Rider alum shines on California stage

By Tristan Leach

Sophia Alawi has done it all. From waitressing to teaching, the actor has taken every opportunity and made the absolute best of it. Now, the Rider alumnus can add one more experience to her resume: Joan in the musical, “Fun Home.”

Last Thursday at 42nd Street Moon, a prominent theater in San Francisco, Alawi and her castmates had their opening performance of the Tony Award winning show. The New Jersey born actor has worked hard for years to do the thing she loves the most and it is paying off.

Alawi realized she wanted to pursue theater when she was in high school. Before finding Rider, the actor took a gap year for two years and headed to New York City. Alawi said, “I didn’t really have a lot of resources in high school in how to audition for schools and what to do really, so I took a two year gap year just to do some training programs in New York City, and I was waitressing, and then I figured out I needed to audition for this many schools to get a really fair chance.”

She auditioned for 18 schools, including Rider.

“I actually remember this audition very vividly. It was Robin [Lewis], Nathan [Hurwitz] and Louis [Goldberg] at the table,” Alawi said of her audition at Rider. “I did my set, and I just remember having a really good connection with them and just having a really good audition.”

After her audition, Alawi was accepted by Rider, and the actor took the opportunity. Not only was the school in her home state, but it was also close to home. Alawi came to see Rider and get a look at the musical theater program on campus. “I was so eager to get into school for musical theater and hone my training at that time. Rider just seemed like the perfect fit,” said Alawi.

Alawi trained hard and got as much as she could out of her time at Rider. Lewis, an associate professor in musical theater dance, was at Alawi’s audition and would later become her professor and director.

Lewis said, “Every student has a different journey; everyone has a different path that works for them. I know with Sophia that she’s always working on her craft and auditioning and showing up. Also [her] kindness, [she] is just personable, she is just a beautiful soul.”

Though Alawi was thankful for her time at Rider, there were aspects that she was happy to avoid in her college career. “Because I was already in a training program in the city and I was able to separate the drama
of ‘oh I need my teachers to be obsessed with me’ or ‘I need their constant attention.’ I was like no, that’s not how it works … I know that sometimes they will have favorites which isn’t the best setup for an educational program,” said Alawi.

Those feelings aside, Alawi was thankful for her training at Rider and felt fortunate to have so much stage time her junior and senior year.

During her senior showcase, Alawi caught the attention of 11 agents. Although she wished that there had been more business classes in the theater business to prepare her for the world of theater.

After college, Alawi went onto several regional theater productions and some independent films. Alawi found herself in California before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but moved back to New York City to be with her family during the height of the pandemic. Later she made the decision to move back to California for her mental health. When theater started to slowly come back, Awali had another opportunity to perform in California. After her contract ended for that show, she was given the opportunity to teach, cementing her choice to stay in the golden state.

In the midst of her teaching, Alawi auditioned for “Fun Home” and started a new chapter in her life. “I auditioned for this theater called 42nd Street Moon, and I did a virtual audition with them and a Zoom callback, and I got it,” Alawi said. She has since been doing what she calls “double duty” working as both a teacher and actor.

When Alawi is not acting on stage, she is honing her skills in front of the camera. She has not only acted in a few independent films but is currently working on her own short film. Titled “Hayawan,” the film is about a young Muslim girl growing up in New Jersey after 9/11. “Indie filmmaking is so hard. We have to pretty much fundraise all the money on our own,” said Alawi.

The actor started writing at Rider and found herself in need of a creative outlet during the pandemic. A friend of hers took the project, and the two ran with it. As of now, the project is in its infancy, but there is a plan for a promotional party that is expected to be held this summer.

Lewis said of Alawi’s film experience, “Just to be in this business you’ve got to be versatile, from commercial to film to radio. That’s just part of this business. Every student has a different journey. To explore, you have to keep yourself busy. You have to create; we can’t keep doing old works, so the fact that Sophia is creating new works, that’s what this generation should be doing.”

Sophia Alawi is everything a college could hope for their students to become: bright, talented, kind and ready to take on the world.

Sophia Alawi has been featured in past Rider News articles. Alawi was referred to as Sophia Introna.

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