Columbia College Chicago Theatre Dept. Alums Discuss ‘Flipping the Script: How to Thrive as a Trans, Gender-Nonconforming, or Nonbinary Performer’ Oct. 14

Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department alums Preston Max Allen ’13 and Jayae Riley Jr. ’16 will join a discussion on “Flipping the Script: How to Thrive as a Trans, Gender Nonconforming, or Nonbinary Performer,” presented by Columbia College Chicago on Thursday, October 14, at 4 PM CST — virtually on Zoom.

Jayae Riley

Preston Max Allen

The event is a collaboration between the Columbia College Chicago Career Center and Columbia College’s Student Diversity and Inclusion office. It is open to Columbia students and alumni as well as the general public.

Hosted by Career Center internship and career advisor Quinn Hegarty, the event will feature a panel of talented artists who have worked extensively in theatre, film, and television, as they answer questions about building a career in entertainment outside of the cis-normative mold. “We’ll talk about the nuts and bolts (like headshots, resumes, branding, and working with an agent) and the really important stuff, like knowing your worth, advocating for yourself, claiming your space, and staying motivated,” says Hegarty.

Alumni and members of the general public can register using this link:

Columbia students can register on Handshake:

Columbia students can register on the Engage app:

Jayae Riley is a graduate of the Columbia College Theatre Department’s BFA Program in Musical Theatre Performance with a Minor in Women & Gender Studies. Preston Allen is a graduate of the Theatre Department’s BA Program in Acting who also took courses in the Theatre Department’s Musical Theatre and Comedy programs.

As previously reported in this blog, Allen, a songwriter-performer whose musical We Are the Tigers had an Off-Broadway run in 2019, was profiled in an interview posted on the Playbill theatre website. In the article, “How Preston Max Allen Came Into His Identity as a Musical Theatre Writer and a Proud Trans Man,” he spoke eloquently about struggling with gender identity while growing up in Texas. “I was in love with Broadway, I was in love with cinema and I was [in middle school] coming into queerness from a female-identifying place and was falling in love with actresses and their careers,” says Allen. “I disconnected personally to a female identity, but, believing myself to be female, . . . I just thought I was a failure at femininity. . . . I [had] no connection to my name, I [had] no connection to my pronouns.” After changing his pronouns in 2017, he legally changed his name a year later.  Now, after taking testosterone and undergoing top surgery, “I have the body I want to take care of,” he says. “I am only proud to be trans.”

The last decade has brought major shifts towards trans representation and agency in the entertainment industry — however, there’s still no “How To” guide for making it as an actor when you aren’t cisgender or you don’t fit within old-fashioned binary casting models. Allen, Riley, Hegarty, and the other member of the “Flipping the Script” panel have been writing this “How To’”guide for themselves — and so far, it’s working. Their artistry has been seen in feature films, TV shows, and major stages in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and beyond. Now, they’re here to answer questions about building a career in entertainment as a performer who’s trans, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming. Allies are welcome too – let’s talk about how to make a better industry for everyone, together! For more information, contact Quinn Hegarty at