2011 – Desiree Oakley

Former Actors' Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg with this year's Actors' Equity/Alan Eisenberg Award Scholarship recipient Desiree Oakley

Desiree Oakley, University of Michigan Class of 2011, was named the recipient of the Actors' Equity Association/Alan Eisenberg Award Scholarship. She is the fifth graduating student to receive the award, which was created by former Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg, an alumnus of the school. The award, in the amount of $5,000, is given to a graduating senior in the University's Musical Theater Program.

"Receiving this award is one of the biggest blessings in my life. After knowing my summer plans, I wanted to move to the city right away, but made plans to do otherwise since I couldn't afford it. This award is allowing me to move immediately--and to live here for the first few months without the stresses that money can bring. Because of Mr. Eisenberg, I can freely focus on my passion, without the worry of finding a temporary job or scrounging for money. I am undeniably grateful," exclaimed Oakley.

Ms. Oakley performed in her first musical theatre production when she was eight years old and decided to make this a career when she was 16. She found out about the Eisenberg Award when Mr. Eisenberg visited the University of Michigan to talk about Actors' Equity.

She was shocked to find out the news that she was this year's recipient. "Mr. [Brent] Wagner, the Chair of our Musical Theatre Department, notified me via email that I would be receiving the award, and tears immediately filled my eyes as I read it. I had to ask my roommate to read the email to verify that I, in fact, was reading what I thought it said!"

Oakley explained that her time as a musical theatre major at the University of Michigan changed her life. "This award is the absolute best "first step" into the real world. I am so thankful. And so far, it's more than I could have ever dreamed of." Ms. Oakley can be seen this summer performing "Ariel" in The Little Mermaid at Music Theatre of Wichita. Performances are August 5-7 and 10-14.