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Katharine McPhee

Actress and recording artist Katharine McPhee currently stars as Paige Dineen on CBS’s hit drama, “Scorpion.” The star attended CSSSA in 1999 and in 2000, studying Creative Writing and Theater. The CSSSA Foundation was proud to recognize her artistic achievements with the CSSSA Alumni Inspiration Award at the 30th Anniversary CSSSA Gala on April 7, 2017.

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James Franco

James Franco is an American actor and filmmaker. His first prominent acting role was the lead character Daniel Desario on the cult hit television program “Freaks and Geeks.” He later played the title character in the TV biographical film James Dean (2001), for which he won a Golden Globe Award. For his role in 127 Hours (2010), Franco was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. He is also known for his roles in Spider-Man, Pineapple Express, Spring Breakers, and Oz the Great and Powerful. In 2014, he made his Broadway debut in Of Mice and Men. James attended CSSSA in 1996.

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Kirsten Vangsness

Kirsten Vangsness is best known for her portrayal of the beloved character of FBI technical analyst, Penelope Garcia, on CBS's “Criminal Minds” and its spinoff series, “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior.” But, she is also very acclaimed for her work on the stage, which has earned her the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Natalie Schafer Award for best emerging comic actress, the 15 Minutes of Fem Best Actress Award, and a Garland Award for best actress for the West Coast premiere of Neil LaBute's Fat Pig at the Geffen Playhouse.

As a writer, Vangsness has created several plays and performance-art pieces that have been enjoyed by Los Angeles audiences. Her one-woman show, Mess, was performed for sold out audiences at Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood. Her work has also been published in the Los Angeles Times Magazine. Kirsten still recognizes the formative impact of her time at CSSSA, and serves as a member of the CSSSA Foundation Advisory Board.

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Zac Efron

He gained worldwide fame as a teen heartthrob playing Troy Bolton in the popular High School Musical films for Disney.  He also received acclaim for his portrayal of the character Link Larkin in the filmed version of the Broadway musical Hairspray.  In 2012, Efron took the lead in The Lucky One (2012), a film adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel, playing a marine who returns to North Carolina after serving in Iraq in search for the unknown woman he believes was his good luck charm during the war. He also lent his voice to the animated feature Dr. Seuss' The Lorax (2012), and co-starred in Lee Daniels' thriller The Paperboy (2012), as well as Josh Radnor's Liberal Arts (2012), which premiered to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival.

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Sophie Buhai

Sophie Buhai attended CSSSA in 1997 and is currently a designer living and working in Los Angeles. Prior to establishing her Los Angeles studio, Sophie spent a decade as co-creative director of the womenswear brand Vena Cava, a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund runner-up in New York City. Her work has been featured in Vogue, The New York Times, and WSJ, among other publications. She is a graduate of Parsons School of Design.


Margaret Dilloway

Margaret Dilloway is a contemporary Japanese-American novelist who attended CSSSA’s Creative Writing program in 1992. Her novel, How to Be an American Housewife, was published in 2010 and is based on the experiences of Dilloway’s mother who was a Japanese war bride. The novel was named a John Gardner Fiction Award Finalist in 2011.


Matthew Monahan

Matthew Monahan is an American sculptor and artist based in Los Angeles. He has shown his works at various galleries, collections, and museums, including the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Chinese European Art Center in Xiamen, Bureau Stedelijk in Amsterdam, the National Center for Art in St. Petersberg, Russia, and the Royal Academy and the Saatchi Gallery in London. He attended CSSSA in 1987 and went on to study at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York City and the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam.

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Sanjay Patel

Sanjay Patel is an American animator best known for his Oscar-nominated short animated film Sanjay’s Super Team (2015). He currently works for Pixar on such films as Monsters, Inc. (2001), Ratatouille (2007), Cars (2006), Toy Story 2 (1999), and The Incredibles (2004), serving as a character developer on the latter two titles. He attended CSSSA in 19992 and joins a long list of CSSSA alumni animators that have found a home at Pixar.

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Teal Wicks

Teal Wicks, now a working singer and actress, has starred in several Broadway productions.  One of her most memorable roles is Elphaba in the Broadway production of “Wicked.”  Teal currently serves on the CSSSA Advisory Board and still remembers her time at CSSSA—“My summer at CSSSA was a very special experience for me.  It was a thrill to be immersed in a University setting completely dedicated to the arts and I believe it was a turning point for me in my growth as a performing artist.  I left the program with new friends and an empowered spirit to pursue my dreams.”


Alex Hirsch

Alex Hirsch attended CSSSA twice in 2001 and 2002.  Alex has found phenomenal success as the creator of the Disney show, “Gravity Falls”, and was recently profiled in the New York Times, who described his show by saying, “Picture someone putting ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Twin Peaks,’ ‘Calvin and Hobbes,’ ‘The X-Files’ and Martha Stewart into a blender and animating the outcome.”

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Pendleton Ward

Pendleton Ward attended CSSSA for Animation in 1999 and 2000 and went on to graduate from CalArts’ Animation Program. He created the Emmy Award-winning animated series Adventure Time and internet series Bravest Warriors.