Rockefeller Chapel Choir, and performed with Ransom Notes and University Theater, while holding down command central for the oft-successful Shoreland Scav Hunt team. After working in Chicago and in Europe for a travel company and almost a decade of fundraising for UChicago, Mr. Dean took up the charge of managing the Rockefeller and Bond Chapel facilities, weddings, and visitor experience. A professional tenor, he enjoys a second career in demand as a soloist in oratorios, cantatas, and period vocal music projects, including The Newberry Consort and Minnesota treasure The Rose Ensemble. He is married to alumna Katie; their two children are budding musician-scientists in suburban Oak Park. (Table 34)

Dorothea Duenow, AB'99

Recording Artist

Ms. Emery graduated from the College in 1999 with a degree in English Literature. As a student, she was heavily involved with University Theater and performed in various musical groups. After graduating, she continued writing, acting, and performing and then formed her first band, DUENOW, signed to United For Opportunity records. ["If You Could Only See What They Are Doing to You" Sound Records, 2003, and "The Draft LP" UFO, 2006.] In 2015, she began her current musical project, MUSE WRANGLER, and is currently touring in support of her latest album, "Songs of Spring and Regeneration." She continues to act and teach dance and offers creative coaching to young artists and performers through The Heron Project, an online collective of artists from all genres encouraging the pursuit of creative vision and the artistic lifestyle. (Table 32)

Lydia Fu, SB'03, Bachelor of Media Arts'09 (ECUAD)

Illustrator and Motion Designer, Lydia Fu // Art and Design

After receiving her degree in Chemistry, Ms. Fu stayed on at the College to complete a year of research which culminated in a paper published in Nature. She went on to study animation at Emily Carr University of Art and Design and continued to work as a freelance illustrator and motion designer on independent films and publications while teaching at various non-profit organizations for youth and the arts. She has been featured in American Illustration and worked with VICE media, Chicago Public Library Foundation, BITCH media, FAAIM, DCASE (Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events), and Full Spectrum Features. She is currently collaborating as a Marketing Communications Specialist with bswift, a healthcare tech startup recently purchased by Aetna. She continues to be an active interdisciplinary professional in the local arts and culture community and has curated and exhibited in shows and festivals internationally. (Table 33)

Sarra Jahedi, AB'09

Painter, Poet, Filmmaker, Comedian, Music-Maker, Myself

Ms. Jahedi is a painter, poet, filmmaker, comedian, and music-maker from Chicago. Her artwork has been shown at The Old Town Art Center, Hyde Park Art Center, Office Of The City Treasurer, and Dark Matter Coffee. She has performed stand-up at Zanies, and musical performances with her band Super Sarra at The Promontory. She co-wrote, co-directed, and starred in HBO GO's series 'Single Long' based partly on her life as a stand-up in Chicago. Ms. Jahedi graduated from the College in 2009 with a degree in Biology. (Table 34)

Edmund O'Brien, AB'93

Teaching Artist, Storycatchers Theatre/Second City Training Center

Mr. O'Brien graduated from the College in 1993 with a degree in History and a year spent at UCL in London. He wrote sketches and improvised with Off-Off Campus. He performed weekly for nine years with his troupe Sheila at Jimmy's and on WHPK. Mr. O'Brien wrote twisted trivia for Jellyvision's "You Don't Know Jack" before spending seven years in LA writing for various TV shows, such as Streets Smarts and MTV's Undressed. He also taught improv and performed in ACME Comedy Theatre's improv and sketch companies. He returned to Chicago and began teaching improv, writing and songwriting at The Second City. He currently improvises with his wife and fellow OOC alumna, Dana, in Sheila's Sister and spends most of his working hours with Storycatchers Theatre, where he helps incarcerated and recently paroled youth write and perform original musicals inspired by personal stories. (Table 30)

Linara Washington, AB'99, AB'99

Actor, Poder Entertainment, Inc.

Ms. Washington graduated from the College in 1999 with a degree in English. She has had the pleasure of working at a number of Chicago's most acclaimed theaters and has appeared in myriad commercials nationally and internationally. A supporting role as Keisha, the cute and sassy receptionist, in Barbershop 2 motivated her move to LA where she has since enjoyed roles on Grey's Anatomy, Madam Secretary, Masters Of Sex and NCIS. She has also appeared in movies alongside some of Hollywood's biggest names: Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Will Ferrell and Queen Latifah, to name a few. She currently resides in Los Angeles, where she continues to act and produce films with her husband, director/writer/editor Andrew P. Jones. Together they have a four year old daughter, and a menagerie of four-legged fur children. (Table 32)

Lucas Wiesendanger, AB'07, MA Sociology 2010 (Yale)

Vice President, Red Wagon Entertainment

Mr. Wiesendanger graduated from the College in 2007 with a degree in Sociology. While at the College, he was part of the circus group Le Vorris and Vox and volunteered with Doc Films. He entered a PhD program in Sociology at Yale, but left after a few years to move to Hollywood. After a several years stint at the Gersh agency, he moved to Red Wagon Entertainment where he is now Vice President under producers Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher. His focus is on developing and producing wide-release feature films. (Table 33)