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Drama Grad Clears Hurdles for Role of a Lifetime
4/18/2013

Drama Grad Clears Hurdles for Role of a LifetimeAdrienne Shearer’s UST graduation story could not have been more heroically imagined if it were one of the productions in which she has starred or choreographed. Having overcome one obstacle after another, the talented Shearer will take her cues on May 18 as one of the 350 undergraduates and 793 graduate students who will participate in the University’s 63rd Commencement Ceremony.

The first-generation college grad is on her way to achieving dreams she never even considered when growing up.

Among the string of boulders placed in the road to Shearer’s college degree was emerging from high school in Beaumont with only a fifth grade knowledge of math, a serious skin condition that has hospitalized her at times, and no money for higher education.

“No one in my family ever went to college,” Shearer said. “My mom is single and works very hard cleaning houses, and we always lived paycheck to paycheck.”

So after high school, Shearer worked in a daycare.

If this story were a short movie, it would fade to black here and be over. But this is a full-length feature film. The story line is engaging and the spectacular lighting all emanates from Shearer herself. The delightful young woman positively shines.

With a lifelong love of the performing arts, the young dancer and actress spent her spare time participating in community theatre where her light was spied by a drama professor from a two-year community college. He offered her a scholarship on the spot.

“I couldn’t even multiply and didn’t have a car to get back and forth,” Shearer said.

Determined, she took on multiple jobs and helped her mom clean houses to earn extra money and got a math tutor so she could qualify for college classes. She ultimately earned an A in algebra while she acted, danced and choreographed her heart out.

With her two-year degree and new confidence, Shearer set her eyes on Houston. Armed with grants and scholarships plus tuition money donated by Ryan Foster, a member of her church, she secured a car and entered the drama program at UST.

Still, neither obstacles, nor their solutions had disappeared. She worked multiple jobs and often overcame lodging challenges by sleeping on the sofa of sympathetic, long-time UST employee Patricia LeBlanc.  Shearer’s chronic eczema condition, which can flare to a dangerous degree and has required hospitalization and chemo drugs in the past, is a constant companion. In spite of it all, she focuses on her dream of a career that marries performing arts and giving back.

“A long-time dream is to have my own theater company to be about self-discovery and healing through the creative arts,” Shearer said.  “One part of my company would serve adults with Down Syndrome.”

While planning her future, she looks with gratitude at how she got here.

“God knew that UST was where I needed to be and He has blessed me above and beyond what I ever knew to ask for,” Shearer said. “He showed me how important an education is.”

UST’s Fine Arts and Drama Department provides students with an extensive background in dramatic thought and theory and prepares them for performance through theoretical and technical aspects of the theatre arts. The Drama Program maintains an active production schedule each semester, where students get hands-on experience on stage and behind the scenes.

Since being at UST, Shearer was invited to participate in the stage reading of an original work alongside Equity actors from the Alley Theatre.

Meanwhile, in the role of her lifetime, Adrienne Shearer is a long way from final curtain.

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The University of St. Thomas, dedicated to educating leaders of faith and character, is a private institution committed to the liberal arts and to the religious, ethical and intellectual tradition of Catholic higher education. St. Thomas is Houston’s only Catholic University and was founded by the Basilian Fathers in 1947.

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