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Texas State performers shine on Broadway, off-Broadway, TV

Gianna Yanelli
Gianna Yanelli serves in the ensemble and as lead understudy in the Tony-nominated "Mean Girls."
Anna Uzele
Anna Uzele stars in the role of Andrea Devereaux in the Tony-nominated revival of “Once on This Island.”
Stephen Brower
Stephen Brower currently performs in the ensemble in “Anastasia.”

by Anastasia Cisneros-Lunsford
 

Three Texas State University alumni are shining in recent roles on Broadway, and many other performers and playwrights also are making their mark.

Musical theatre alumna Gianna Yanelli made her Broadway debut this spring in the Tony-nominated “Mean Girls.” She performed in the opening number at the Tony Awards in June as well as on The Today Show and in a “Mean Girls” skit on Saturday Night Live with Tina Fey. She is currently in the ensemble in “Mean Girls,” and serves as an understudy for one of the leads, for whom she recently substituted. Previously, Yanelli mostly performed in regional theater before booking her first Broadway gig.

In a matter of days after graduating from Texas State in May with a bachelor of fine arts in musical theatre, Anna Uzele traveled to New York and received multiple offers from talent agents before landing the role of Andrea Devereaux in the Tony-nominated revival of “Once on This Island.” She made her Broadway debut on June 25.

Stephen Brower is another Bobcat on Broadway. After performing on national tours of “An American in Paris” and “Pippin,” Brower is now in the ensemble in “Anastasia.”

Texas State alumnus and artist-in-residence Eugene Lee has been cast as a police lieutenant in Broadway’s “American Son,” alongside the star of ABC’s “Scandal,” Kerry Washington.” Lee is also the artistic director of the Black and Latino Playwright’s Conference.

Kaitlin Hopkins, senior lecturer and artist in residence in the musical theatre program at Texas State, says what sets Bobcat actors apart is community, compassion and professionalism. “They go above and beyond in everything they do,” she says. “They are consummate professionals but more importantly they are people with impeccable character who give back.”

Bobcats aren’t just starring in Broadway productions. They’re crafting masterful stories for the stage as playwrights and starring in TV series opposite A-list actors. Alumna Edi Patterson, who had a recurring role in HBO’s “Vice Principals,” and “The Last O.G.” on TBS, will be appearing in Amazon’s “Troupe Zero” and co-starring in Danny McBride's new HBO comedy, "The Righteous Gemstones."

Two graduate dramatic writing students have been selected to present their plays at Samuel French’s 43rd annual Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival, Aug. 21–25 at the Vineyard’s Dimson 15th Street Theatre in New York. Audrey Webb will present “Buried,” and Jordan Morille will present “Tiger Barb.” The festival offers a prize of publication and licensing as a notable festival play.

Click here to see highlights of alumni success in musical theatre, acting and performance.