CVPA alums feature prominently in Netflix’s “Senior Year”

CVPA alums feature prominently in Netflix’s “Senior Year”

The new Netflix movie Senior Year features Rebel Wilson playing Stephanie, who was injured in a cheerleading stunt when she was 17 only to wake from a coma 20 years later and insisting on returning to finish out her senior year of high school and attend her prom. Mary Holland, who earned her MFA in Acting from the NIU School of Theatre and Dance in 2007, co-stars as Martha, Stephanie’s friend from high school who is now the principal and cheerleading coach.


Jermaine Stegall, who received his BFA in saxophone performance and composition from the NIU School of Music in 2000, was the music director on the film. Stegall most recently composed the music for Eddie Murphy’s Coming 2 America. 

Holland starred in The Happiest Season and co-wrote the film with Clea Duvall. The pair are currently writing a TV series for Lionsgate titled Day Job and Holland will play the lead character. She is also featured in the recently released Netflix comedy series The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window with Kristen Bell.

Congratulations to all of our Spring 2022 graduates

Congratulations to all of our Spring 2022 graduates

Congratulations to all of the students in the NIU School of Art and Design, School of Music and School of Theatre and Dance who earned their undergraduate and graduate degrees last weekend.

Nina Caliendo received her bachelor’s degree in music education, and was featured during the commencement ceremony.

NIU’s Opera Theatre presents “The Happy Prince” and a tribute to Stephen Sondheim, April 1 and 3

NIU’s Opera Theatre presents “The Happy Prince” and a tribute to Stephen Sondheim, April 1 and 3

Northern Illinois University will present both the one-act opera The Happy Prince and a tribute to American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim with performances Friday, April 1 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, April 3 at 3 p.m. in the Recital Hall of the NIU Music Building. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for non-NIU students and NIU students are free with a pre-reserved ticket or ID. Tickets may be purchased online.

Both performances will be livestreamed on the School of Music website.

The Happy Prince

The Happy Prince is based on a short story by Oscar Wilde.

From the composer:

“The story concerns a statue, golden and bejeweled, which has been erected above a town, in memory of a rich and happy prince. A swallow, off to hibernate in Egypt, stops for the night at the foot of the statue, and feels tears on her head. Looking up she sees that the statue of the prince is weeping over the world’s misery and poverty, which in life he was never able to see. Three times he implores the swallow to pluck jewels from his body and to take them to poor and needy citizens, then to strip the gold from his body and throw it to the starving children in the street below. All the time it is growing colder. The prince is blind and ugly now. The swallow is too weak of fly to Egypt, but anyway she loves her prince too much to leave his feet. Stretching up to kiss his lips, she dies; and the statue’s lead heart cracks. The mayor and citizens who erected the statue come and take it down since its decorative value no longer exists, and with some disgust they move the swallow’s body away, the lot to be burned. As the flames rise, alarmed voices exclaim that the broken, leaden heart will not burn. A choir of angels above the flames tells the citizens that the leaden heart and the dead bird are the most precious things in the city.”

Stage direction for this production was done by AJ Wester, instructor of voice and director of Opera Theatre in the NIU School of Music. The music director and composer is Heewon Cha, graduate research assistant in the School of Music. Production design by Terry McClellan director of the NIU School of Theatre and Dance and Rachel Seabaugh, graduate teaching assistant in the School of Theatre and Dance. The choral director is Eric Johnson, professor of music and coordinator of choral activities in the School of Music.


Anya Newsome – Prince
Abria Shaw – Swallow
Boone Elledge – The Mayor
Steffi Delgado – The Seamstress
Emelia Barrera – Her Son
Evi Combs – A Rich Girl
David Capp – The Author
Kasey Pennington – The Matchgirl
Grace Pagliaro, Kyara Chisolm, Evi Combs, Emelia Barrera – Four Angels


Phoebe Shaughnessy, Alexa Garza, Ranan Antonini, Jaqueline Scavetta, Dayoung Park, David Czechut, Jennalynn Cisna, Yeeung Jang

Sondheim Celebration

The Sondheim Celebration features NIU students performing songs from classic Sondheim musicals.
The script was written by Savannah-Lee Mumford, a graduate student in the NIU School of Theatre and Dance.
Stage direction by AJ Wester and piano by Heewon Cha.

West Side Story
Somewhere – Evangelina Combs

You Gotta Get a Gimmick – Katherine Drury, Kyara Chisolm, Savannah-Lee Mumford, Kasey Pennington

Anyone Can Whistle
There Won’t Be Trumpets – 
Savannah-Lee Mumford

Evening Primrose
I Remember – Paul Kassel, Dean, NIU College of Visual and Performing Arts

You Could Drive a Person Crazy – 
Evangelina Combs, Katherine Drury, Kyara Chisolm

Not Getting Married – Grace Pagliaro, Evangelina Combs, Ethan Gonzales

Another 100 People – Kyara Chisolm

A Little Night Music
Everyday a Little Death – Savannah-Lee Mumford and Abria Shaw

The Frogs
Invocation and Advice for the Audience

Sweeney Todd
There Was a Barber and His Wife – Boone Elledge

Johanna – Ethan Gonzales

Merrily We Roll Along
Our Time – Concert Choir

Sunday in the Park with George
Sunday – NIU Concert Choir

I Am Unworthy of Your Love – Kasey Pennington, Emelia Barrera

Loving You – Anya Newsome


Student tickets available for Rhythm of the Dance at the Egyptian Theatre

Student tickets available for Rhythm of the Dance at the Egyptian Theatre

NIU Students can get tickets to The National Dance Company of Ireland’s Rhythm of the Dance, Saturday, March 19 at the Egyptian Theatre for just $25, a $5 discount.

Fans everywhere are enjoying 2,000 years, and more, of dance, music, songs and culture from pre-Celtic times to modern day sounds all compacted into a two-hour concert. It’s full of flailing feet and fiddles, futuristic dances, eye-catching lighting and costumes, sensational sound effects and is now one of the top three Irish step dance shows in the world.

Apart from having world and Irish champion dancers; this show also has some of the finest traditional musicians plus singers who are a big hit everywhere. Like a sheet of lightning, the pulsating rhythms, pure energy and melodic music, in the Rhythm of the Dance show, has hit 50 countries around the world with audience figures of over seven million fans over 20 years.

Ticket prices are $25 for students with ID, $30 for adults, $25 for children and seniors 65+.

The performance is Saturday, March 19 at 7:30 p.m.

Free NIU student tickets for Jazz at the Egyptian, Feb. 5

Free NIU student tickets for Jazz at the Egyptian, Feb. 5

DeKalb’s iconic Egyptian Theatre hosts the Fifth Annual Jazz at the Egyptian, Saturday night, February 5 at 7 p.m.

The concert features the NIU Jazz Orchestra, Jazz in Progress, the DeKalb High School Jazz Ensemble and the Sycamore High School Jazz Ensemble. Tickets are available at and current NIU students can pick up free tickets at the Holmes Student Center Welcome Desk seven days a week, between 7 a.m. and midnight.

NIU student tickets are free as part of the NIU Arts Fee.


Father-daughter CVPA alumni score big on Shark Tank

Father-daughter CVPA alumni score big on Shark Tank

What happens when you let Huskies into the shark tank? We found out in March, when Lindsey Valiulis Fleischhauer, ’04, and her father Stan Valiulis, ’84, presented their Totes Babies product to ABC’s critically acclaimed and multi-Emmy® Award-winning entrepreneurial-themed reality show “Shark Tank.”

Lindsey Valiulis Fleischhauer (’04) takes the product to “market.”

The father-daughter duo came up with a safe shopping cart baby carrier that allows parents to tote their babies while still having room for groceries in the cart. Lindsey realized there was a need for this kind of space-saving product when she was a new mom.

“When I had my first son, I dreaded going shopping with him because I could never get everything I needed, due to the car seat taking up the whole shopping cart,” she said. “If I tried taking him out of the car seat, he would scream and cry, so I knew there had to be a better way! I then went straight to my dad, who holds over 40 patents in the retail fixture trade, and we drew up some ideas and made our first prototype.”

The duo then applied to be a part of the reality show, hoping one of the show’s famous investors would see unique promise in their product and sink funds and resources into Totes Babies. Their hard work and preparation paid off when three Shark Tank investors made offers and the father-daughter duo ultimately sealed a deal with Lori Greiner, the famous “Queen of QVC,” for and investment of $100,000 and a 25% stake in their company.

“It’s been a lot of fun. We give each other ideas all the time, and Lindsey keeps me on task,” Stan said with a laugh. “(The Shark Tank experience) was challenging. We spent a lot of time preparing and getting our information together.”

Stan and his wife Carrie, who graduated from NIU in sociology in 1979, raised Lindsey and her brother and sister in Rockford, Ill. Lindsey grew up watching her father work on his inventions for his fixture and retail display company—Southern Imperial Inc. When he left the organization in 2015, the family-owned manufacturer and distributor to the retail store fixture and display markets was worth $86 million with 460 global employees and facilities in China, Georgia and Illinois.

“Post-retirement” and always up for a new adventure, Totes Babies is just one of the four organizations Stan currently owns.“My dad influenced me a lot as he has always believed in all of his kids and taught us an amazing work ethic,” Lindsey said. “He taught us that we can do anything we put our minds to and showed us that with his careers. I have really welcomed this kind of problem-solving and always wanted to be an entrepreneur because I enjoy thinking of new ideas that can help others.”

This innovative spirit runs in the family.

“I enjoy solving problems and consider them more like puzzles,” Stan said. “It is very rewarding to see my daughter involved and learning how to be an entrepreneur. And it is fun seeing how our product has really helped parents shopping with their babies.”

While Lindsey and Stanley both enjoy the challenge of finding solutions for problems, they have more in common. They both graduated with bachelor’s degrees from the College of Visual and Performing Arts, with Stan, who studied piano, receiving a B.A. in music in 1984. In college and after, he was involved in jazz and rock bands to make extra money and later owned a recording studio. Lindsey was interested in acting, singing and dancing before college, as well as varsity poms and synchronized swimming, before earning her B.A. in theater arts in 2004.

Lindsey and Stan

Lindsey and her dad, Stan, with the patent and the product.

“I chose NIU because I knew that the theatre department was great, and I loved that both of my parents were NIU alumni,” Lindsey said. “I was a theatre major and that helped me in so many ways in every aspect of my careers.”

After graduating, Lindsey went into sales with her brother’s online furniture business and then started working in different departments of her dad’s retail store fixture company, which offered plenty of sales experience. She has also had a health and wellness network marketing business with Arbonne International for over 15 years.

Lindsey and her husband Mark, who received his master’s from NIU, have two young sons. A diehard Huskie, she believes her experiences at NIU paved the way for her successes so far.

“NIU was so much fun, and I had great teachers and made friends that have lasted a lifetime,” she said. “I learned so much that has helped me with our business and life in general.”

Dad agrees. Stan believes the education he received at NIU was a big part of his many ventures and accomplishments over his career.

“I had great teachers and a great learning environment in the music department. It was very creative and cutting-edge, with modern and electronic music,” he said. “The caliber of musicians studying there was world-class. I would say it impacted my creativity in areas beyond music.”

Clearly, the pair have no shortage of inspiration. Even with all the work they put into the reality show pitch, the team sees the whole experience as enormously positive.

“It’s honestly been a dream come true to be able to be co-founders with and work with my dad!” Lindsey said. “My dad has been a huge role model to me my whole life, and I’ve learned so much working with him.”

This article appeared in the Winter 2022 edition of Northern Now.