TNS Panel Detail

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 fields. From film & media production to theater and American poetry, 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 refined the skills they accrued from their education to ones they now use in the work force.

Roundtable Participants

Victor Bayona, AB'99

Violence Designer, R&D Choreography

Mr. Bayona graduated from the College in 1999 with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Committee on the Visual Arts. During his time as an undergraduate, he was an avid participant in numerous martial arts clubs on campus as well as in many of the East Asian student cultural groups. It was this combination of extracurricular activities that put him on the path of professional violence design. He and a handful of friends started what would become for a time an annual kung fu skit for the Chinese Undergraduate Student Association's (CUSA) Chinese New Year Show. Many years later, he would rediscover his love of fight choreography and find professional mentorship and ultimately partnership with R&D Choreography, a cutting edge theatrical violence design company in Chicago. To date, R&D have designed over 250 productions, and he designed for over 70 of them since he joined the company in 2010.

Elizabeth Birnkrant, AB'00

Instructor Black Box Acting , Black Box Acting

Elizabeth Birnkrant graduated from the College in 2000, with a degree in English language and literature. While attending the College she was very active with University Theater, where she performed in and directed a number of productions. Originally from New York, Elizabeth has lived in Chicago since graduating from the College and worked as a freelance actor, appearing in productions with Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Eclipse, Sideshow, Roadworks, Theater on the Lake, Pegasus, Wildclaw, First Floor Theater (founded by U of C grads), and has appeared on NBC's Chicago Fire. She also teaches acting at Black Box Acting, and works as a Bikram Yoga instructor at several studios in Chicago.

Tiffany Gholar, AB'01, M.A. Painting'09

Artist / Writer / Designer

Ms. Gholar graduated from the College in 2001 with a degree in general studies in the humanities. Her focus was art, creative writing, and film. While in the College, she was an active member of the Organization of Black Students. She returned to school after graduation to study fiction writing, interior design, and painting and now works as an artist, writer, and freelance interior designer. She is the author of three art books, 'Post-Consumerism,' 'Imperfect Things,' and 'The Doll Project,' and a young adult novel, 'A Bitter Pill to Swallow.' Her artwork has been exhibited in many Chicago area venues, including The Harold Washington Library and The Chicago Children's Museum.

David Goodman, AB'84, AB'84


Mr. Goodman graduated from the College with a degree in political science. After a short stint in book publishing, he started writing, and was soon hired as a staff writer on The Golden Girls. Since then, he has written for 20 television series, including American Dad, Allen Gregory, Dads, Futurama, and Star Trek: Enterprise, as well as Family Guy, where he's worked on and off for the last seventeen years, six of them as head writer and Executive Producer. He is currently working on a new project with Seth MacFarlane, a one-hour science fiction drama/comedy for Fox which will air in Fall, 2017. He is also the author of two Star Trek related books, "Federation: the First 150 Years", and "The Autobiography of James T. Kirk." He is currently the Vice President of the Writers Guild of America.

Damon Kiely, AB'90, MFA'05 Columbia

Assistant Professor, Theatre School at DePaul University

Mr. Kiely graduated from the College in '90 with a degree in philosophy having worked on scores of theatre productions at University Theatre. He is Chair of Performance at DePaul's Theatre School and the author of the book HOW TO READ A PLAY (Routledge) and the plays THIEVES LIKE US and THE REVEL. His production of HANK WILLIAMS: LOST HIGHWAY won the Jeff Award for Best Musical Midsized. He has directed for American Theatre Company, TimeLine, Route 66, A Red Orchid and many others. Prior to moving back to Chicago he produced, directed, and taught in New York City. In New York, he directed for the Public Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, the Ontological Theater, Adobe Theater Company, PS122, Ensemble Studio Theater, and New Dramatists.

Katie Muenck, AB'14

Interaction Designer, Rise Interactive

Ms. Muenck graduated from the College in 2014 with a degree in sociology. Her senior thesis examined Chicago theater audiences and the formation of community. Throughout college she participated in theater, worked as an assistant graphic designer, and interned at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. After graduating, she worked in Rise Interactive's display advertising department. After a year, she transferred to Rise's creative department and now works as an interaction designer. In her work as a designer, she focuses on ad campaign strategy. She enjoys going to estate sales and playing Ina Garten for her group of friends.

Robert Shoemaker, AB'14, MFA Naropa University, Creative Writing and Poetics (Expected 2018)

Poet-Playwright, Poetry Is Productions

Mr. Shoemaker is a poet-playwright attending the MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. Eric is a 2014 Theater and Performance Studies graduate of the College, with focuses in playwriting and scenic design. While attending the College, Eric was the Artistic Director of Classical Entertainment Society and a founding member of Memoryhouse Magazine's performance ensemble. Mr. Shoemaker's work has been published in his debut poetry collection "30 Days Dry" and in various journals including Rollick, LED, and Mosaic. His work has been seen throughout Chicago via various companies including Poetry Is Productions, which featured his successful musical PLATH/HUGHES, winner of the 2014 Olga and Paul Menn Foundation Prize for Best Play. Eric currently lives in Boulder, Colorado and is working on his second full-length poetry collection, to be published in 2017.

Myra Su, AB'13

Puppetry/Theater Artist

Ms. Su is a narrative artist specializing in storytelling through puppetry and theater. She holds a BA with honors in theater and anthropology from the College. As an undergraduate, she was very involved with University Theater as a director and designer. In her junior year, she took a shadow puppetry class with Manual Cinema and has been working as a puppeteer ever since. Based in Chicago, she creates original work as well as collaborating with other artists and companies. Her independent projects are primarily shadow puppet pieces, though she has also been experimenting across multiple media - paper craft, sculpture, video, animation, and taxidermy. Most recently, she was invited to perform at the 2016 National Puppet Slam in Atlanta, GA. She is currently developing a new piece for the Chicago International Puppet Festival in January 2017. She remains close with Manual Cinema and is one of their regular puppeteers.

Patrick Thomas Underwood, AB'03, MFA'08 (American Film Institute)

Filmmaker, Peeled Apple Pictures

Patrick Thomas Underwood Director/Writer/Producer Mr. Underwood graduated from the College with an A.B. in cinema and media studies. He then moved to Venice, Italy, where his eight years of operatic training culminated in a year-long artistic residency with a teacher at the Teatro La Fenice. Returning to the States to pursue a career in film, he earned his MFA in Directing from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. He has written and directed seven shorts, including his AFI thesis film, SOFIA, which premiered at the Sedona International Film Festival in 2010. His debut feature, THE MIDDLE DISTANCE, debuted in the New Directors Competition at the 51st Chicago International Film Festival. He is currently at work on a second feature screenplay.

Kate Welham, AB'08

Senior Director of Institutional Giving and Development Operations, Goodman Theatre

Ms. Welham graduated from the College in 2008 with an AB in history and a wealth of experience from University Theatre. During her time at the University and immediately after graduation, she held a series of internships before being hired by Goodman Theatre in early 2009. After moving through a variety of positions at the Goodman, she now oversees $3 million in annual support for specific productions, new play development, education programs, and the general operations of the theater. She also oversees technology implementation across fundraising platforms and serves as an active member of the Tessitura Network. Ms. Welham also worked for several years in Chicago's 'storefront' theater community as a freelance production manager and co-founded The Whiskey Rebellion Theatre with two other UChicago alumnae.

John Zhang, AB'12

Manager of Development, Le Vision Entertainment

While studying economics at the College, Mr. Zhang completed marketing and social media internships with Nickelodeon and MTV in New York. On campus, he was a member of Lambda Phi Epsilon, and frequent contributor of the CUSA and KSO cultural shows. After graduation, he found himself attracted to the creative side of the business so he made the move to Los Angeles. He found his first job through the College's career services at Perfect Storm Entertainment, the production company of director Justin Lin, where he mainly focused on developing and producing movies for the emerging Chinese market. Currently, he works as a Manager of Development at Le Vision Entertainment, a company that has been called the Netflix of China. Le Vision aims to produce four to six English language films per year for theatrical release and is an investor in the upcoming movie "Great Wall" starring Matt Damon.