Gianna Schuetz combines theatre, finance majors with specific career in mind
Gianna Schuetz is a rare hybrid. As a double major in theatre and finance with a minor in entrepreneurship at the University of Mississippi, she created an individualized curriculum that will advance her career goal: being the manager of a theatre company.
“In middle school, I began getting involved in theatre, and I got bit by the theatre bug,” said Schuetz, a native of Huntsville, Alabama.
“Huntsville has a lot of very active community theatres there,” she said. “I was enriched by this environment, but I saw many organizations go bankrupt and have to close their doors. I decided to double major in theatre and also study the business side of that industry so that I can be the director of finance for a theatre company.”
She began as a double major in theatre and accounting but then switched over to the business school after two years.
“I started out as an accounting major, but I realized that what I was doing was creating data for someone else to make decisions,” she said. “I want to be the one making those decisions. I’m going to be the one who is doing the work of making a theatre solvent, like doing payroll, paying the taxes and dealing with the Actors’ Equity contracts.”
Creating her original double major was a project that involved support from the Patterson School of Accountancy and the Department of Film and Theatre. Schuetz applied to 11 different colleges and was looking seriously at UM, where she’d been awarded a merit scholarship in theatre. She said she chose UM because another school wouldn’t have let her do that particular double major.
“I scheduled a meeting with the dean at the School of Accountancy, and he gave me his full support,” she said. “We sat down together and looked at how this would work semester by semester. I felt that I had the support of people here, even before coming to campus.”
She credits Michael Barnett, chair and professor of the Department of Theatre and Film, with seeing her through the demanding program she created for herself.
“He was my rock in this entire experience,” she said. “He’s been my academic adviser, my thesis adviser and my life adviser. I wouldn’t be graduating on time if he hadn’t worked so closely with me on my schedule. Sometimes the theatre classes and the business classes conflicted, and he’d help me figure out (how to) make it all work.”
Her thesis was about hearing accessibility in Zoom theatre and how to take that same level of accessibility and achieve it in live theatre.
Schuetz has received professional-level experience on the business side of theatre at Ghostlight Repertory Theatre, a student-run theatre company at UM, where students at the Department of Theatre and Film work in every aspect of acting and stage production.
She managed the budget for the company as the director of finance in her sophomore and junior years. This year, she is serving as the theatre’s executive director.
“Working at Ghostlight, I had a chance to apply what I was learning in classes directly to running a company. I was with all my closest friends, and it was a safe space to try something new.”
In addition to being on the business side, she was a director, a stage manager and a lighting designer for Ghostlight productions.
She said she especially loves working on lighting because it is essential in understanding the mood of a play, the characters, and also where the audience’s attention should be focused in a single moment.
“It was Michael who pushed me to try lighting design, which is now one of my biggest passions,” she said.
Schuetz has also used her business acumen by serving as the treasurer for the Associated Student Body, director of fundraising and events for the Ole Miss Food Bank, and a group leader for the Big Event, the largest community service project at UM.
After graduation, she will be working for a second summer at the famed Williamstown Playhouse in Williamstown, Massachusetts, this year serving as the theatre’s associate business manager. The summertime Williamstown Theatre Festival is one of the best-known theatre festivals in the nation and puts on innovative productions as well as classical plays. It is an incubator for many Broadway productions.
In the fall, Schuetz will start a Master of Arts program in arts administration at Carnegie Mellon University, known for its strong drama department.
“Ultimately, what I want is to find a niche where I fit in the arts and to give actors places to make art,” she said.
Story by Abigail Meisel/College of Liberal Arts