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When Passion and Practicality Collide: The Journey of Jackson Smith

 

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“I’ve had a love of theatre my whole life,” said Accounting Associate Jackson Smith, when we met to talk about his journey towards a career in Theatre Finance.  In particular, seeing a St. Paul community theatre production of “The Music Man” at the age of five sparked his early interest, which was further strengthened by his own parents’ passion for the arts.  Throughout his childhood, his family attended a lot of plays.

By his middle school years, Smith already knew that he wanted a life in theatre, most likely as an actor.  In high school, he was highly involved in acting, particularly in musicals.  He also took on numerous behind-the-scenes roles, such as stage managing, running the light board, and set creation.

Smith recalls, though, never having felt a burning desire to be an actor and that, even then, he also had a love for numbers.  His math classes were some of his favorites in high school.  At that point, he didn’t have much of an inkling about Theatre Finance.

For his college education, Smith attended the University of Colorado in Boulder.  He knew after his first week of being in a class with “an awesome teacher” that he would definitely major in Theatre.  It wasn’t until he was simultaneously taking Introduction to Business as well as his first Theatre Management course during sophomore year when he knew that he wanted to major in Finance, too.  He had strategically signed up for the Business course to complement Theatre Management.  The latter required that he, with a group of students, create a proposal to start a theatre company.

During senior year, Smith gleaned lessons learned from that group experience to examine how to start a theatre company as his senior thesis.  In May 2014, he graduated with a B.A. in Theatre and B.S. in Finance.

In the summer of 2013, Smith had acquired his first job within Theatre Finance as an intern with a consultant for theatre companies who happened to be involved in Park Square Theatre’s Boss Thrust Stage building project.  Coincidentally, it would be 1-1/2 years after his graduation that Smith saw the Accounting Associate posting on Park Square Theatre’s website and applied just before the deadline.

Smith joined Park Square Theatre in mid-September 2015.  As Accounting Associate, Smith works on the payroll, pays bills, does accounts reconciliation, inputs and tracks donations and pledges, and handles various research projects, such as looking into the cost of printers.

Smith’s job search was a long and grueling one, which he treated as a full-time job.  Theatres often wanted more experience than he had, and the non-theatre business world likely sometimes wrote him off when they spotted Theatre major on his resume, despite the fact that he also has a Finance degree.   Yet Smith uncompromisingly did not remove those words from his resume.  If they didn’t want to hire him for who he truly is, then that’s probably not where he’d want to work anyway.

Smith advises anyone who wants a job in Theatre Finance to “be persistent, apply for as many jobs as you can, take internships, and be open to all things.  A lot of what I do, I had no clue that I would be doing.  Things in theatre are never the same.  I may be doing the same things each week, but not exactly.”  He loves what he does and that, through his work, he helps make live theatre possible for many people.

Just as I thought our conversation was over, Smith mentioned that through the course of his journey to fulfill his goal to work in Theatre Finance, he had also uncovered another passion, African dance.  “When I dance, I can’t stop smiling,” Smith said.  “It gives me energy.  It’s so much fun.”

As part of his schooling at University of Colorado, he was required to take dance classes.  He took beginning ballet, tap, and in senior year, African dance.  He loved African dance so much that he joined a non-college affiliated dance troupe called Logo Ligi. His membership required six hours of practice per week and gave him the opportunity to travel to Ghana with the group one summer.  He also took up drumming after his Ghana trip.

After moving back to St. Paul, Smith joined the dance troupe Tiyumba and commits five hours per week to practice.  Tiyumba has performed at various schools, parks, and festivals.

Only in his 20’s, Smith has already lived an amazing, dream-fulfilling life.  He is a testament to how resilience, openness, and self-integrity creates the path to where you want to go and who you want to be.   And what a fun and joyful journey it has been!

Ting Ting Cheng

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