At the age of five, Julia Dunetz saw her first Broadway play with her dad. It was Beauty and the Beast. She found herself thinking about the play for 24 out of the 24 hours of the day. So, like most young children, she decided to be in her school plays. As the years progressed, Dunetz realized that she was not going to be an actress but that theatre was more than a hobby to her.
She began to think of her business-oriented, analytical, and logical character traits and wanted to find a way to combine them with theater. Dunetz settled on the role of producer. Since, as a Cornell University undergraduate, Dunetz has produced and directed multiple pieces at Cornell, including the 2017 10-Minute Play Festival.
She has been the associate producer of a touring production of Hundred Days, a musical that tells the story of a couple who dives into the precariousness of love as if they only had 100 days to live. Dunetz has worked on multiple Broadway productions through four internships on Broadway, including Wicked, Dear Evan Hansen, Pretty Woman, and Anastasia. Dunetz will be making her Broadway producing debut in the summer of 2019 as a coproducer of Sea Wall/A Life, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge at the Hudson Theater.
Balancing Academics and the Business of Theater
Dunetz’s major is human development in the College of Human Ecology, with a minor in performing and media arts and in business. Many would think the reverse when meeting her— Dunetz’s life revolves around producing. During the spring 2019 semester, she was the associate producer on a play at the Cherry Arts in downtown Ithaca, producer of a concert of a new musical, Falling Out, at the famed Broadway cabaret venue Feinstein’s/54 Below, associate producer of the musical Hundred Days, and producer of the Student Laboratory Theatre Company at Cornell.
Dunetz was doing all of this while a full-time Cornell senior. Her focus was twofold—academics and the high energy of the theater. Dunetz says the key to her balancing act is that she does not do it alone and that her time at Cornell has given her the opportunity to flourish and gain support from people in the theater community.
“Theatre is the most collaborative of art forms. Getting to work with so many incredible people is part of what makes theater producing so fulfilling,” says Dunetz.
Cornell’s Department of Performing and Media Arts
Most students in the Department of Performing and Media Arts (PMA) at Cornell are interested in acting, stagecraft, or screenwriting. For Dunetz, however, it’s producing, and she’s grateful for the guidance of Cornell professors David M. Feldshuh, Carolyn J. Goelzer, Beth F. Milles, and others for recognizing her aspirations and niche interest in producing. She was the first undergraduate to coproduce the 10-Minute Play Festival. Dunetz credits this to the openness of the teaching staff in the PMA department.
“The PMA department has always been there to help me succeed. Without them, I wouldn’t be as confident and ready to face the world as I am today.”
The Job of Producing
“The producer is the CEO of a piece of theater,” Dunetz explains. Dunetz’s primary job is to balance everything that goes into a production. In certain smaller plays or musicals, she is the sole person in charge of coordinating rehearsal times, communicating with the actors and composers, securing a venue, distributing paychecks, and working out union dues.
“The producer is the CEO of a piece of theater…Producing is troubleshooting; you deal with stuff as it comes up.”
In larger musicals, such as Hundred Days, there are multiple producers, so there is much more collaboration and variation. Some days Dunetz works on a show for three hours and other days it may only be five minutes. The uncertainty of the job excites her. “Producing is troubleshooting,” she says, “you deal with stuff as it comes up.”
Dunetz’s role expanded to producer-director for two full-length, sold-out plays at Cornell’s Black Box Theatre, including Constellations. During her 2018 internship at Media Planning and Insights, Situation Interactive, Dunetz worked with clients—such as Wicked, Dear Evan Hansen, The Band’s Visit—analyzing the effectiveness of the media advertisements of the shows. Through these experiences, Dunetz gained skills that would help make her a well-rounded producer.
“Theater is like a magnetic thing for me. It’s never going to go away.”
Dunetz has accepted a job offer as associate producer at Seaview Productions, a theatrical producing company that brings many shows to Broadway. In addition, she will continue to work as a coproducer for Sea Wall/A Life, excitedly anticipating its Broadway premier during the summer of 2019, following its sold-out run at the Public Theater, which earned the play a New York Times critic’s pick.