The Business of Broadway
Star of "The Lion King" shares her Broadway business savvy
October 4, 2011
A showstopping vocal talent led Chaunteé Schuler, '03, to the stage, but in and of itself, it wasn't enough to make her stand out nationally. As one of thousands of talented actors hoping to land roles, Schuler knew she had to approach her career with an enterprising mindset. The strategy has worked — she's now in her second year as Nala in Disney's "The Lion King" on Broadway.
"Regardless of how talented you are, the arts is a business," says Schuler, who toured nationally in "The Producers" and "The Lion King" and starred on television's "As the World Turns" before landing her role on Broadway. "It's a lot of work and knowing the ins and outs of the business."
Yet there's no doubt that Schuler's talent has been the foundation of her career. Her acceptance into Virginia's Governor's School for the Performing Arts introduced her to the University of Richmond; she spent the summer before her senior year of high school on campus and quickly fell in love with the University. "As soon as I walked onto the Modlin Center stage, I knew I had to go there," she says.
"I saw that there were opportunities for women, and I liked the size — it felt like everyone knew everyone," she says. "UR really finds students who are well-rounded and gives them all of the opportunity to be the best students they can be."
Schuler majored in theatre and dance while minoring in political science. Looking back, she is grateful to the theater professors who cast her in roles that shaped her acting. In dance, "I was really starting from scratch," she says. "[Professors Myra Daleng and Anne Van Gelder] really believed in me. They gave me an opportunity to really learn."
After spending many years in arts and theater, Schuler is eager to help current Richmond students find their way. "Really think outside of the box and follow your heart," she says, and warns against writing off a performing arts career in favor of something that seems more lucrative. "There is a full career [in the arts] and a world of opportunities. You can have a six-figure job.
"Get in touch with someone who's doing it, like myself, to get the real world advice on what it's going to take to make it happen," she adds.
Now that it's happening for Schuler, she says, "Some days I still can't believe I'm here. I love it. It's an incredible experience."