WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2015
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RJ Mitte co-starred on the Emmy-winning AMC drama, Breaking Bad, as the son of the cancer-stricken high school science teacher turned drug manufacturer played by Bryan Cranston. Just as his character on the show, Walter White, Jr., has cerebral palsy so does Mitte, although Mitte’s is a milder form of the disability. In 2014, Mitte will begin a recurring role on the Peabody Award-winning ABC Family drama, Switched at Birth, playing Campbell, a pre-med college student paralyzed by a snowboarding accident who works at the free clinic. On the big screen, Mitte played Tim in the fantasy thriller feature film House of Last Things. The film screened at the first ever Paris Film Festival which was held at the majestic Champs Elysee. Mitte served as Juror as well as Celebrity Youth Ambassador for the inaugural Burbank International Film Festival, and introduced the documentary CinemAbility at the opening night gala in September 2013. ... CinemAbility takes a detailed look at the evolution of disability in entertainment and features a who’s who of Hollywood featuring Mitte, Ben Affleck, Jamie Foxx, Gary Sinise, and David Milch, among others.
Mitte is involved with several organizations that raise awareness of equality and diversity. He is the Youth Spokesperson for the National Disability Institute’s Real Economic Impact Tour, which works to improve the financial situation of low-income persons with disabilities. He is a spokesperson for “I AM PWD,” the tri-union campaign (SAG, AFTRA & Actors’ Equity) which advocates for actors with disabilities, and for "Beyond Diversity -- the future is now." As a guest speaker at high schools, colleges, and universities around the country, Mitte openly talks about the ways he has overcome obstacles and how he has achieved his goals. In 2011, Mitte became a Celebrity Youth Ambassador for United Cerebral Palsy, an organization that educates, advocates, and provides support limits for people with a spectrum of disabilities.
One hot-button issue that Mitte has recently become vocal about is the prevention of bullying. Upon hearing that bullying was at the root of several teen suicides in 2010, Mitte began speaking out on the topic via YouTube, a statement to the press, in interviews, etc. Mitte has since been a featured guest speaker at an anti-bullying town hall discussion at the NAPT Annual Conference for school transportation professionals. And he has begun working with PACER’s National Center for Bullying Prevention on a national campaign designed to engage and educate those who see bullying - leveraging peer-to-peer support.
MItte spent much of his childhood in both Austin, TX and Lafayette, LA where he learned to deal with and overcome many of the challenges presented by his cerebral palsy.
In 2005, Mitte accompanied his younger sister on a trip to Los Angeles and was encouraged by a talent agent to try acting. Early in his career, Mitte worked as a background actor on the TV series Hannah Montana and Everybody Hates Chris. Mitte's big break came when he was given the opportunity to audition for Breaking Bad.
Thursday, SEPTEMBER 24, 2015
MSC OVAL THEATRE
Firoozeh Dumas was born in Abadan, Iran and, in the 1970’s, moved to Southern California with her family. She later attended UC Berkeley where she met and married a Frenchman.
Firoozeh grew up listening to her father, a former Fulbright Scholar, recount the many colorful stories of his life in both Iran and America. In 2001, with no prior writing experience, Firoozeh decided to write her stories as a gift for her two children. Funny in Farsi was on the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, and New York Times bestseller lists and was a finalist for the PEN/USA award in 2004 and a finalist in 2005 for an Audie Award for best audio book ... (she lost to Bob Dylan). She was also a finalist for the prestigious Thurber Prize for American Humor (she lost to Jon Stewart), and is the first Middle Eastern woman ever to be considered for this honor.
Critics and readers of all ages have loved her stories. Jimmy Carter called Funny in Farsi "a humorous and introspective chronicle of a life filled with love—of family, country and heritage.”
Over a dozen community reading programs have used Firoozeh's books for their citywide reads, all with great success. Firoozeh's stories appeal to all ages and backgrounds and her humor resonates with a wide audience. In addition, Funny in Farsi has become part of the curriculum in junior highs, high schools, and colleges around the country and is now on the California Recommended Reading List for grades 6-12. Educators have found that Firoozeh's books are a gateway to many conversations, including shared humanity, immigration, language, family, and identity. Firoozeh has spoken at educational conferences throughout the United States and in Europe and was awarded the Spirit of America Award in 2008 by the National Council of Social Studies. Former recipients of this award include Jimmy Carter, Rosa Parks, and Mr. Rogers. Her commentaries are often broadcast on NPR and published in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Gourmet, Good Housekeeping, and Lifetime Magazine.
In April 2005, Firoozeh's one-woman show, "Laughing Without an Accent" opened in Northern California to sold out audiences at Theatreworks in Mountain View, California. Firoozeh incorporates much of what she learned from her one-woman show in her speeches, adding yet another layer of entertainment to her thought-provoking yet humorous talks.
For the past eleven years, Firoozeh has traveled the country reminding us that our commonalities far outweigh our differences. Her travels have taken her throughout rural America, from the East Coast to the West Coast, from Harvard University to UCLA and to Europe. Everywhere she has gone, audiences have embraced her message of shared humanity while laughing at her humorous tales.
Firoozeh Dumas’s second memoir, entitled Laughing without an Accent, was published in May 2008 and became a national bestseller. Alexander McCall Smith had this to say: "These stories, like everything Firoozeh Dumas writes, are charming, highly amusing vignettes of family life. Dumas is one of those rare people -- a naturally gifted storyteller.
MONday, MARCH 21, 2015
Laverne Cox is an Emmy-nominated actress who can be seen in the Netflix original series “Orange is The New Black” where she plays the ground breaking role of Sophia Burset. The critically acclaimed show returns for its third season on Netflix June 12th. Laverne is the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show. ... Laverne is expanding her presence on the small screen with the CBS pilot “Doubt,” a legal drama from “Grey’s Anatomy” producers Joan Rater and Tony Phelan. She will play ‘Cameron Wirth’, a trans Ivy League-educated lawyer who’s both competitive and compassionate. On the silver screen, Laverne can next be seen as ‘Deathy,’ a supporting role in the Lily Tomlin film "Grandma" from acclaimed writer and director Paul Weitz. The film premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival where it was acquired by Sony Picture Classics and will show at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival.
Laverne’s work as an actress and advocate landed her on the cover of TIME Magazine as well as an Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.” Laverne continues to break boundaries and make history with accolades including a SAG Award for “Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series,” a Critic’s Choice nomination for “Best Supporting Actress,” and a NAACP Image Awards nomination for “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.”
This past year, Laverne has had stand out appearances on several TV shows including; the hit Fox comedy “The Mindy Project,” Bravo’s “Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce” and MTV’s “Faking It.” She also appeared as a guest judge on “Project Runway All Stars” and hosted #GoBold brought to you by Revlon, an empowering web series that celebrates bold, provocative women setting out to accomplish their goals. Her documentary “Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word” aired on MTV & Logo to impressive ratings. The hour-long documentary explored the lives seven transgender youth from across the country and their determination to lead their lives as the people they are meant to be. Laverne was the host and executive producer of the ground breaking documentary which was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award.
Laverne is also producing another documentary titled "Free CeCe" in order to heighten visibility and awareness surrounding CeCe McDonald, a transgender woman who was controversially sentenced to 41 months in prison for second degree manslaughter after allegedly defending herself against a racist and transphobic attack. The documentary will focus on McDonald's case, her experiences while incarcerated in a men's prison and the larger implications of her case for the transgender community.
In 2013 Laverne won Best Supporting Actress at the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival for her work in the critically acclaimed film “Musical Chairs” directed by Susan Seidelman (Desperately Seeking Susan). Laverne’s other acting credits include “Law and Order,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “Bored to Death,” and the independent films “Carla” and “The Exhibitionists.”
Laverne is the first trans woman of color to produce and star in her own television show, VH1’s “TRANSForm Me” which was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award. Laverne is also the first trans woman of color to appear on an American reality television program, VH1’s “I Wanna Work for Diddy” for which she accepted the GLAAD media award for “Outstanding Reality Program.” She also received The Stephen F. Kolzak Award at the 2014 GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles.
In addition to her acting, Laverne is a renowned speaker and has taken her empowering message of moving beyond gender expectations to live more authentically all over the country. Her work as an advocate landed her a coveted spot as one of Glamour magazine’s 2014 Women of the Year. She is the recipient of the Dorian Rising Star Award for her work in “Orange is the New Black,” the Courage Award from the Anti-Violence Project, The Community Leader Award from the LGBT Center of New York City, received the Reader's Choice Award from "Out" Magazine, was named one of The Grio's 100 Most Influential African Americans, was named one of the Top 50 Trans Icons by the Huffington Post, one of Out magazine’s Out 100, made the Ebony Power 100 and was ranked number 5 on the 2014 Root 100 list.