Desiree S. Dabney ’14 first heard of Shenandoah during her senior year of high school. Dabney then attended the Virginia Theatre Association conference where Shenandoah University had a recruitment booth set up, which allowed seniors the opportunity to audition for the conservatory. And, she says, “the rest is history.”
Her fondest memory of Shenandoah was graduating from the university with an amazing group of lifetime friends.
Dabney is a professional actress and a theatre teacher for Richmond Public Schools in Virginia. She has also taught theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. While working for Richmond Public Schools, Dabney started the first-ever theatre program at Boushall Middle School where she teaches the students theatre arts in Spanish and English. Although she had no budget for the program, she still wanted to make sure the children experienced theatre to the fullest, even taking them to see the Broadway musical “Hamilton” for free.
Now Desirée serves at Virginia Commonwealth University as the first African American head of musical theatre. She was awarded the 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award from Shenandoah University, was honored for Black History Month by NBC in 2023 and was awarded as a top 40 under 40 from the State of Virginia. She continues to make history in the performing arts and gives all thanks to SU. Dabney is also the proud owner of Theatre Diva Productions.
“Fine arts in public schools are looked over and cut due to funding, but I made it my duty to add theatre back in the school system,” said Dabney. “Students have the ability to create and be themselves.”
Being both an actress and teacher, she loves showing her students what it would be like if they choose the path of theatre, which has endless possibilities, including Dabney’s experience of acting on a television show.
Along with bringing the experience of theatre to children, one of the most rewarding parts of Dabney’s career is booking the AppleTV+ television series “Swagger!” It is a drama based on the life of professional basketball player Kevin Durant.
Dabney feels that Shenandoah prepared her for her career by providing her the tools she needed to create and make her goals possible.
Dabney’s advice to students is: “I want students to know that they are capable of anything they put their minds to. Never let someone tell you that your dreams are crazy because they are not. You are amazing and you are enough.”