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  • Stacey Bowers / Photography Provided by Ken-Matt

Setting the Stage

Considering Ken-Matt Martin’s résumé, you probably couldn’t imagine that he once was unsure of his talent and his future. As a Parkview High School senior in 2008, Martin won 3rd place in Thea Foundation’s performing arts scholarship competition, and he said that was the turning point when his self-esteem raised. “Prior to that point, I thought I was just an average student or performer, but winning a Thea Foundation award gave me the confidence to pursue musical theatre B.F.A. programs, and I was accepted into multiple before ultimately deciding on Drake University,” Martin said.

“Thea made my first year and thus my entire undergraduate education possible,” he elaborated. “My family was not able to fully afford the cost of attendance of my fist year initially, and Thea alleviated that stress.” His second year at the prestigious university, Martin became a resident assistant to “make up the difference” and cushion further costs. He earned two undergraduate degrees at Drake, one for theatre arts and one for public relations.

Martin’s accomplishments in the realm of theatre could fill a playbill. He is the founder and executive director of Pyramid Theatre Company in Iowa, a company whose mission is “to provide a gateway to the arts for the Des Moines community by illuminating the presence of Black artists in the theatre canon and providing a means of artistic expression to emerging Black voices.” He has directed, produced and starred in numerous productions throughout the southern and midwestern states. He served three years on the Board of Directors of Employee and Family Resources of Iowa and spent a year as the full-time apprentice general manager at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. His producing and directing credits have received seven Cloris Leachman Excellence in Theatre Award nominations, including a win for Best Play and a Special Recognition Honor in 2016. He has also received two Des Moines Dionysus Award nominations for Best Actor in a Musical and two regional Broadway World Awards for Best Direction and Best Play. Now he’s working on a graduate degree in Directing at Brown University in Rhode Island.

“I literally am the person I am today because I had access to the arts form such a young age,” Martin said, referencing time spent as a child actor with a contract with the Nickelodeon network, training as a youth at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and his experience winning a Thea Foundation scholarship. “Thea allowed me to further that education by way of my collegiate experience, and I am now working full-time in the theatre industry. Thea made that possible.”

To learn more about Ken-Matt Martin, click here to visit his website. To learn more about how a Thea Foundation scholarship could change your life, click here for details and registration for our 2018 senior scholarship competitions in performing arts, visual arts, film, fashion design, slam poetry and creative writing. Registration opens soon!

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