Kent Overshown, University of Michigan Class of 2010, was named the winner of the Actors' Equity Association/Alan Eisenberg Award Scholarship for 2011. He is the fourth 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.
Overshown said of the award: "It's an honor and deeply humbling to receive the Eisenberg Award. It's especially gratifying because it's named for Equity's former Executive Director, Alan Eisenberg, who is also a graduate of University of Michigan."
Overshown grew up in Oakland, California with his mother, Charlene, who he calls "his rock" and two brothers, Byron, 18, and Nasif, 14. According to his mother, Kent started performing for his family and in local talent shows at the age of three. With her encouragement and support, Kent started his stage career at the age of nine with The Artship Foundation, a San Francisco cultural initiative committed to offering broad access to creative process through dance, theater, visual arts, music, and art in the parks.
His first foray into professional theater was at the age of 13 when he appeared in a new work entitled White Darkness at the Oakland Opera Theatre. While attending the Oakland School for the Arts, Kent performed in numerous productions including Big River and The Maids. He also appeared in the Stagedoor Manor productions of Godspell and Little Shop of Horrors.
It was a production of Ragtime that drew Kent to musical theater. He was inspired by James Monroe Iglehart, who performed the role of Coalhouse Walker, Jr. at a theater in Walnut Creek. Kent was in the ensemble of the production. "I am an inner city kid from Oakland," said Kent. "Being a part of the production, and watching James' performance, brought it all together for me. I knew right then that I wanted to do musical theater and that I wanted to play that role. My mom always told me, though, that there will be a lot of talented people out there and she encouraged me to work as hard as I can because that will set me apart. She is always right."
Upon hearing of Kent's award, Mr. Iglehart said, "I am thoroughly proud of him. He's a great young man. He was eager to learn and we talked and laughed. I'm extremely proud he got the award and that he performed the role of Coalhouse. It does my heart good because that's what this is about - going for your dreams. Congratulations to the young brother and I can't wait to share the stage with him again!"
This past year, Kent fulfilled the dream to play Coalhouse Walker, Jr. in a University of Michigan production of Ragtime. His other U of M credits include Rent, The Who's Tommy, Under Milkwood, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and The Full Monty. "The opportunity to attend University of Michigan changed my life," said Overshown. "It is a blessing to be a part of the University's musical theater program because it is a supportive, challenging and creative atmosphere. It was one of the best decisions of my life."
Kent joined Actors' Equity Association in 2007 while appearing in The Pajama Game at The Muny in St. Louis. Other Muny performances include The Music Man, Annie, Miss Saigon, My Fair Lady, and Les Miserables. He will return this summer to The Muny, where he will appear in Titanic, Sound of Music and Show Boat.