From Missouri to New York, Musical Theatre alum Shawnee Fierros Casas Richberger has been able to find success after graduating in 2020, most recently being featured in the New York Times.

The Times featured Shawnee for living in the Rehearsal Club, an artist residency and a one-year-old reincarnation of a non-profit organization that had the ambition to provide an affordable, safe haven in the big city for young women embarking on a career in performing arts.


Shawnee is currently auditioning for roles as a singer and actor, and she does background work on TV shows and movies. Next month, she has a cabaret with the Rehearsal Club. 


“I’m very excited to sing. It’s hard to get seen in New York, so every time I get to be on stage is so invigorating,” Shawnee says.


She wanted to move out to New York right after college, but because of the COVID outbreak in 2020, that was not possible. She moved back home to Arizona, working at the School of Rock to save up before heading to the city. 


Inspired by the words of Jenn Hemphill, “If you live in your hometown for more than a year after you graduate, you will never leave,” Shawnee decided that 2021 was her last year at home. She would be in NYC by January 2022, no matter what. Because the Rehearsal Club provided inexpensive housing for aspiring actresses, singers, and dancers in New York City, Shawnee could move on January 5, 2022.


There are ups and downs to life in The Big Apple. One of the biggest challenges that Shawnee has faced while living there is no longer being able to drive. When she lived in Arizona, a car was necessary and a place to practice new songs and clear her head. Now, living in New York, the city is so packed that she lost that freedom. She had to be willing to adapt and dig to find new things to fulfill the parts she left behind in Arizona.


On the other hand, living in a big city means that there is a lot of exploring to be done. Shawnee finds joy in hopping from place to place, finding free food, makeup, or services. She even got free matcha made by actress and singer Ashley Tisdale.


Like her experience at Stephens, she feels safe being surrounded by strong women. They are all one another’s most prominent supporters and cheerleaders. Living in an all-women residence helps make coming home at the end of the day feel like an escape from the city of millions right outside the door. They can also use one another to practice for auditions instead of paying strangers because everyone in residence is an actress.


Her advice for students who are scared their dreams are too big is, “Nothing is permanent. If your dream is to move to a big city like New York or Los Angeles - do it. If you end up hating it, you can go somewhere else, don’t let the fear of being stuck hold you back from pursuing what you believe in. I think it’s a very dangerous thing to lose your momentum and the most momentum you will ever have is after they place that diploma into your hands, so run into the world and aim big. As my best friend always says, ‘Fake it ‘til you become it.’”

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