Hannah Beachler is the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Production Design. The Centerville High School graduate and Wright State University film and production design alumna received the Oscar in 2019 for “Black Panther.”
She has been working in Atlanta on the highly anticipated sequel “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Directed by Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station,” “Creed”), the film is expected to finish production in April and hit theaters in November.
Beachler’s upcoming projects include directing episodes of a new Netflix series concerning women in hip-hop and curating an exhibit at the newly opened Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. She’s also planning her first theatrical venture by designing “Mandela,” a new musical directed by Dayton native Schele Williams expected to premiere in London’s West End later this year.
At the end of 2021, Chase Crawford, a Monroe High School graduate residing in Cincinnati, was named to the fourth/winter installment of the Forbes Next 1,000 list.
Forbes states: “Crawford was 20 years old in 2017 when he founded Four by Three, an independent film studio, using money from the severance package he was given after being laid off. The studio has since produced or distributed more than a dozen projects including documentaries, dramas and television episodes that are streamed by about 2 million people per year on Apple TV, Amazon Prime, ABC and Comcast, according to Crawford. Four by Three earned $194,000 in revenue in 2020 and $263,000 from January through October 2021.”
Crawford’s producing credits include “River Road,” “How We Lookin’?: The Immortal Words of Marty Brennaman” and “The Clearing,” winner of Best Feature at the LA Femme International Film Festival and Best Sci-Fi Feature at the London Independent Film Festival.
“I am so very, very lucky and I pinch myself every morning,” Crawford told the Journal-News last December. “It all worked out, somehow, some way.”
Erin Flanagan, a professor of English language and literatures at Wright State University, has been nominated for the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Novel by an American Author for “Deer Season.” She is one of five authors nominated in the category.
Publishers Weekly gave “Deer Season,” released Sept. 1 by the University of Nebraska Press, a coveted starred review and described it as “a standout novel of small-town life, powered by the characters’ consequential determination to protect their loved ones at any cost.”
Set in a farming community in Nebraska in 1985, “Deer Season” centers on a mentally challenged farmhand who goes hunting during the same weekend a teenage girl goes missing. Situations escalate and rumors fly as the search for the truth unfolds.
The Edgar Allan Poe Awards honor the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced each year. The 2022 winners will be revealed at New York’s Marriott Marquis Times Square on April 28.
Dr. Joya Griffin
Dayton native Dr. Joya Griffin, a Dayton Christian High School graduate, is the star of the National Geographic WILD series “Pop Goes the Vet with Dr. Joya,” which premiered Jan. 1 and is streaming on Disney+.
The personable, eye-opening series chronicles Griffin, a veterinary dermatologist based in Louisville, through dermatologic explorations of animal care at the Animal Dermatology Clinic in Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky as well as Evansville, Indiana.
She’s still waiting to find out if her series will be renewed for a second season but is grateful to have received an opportunity to showcase her expertise.
“It’s been a fun and interesting ride,” said Griffin. “The fan support has been amazing. And the children absolutely are the icing on the cake. They love the show and the fact that I can inspire them is so heartwarming.”
Dayton native Luke Grimes, a Dayton Christian High School graduate, portrays cowboy Kayce Dutton on the popular TV western “Yellowstone,” an ensemble drama starring Kevin Costner which debuted on the Paramount Network in 2018. The cast was recently nominated by the Screen Actors Guild for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
His acting credits include “Brothers and Sisters,” “American Sniper,” “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Taken 2″ and “The Magnificent Seven.”
The Montana-based actor is also a fan of country music and played drums in a Los Angeles country band. Rolling Stone reports he plans a “full-throated return to music in 2022″ as a solo artist.
You can catch Grimes in new episodes of “Yellowstone” this fall when the show’s fifth season is expected to premiere.
On Jan. 4 and 5, during the height of the omicron surge, Wright State University musical theatre graduate KJ Hippensteel stepped out of the ensemble of the new family-friendly Broadway musical “Mrs. Doubtfire” to portray Daniel Hillard, the down-on-his-luck dad disguising himself as the titular nanny in order to remain close to his children. The plum comedic role, made famous on film in 1993 by Robin Williams and played on stage by Tony nominee Rob McClure, is one of the most physically demanding on Broadway complete with 31 costume changes.
“Recently, I’ve been thinking about what it is to be an understudy,” said Hippensteel, whose credits include Elder Price in “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway and London’s West End. “I imagine it’s what skydivers feel, a feeling of fear and excitement, a rush. I was scared but also oddly excited... With this show in particular, from the beginning, I knew what this role was going to be because I did the out-of-town tryout. From Day One I was running lines. I felt good about the final product for the amount of rehearsal I was able to put in.”
“Mrs. Doubtfire,” which had 11 canceled shows in December and temporarily closed Jan. 9 due to COVID, will reopen April 14. If you happen to be in New York City sometime this year, don’t miss a chance to catch Hippensteel among the ensemble in many scenes, including his funny nod to Julia Child. Better yet, perhaps you’ll get to see him in the titular role if McClure is out.
Wright State University musical theatre graduate Joey Monda of Sing Out, Louise! Productions is a two-time Tony-winning producer.
The Youngstown native won last year for Matthew Lopez’s gay-themed drama “The Inheritance” (Best Play) and in 2019 for “Hadestown” (Best Musical). He was also nominated last year for producing Jeremy O. Harris’ racial drama “Slave Play.”
Monda will likely compete for a third Tony this year. In addition to producing “Mrs. Doubtfire,” he’s producing the highly anticipated Broadway premiere of Michael R. Jackson’s 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning off-Broadway musical “A Strange Loop,” a groundbreaking, game-changing, unapologetic look at contemporary Black queerness. The musical begins performances April 6.
The 2022 Tony Awards will be held June 12 at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
Jevares C. Myrick and Ronvé O’Daniel
Jevares C. Myrick and Ronvé O’Daniel, a duo with Wright State University roots, are collaborating on a new Broadway-bound musical tentatively titled “6888: The Musical.”
Currently in development and produced by Tony nominee Blair Underwood, the musical is based on the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, an all-Black and all-female Army unit. Led by Wilberforce University graduate Charity Adams Earley, the battalion was given the task of sorting and routing more than 17 million pieces of backlogged mail in England and France during World War II.
O’Daniel, who received his BFA in musical theatre from Wright State, is writing the music and lyrics. Myrick, who attended Wright State as a voice performance/opera major, is serving as composer/orchestrator.
Nathan W. Pyle
Dayton native Nathan W. Pyle, a Dayton Christian High School graduate, is a New York Times bestselling author of the kooky webcomic “Strange Planet,” an alien-centric commentary on the human race released in 2019. He’s also written “Stranger Planet,” “NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette” and “99 Stories I Could Tell.”
“Strange Planet” is reportedly being adapted into an animated show for Apple TV+. Pyle is partnering with Dan Harmon, whose sitcom credits include “Community” and “Rick and Morty.” The Hollywood Reporter noted Apple TV+ “handed out a 10-episode, straight-to-series order.” A premiere date is unknown.
Film and music video producer Jamee Ranta, a Stebbins High School graduate, is a Grammy nominee this year for producing Justin Bieber’s music video “Peaches.”
In addition to her Grammy nomination, she has earned other accolades: 2015′s MTV VMA Best Hip-Hop Video for Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda”; 2020′s MTV VMA Best Latin Video for J. Balvin and Maluma’s “Que Pena”; and 2021′s BET Video of the Year for “WAP” by Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion.
Ranta also manages emerging LatinX star Nathalie Paris and is producing a new music video for Jennifer Lopez.
The 2022 Grammys will be held April 3 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Wright State University motion pictures alumna Nicole Riegel, who grew up in Jackson, Ohio, took the independent film community by storm last year with her impressive directorial debut, “Holler.” She was recently nominated for Best First Feature at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, held March 6 in Santa Monica, California. She has also been listed by Variety as one of “10 Directors to Watch.”
Set in southern Ohio, “Holler” is a riveting account of a teenage girl who joins a dangerous scrap metal crew in order to make ends meet. It was an official selection of the Toronto International Film Festival, the SXSW Film Festival and the Deauville Film Festival in 2020.
“More should be revealed in the coming months,” Riegel said regarding her upcoming projects.
Dayton native Micah Stock, an Oakwood High School graduate and Muse Machine alum, received a 2015 Tony nomination and Theatre World Award for his outstanding Broadway debut as Gus P. Head in the starry revival of Terrence McNally’s comedy “It’s Only a Play.”
In recent years, he’s been seen in the film “Brittany Runs a Marathon” and TV shows such as “Tales of the City,” “Bonding” and “The Right Stuff.”
Next, Stock joins the FX drama “Kindred,” written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (“Watchmen”) based on an adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s 1979 sci-fi novel. Deadline reports he is playing the love interest of the central character Dana, a young Black woman and aspiring writer in Los Angeles “violently pulled back and forth in time to a nineteenth-century plantation with which she and her family are most surprisingly and intimately linked.” He is also set to appear as Jay Moore in John Slattery’s film “Maggie Moore(s)” starring Jon Hamm and Tina Fey.
Credit: JUSTIN PATTERSON PHOTOGRAPHY
Credit: JUSTIN PATTERSON PHOTOGRAPHY
Dayton native Renika Williams, a Trotwood-Madison High School graduate and Wright State University acting alumna, is among the cast of Mindy Kaling’s HBO Max series “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” which premiered last November.
Set at New England’s elite Essex College, the delightful, naughty comedy chronicles four college roommates from different racial, educational and socio-economic backgrounds. Williams is a source of comic relief in the featured role of Willow, a member of the Essex soccer team who is bold, confident and gay.
“I think it’s really important that all different types of Black people are shown on screen,” said Williams, whose off-Broadway credits include “All The Natalie Portmans.”
Expect more laughs and authenticity from her when the second season of “The Sex Lives of College Girls” premieres this fall.
Credit: Photo by Amelia Robinson
Credit: Photo by Amelia Robinson
Dayton native Schele Williams, a Colonel White High School graduate and daughter of Ohio Players drummer James “Diamond” Williams, was associate director of Broadway’s “Motown The Musical” and is a founding member of the advocacy organization Black Theatre United.
Looking ahead, she has two major directorial projects in store. In September, she and Tony winner Michael Greif (“Dear Evan Hansen,” “Rent”) will co-direct the world premiere musical adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ “The Notebook” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. By the end of the year, she is expected to stage the aforementioned London West End premiere of the new musical “Mandela.”
Williams is also the author of the children’s book “Your Legacy: A Bold Reclaiming of Our Enslaved History.” Released last fall by Abrams Books, the book is described as “a proud, empowering introduction to African-American history that celebrates and honors enslaved ancestors.”