2008 – Garen McRoberts

Alan Eisenberg and Garen McRobertsGaren McRoberts, University of Michigan Class of 2008, is the second recipient of the Actors' Equity Association/Alan Eisenberg Award. Created by former Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg, who is a University Michigan alumnus, the award ($5,000) goes to a graduating senior in the University's Musical Theatre program. The presentation was made to Mr. McRoberts at the Westside Arts Theatre on May 8 during the program's NYC showcase.

"I am deeply honored to receive this award, especially since it is associated with Actors' Equity," said McRoberts. "A gift like this is a tremendously positive jumpstart to my career as an actor. I am truly grateful to Actors' Equity and to Mr. Alan Eisenberg."

"Garen McRoberts is a wonderful young man and he has a very promising future ," said Eisenberg. "It's just terrific that this $5,000 award will be of help to Garen as he transitions from Ann Arbor, Michigan to New York. I am sure he will take advantage of this opportunity and I wish him all the best."

Brent Wagner, Chairman of the U/M Musical Theatre Department, enthusiastically added "Garen is immensely talented. He played Billy Bigelow in Carousel and gave one of the finest performances we've ever seen. He also played Sid in The Pajama Game, so he's cornering the market on John Raitt roles! I chose Garen to represent the Department at donor events in Florida and at Carnegie Hall, and he's demonstrated tremendous promise."

Garen grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he was active in local community theatre as well as in Milwaukee at the Skylight Opera Theatre. He got this acting "bug" as a junior in high school, when he did Parade: "We took the play to the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska. We were in a 2300 seat house, and playing that role in front of such a large audience really clicked." With his sonorous tenor/baritone, Garen has received kudos for his work in musicals like Big River, Les Miserables, Man of La Mancha, Sunday in the Park with George, Pippin and Side Show.

According to Wagner, the Musical Theatre undergraduate program had approximately 600 applicants this year, with an academic screening process that everyone has to go through before getting to audition. Only 20 or so are ultimately accepted into the program each year, so "it's extremely competitive." He added: "The program started in 1984, so we're coming up on our 25th Anniversary in March, 2009. The University of Michigan has produced some of the most important and recognizable names in the theatrical community, including stars like Gavin Creel, Hunter Foster, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Daniel Reichart, Erin Dilly and Celia Keenan-Bolger – in fact, since it opened, eleven U/M graduates have been in Spelling Bee alone."

"We try to develop the unique talents of our students, to emphasize what will make them stand out. Another element is that students are also getting a degree, so there's a sense of balance between academics and the arts."

Asked what role he would love to play on Broadway, Garen said: "I would love to play Sweeney Todd. Another revival won't happen for awhile, but hopefully I will be old enough to give it a shot down the road." With his talents and perseverance, no doubt that day will come.