Eastern Principal

kellie overbey

New York, NY

I serve on 7 committees, ranging from contracts and worker protections to union strategy: 

Public Policy
President’s Committee to Prevent Sexual Harassment

Vice Chair on:
Media & New Technology


Courage is all. I believe our union has an obligation at this exceptionally challenging moment in history to summon courage and stay strong. We can and we must protect hard won gains, while at the same time continuing to advance protections for our members. Even as we navigate this current global uncertainty. Even now. Especially now. Never before has the integral importance of a healthy labor force been clearer. Never before has the need for fair wages and safe working conditions been more vital. 

To me, being fair means deliberating with intelligence and compassion; listening with openness and critical thinking; examining every issue thoroughly; and most importantly, always, always putting the needs of our members first. We can only save our industry if we keep its work force solvent. Theatre is crucial for a healthy society so it is imperative that our union remain intrepid in protecting you, the very lifeblood of the theatre. 

I take this responsibility seriously, serving on 7 committees: Production, LORT, President’s Committee to Prevent Sexual Harassment, Public Policy, Principal, and as Vice Chair for both Off-Broadway and Media & New Technology. I am proud to advocate for you in every conversation and with every vote. I will continue to lend my voice and my vote to sustain, strengthen, and improve your wages and protections so that you can continue making art with passion and confidence. In solidarity, and with commitment and courage, together we will all ensure that the theatre will prevail.

Personal Statement

I grew up in Western KY, but I think about my childhood more as being set in the 1970s than in the South. Being a kid who wore bell bottoms, gaucho pants, and stick pins, loved mod flowers, and listening with great romantic earnestness to R.E.O. Speedwagon tells you more about my upbringing than knowing I grew up in the Bible Belt. As a matter of fact, when people ask me if I was raised with religion, I tell them, “Yes. Southern Democrat.”

I went to Northwestern, have hung around and worked in Chicago, and have lived in both Los Angeles, and NYC. For a while I was ping-ponging across the country, and for a while that worked — I liked the yin/yang balance of it — but eventually I decided I needed to commit to a coast for better or worse. And I chose Manhattan. Mainly because I love the theatre so much.

My Equity Card: As was often the case when I was ping-ponging back and forth across the country, I would land in a new home on one coast and then immediately book a job on the other. So I was living in L.A. when I booked my first professional play which was Beth Henley’s The Debutante Ball Off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club. I had flown myself to NYC to audition for a non-Equity apprenticeship at Williamstown, which I did not get. But while I was in town, I got this other audition. Then I had to fly myself back to NYC for the callback. Needless to say, I went through the roof with excitement when I booked the job. Norman René directed it, and Beth was involved, and we would go out and drink red wine with Carol Kane who played my sister, and some of the people who came to see it were Aidan Quinn, and Mary Kay Place and Madonna. It was a very heady experience. If I hadn’t already been sold on acting as a career, that job surely did the trick. I stuck around NYC for a while after that.

How/Why is Equity and this work important to you?
Equity is important to me because theatre is important to me. Theatre is vital for a healthy society, and a healthy workforce is vital to the theatre. The union’s prime directive is to protect the workforce and keep it healthy. It’s essential. All these things are inextricable.

I feel grateful, honored, privileged, and duty-bound to offer my experience, intelligence, and compassion to important problem solving. I’m one of those people whose left and right brains are fairly balanced. I love creating, but I also like math and logic. It’s a useful skill set to bring to the table where artists and laborers sit; where artists and laborers are, in fact, one and the same.

I am also always eager to find ways to bridge misunderstandings and misjudgments that exist within our own ranks. Equity is a national union whose 52,000 members live all over the country. There are many different theatrical communities and ecosystems, and many different cultural languages, habits, and traditions that make them up. It’s understandable that sometimes this makes us feel alienated from each other. But we are all unified by our collective love for the theatre, and our belief in its necessity. It’s important to me to offer pathways to solidarity so that we can remain as strong as possible.

Is there anything else do you do in the world (volunteerism, side hustle, civic work) that informs your worldview and the experience you will bring to the Council room?

I am the Executive Director of A is For, a nonprofit of Artists dedicated to advancing reproductive rights and ending the stigma against abortion care. One of the things we’re currently doing that I’m most excited about is we’re having a playwriting contest, soliciting one-act plays about reproductive justice. Submissions will be accepted through May 31, and you can find more information about the contest here.

What is a Fun Fact or something most people don’t know about you?
I am a master knitter, and I have an embarrassing amount of yarn in my small East Village apartment. I will probably spend most of my time in quarantine archiving it.

Where/What is your happy place?
Creating, making, acting, writing, knitting, cooking, sewing, reading, imagining. And spending time with the people I love doing the same.

What is your Superpower, or what do you wish your Superpower could be?
I like to say (I’m not the first to do so) that a person’s superpower is also their achilles heel. Self assessment here is difficult, but if I had to, I would say like many actors I am a strong empath. So I think I’m very good at quickly learning what language someone speaks, and then being able to speak with them in that language. The worst part of that for me is that sometimes I feel I risk losing my own center. But in truth that’s more of a fear than an actuality. I’m stronger than I look. And so is my ego. And the best part is that I get to connect to people in a deeper way, which is so important to me on every level; personally, socially, professionally. Also, I would not say no to being able to fly.

What was your first ever stage production?
At 14 I played Emily to Matt Burke’s George in the Murray High School production of Our Town. I already had an enormous crush on Matt who was cute and funny and talented. Not only was he a clever actor, but he was also the first chair trumpet player in the school band. (I played the french horn.) The day we blocked the wedding scene in the school library was the first time I’d ever kissed a boy on the lips. I’d had so much anxiety about it the night before. What about our noses?! How will I know which way to turn my head?! Of course it was fine in the end. I’m sure I must have blushed. At home later that night, I sat safely in my darkened living room, reliving the moment as I stared dreamily out at the night sky, sipping an orange crush. I joke that that’s why I became an actress. Free kisses! But in truth, and no kidding, I’ve been in love with actors ever since. Not sorry about it either. I love actors. All of us.