Sam Lips, University of Michigan Class of 2012, was named the recipient of the Actors' Equity Association/Alan Eisenberg Award Scholarship. He is the sixth 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.
Sam grew up in Denver, Colorado and has been interested in musical theater since he was 7 years old. “I joined a competitive company when I was 10. I wanted to attend a performing arts high school, but my dance teacher suggested that I study something other than dance because I took so many dance classes outside of school, so I went in for acting and got accepted. My sophomore year, I joined a choir and started taking voice lessons. That was when I discovered there were so many more opportunities for someone who could sing, act and dance so I moved more in the direction of musical theatre from then on.”
Sam’s first audition was for a production of Snow White at a local theater in Denver when he was 13. “They asked for a monologue, but I didn’t know what that was, so I recited a Dr. Seuss poem instead. I guess it worked out okay though because I got cast in the production.”
Sam’s favorite role thus far was Frank in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. “It was so rewarding to play him every night. I love to be as busy as possible when I do shows and in that one the brothers hardly left the stage. The dancing was so athletic and so spectacular and everyone loves to see that. Frank is the second youngest of the brothers and he’s described in the script as the one who is always ready for a fight. I tried to channel the rascal little brother that everyone knows and loves—even though he often makes a mess—which was a lot of fun because I have never been a particularly confrontational person. Of course, when Frank meets his bride-to-be, he really starts to grow up and become a man. It was such a fun (and exhausting) journey every night. If only the run had not been so short.”
In the future, Sam would love to play Bert in Mary Poppins. “Not just because he gets to tap dance on the top of the proscenium. He serves as a sort of narrator with a very mysterious background that is never fully explained in the show. I would love to explore that background of his. I think it would be a lot of fun.”
Sam found out he was the 2012 recipient of the Eisenberg Award after coming home from a very frustrating rehearsal. “It was toward the end of the school year and I had so much on my mind, so I was planning on just going to bed. Lying in bed, I checked my email and I had a message from the chair of our department at Michigan titled ‘Some Exciting News.’ The message told me that the faculty had selected me to receive this award based on the work I had done during my four years at Michigan. After that I couldn’t fall asleep. I was in total shock. I never thought that I would be the one that they would pick for this award.
Ultimately, this award serves as a constant reminder to keep improving and keep growing as a performer. "I came into Michigan seeing myself as a dancer who could sing, but after the wonderful guidance of the faculty, I decided that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to feel just as confident with my voice and my acting as I did with my dancing. The faculty really challenged me. They always encouraged me to keep improving. This award presents me with an opportunity to continue that growth in New York. No matter how difficult my life may be in the real world, I will just think of this award and it will tell me not to give up. The program at Michigan completely changed my life and I owe so much to the faculty for helping me become who I am today. And Mr. Eisenberg’s generosity has already helped me with the transition to New York. My first few weeks in the city were absolute madness, but because of this award, I was able to focus completely on getting my career moving and I already feel like I am off to a very good start. I am anxious to see what else is ahead and in the process, I only hope that I can make them all proud.”
Sam is currently playing Fred Casely in Chicago at The Muny in St. Louis, MO. Opening night was June 25th and it closes July 1st. He will also be in the Muny’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat which runs the last full week of July.