Friday, February 23, 2018

Advice for Intern Applicants: Search, Experience, Lasting Effects

As a student of theatre and teaching, you sat in numerous classes and completed countless assignments.  All the hard work led to this exciting and terrifying moment when you put your learning into action.  As you begin looking for the perfect internship, you might get caught up in the application process and the hopes that your time will lead to the launch of an exhilarating career.  However, it is important to remember that the internship experience consists of three equally significant parts: the search, the experience, and the lasting effects.

When searching for the best position for you, do not be afraid to get specific.  You might think a focus on theatre and young people is narrow enough, but there are many other facets to consider.

  • Would you like to work in a small or large organization?
  • One that is community oriented, or has more of a national or global focus?
  • Would you like to teach, perform, or work in a supportive capacity?
  • Do you want the organization to be located in a specific city or area?
  • Do you need to have compensation?
  • Is there an opportunity that matters more to you than a stipend?

Once you answer all of these questions, do some research and compile a list of internships that fit your criteria.  It’s great to have a specific organization in mind, but you should also reach out of your comfort zone to diversify your options.

Once you accept an internship, you have moved on to the experience.  This is when you have to become a sponge and soak up all the information and opportunities provided for you.  Go to all the workshops, meet with anyone who will talk to you, and work to acquire new skills.  Set some goals and priorities for your educational experience and work with your supervisors to reach them.  Don’t forget to explore your surroundings!  Many internships bring you to a new city with distinct sights to see and, of course, different theatres to visit.

When it comes time to say goodbye, don’t forget to write your thank you notes and work to stay in touch.  Many supervisors are happy to write letters of recommendations or serve as a reference as you enter the job market.  One of the most lucrative tools for a young professional is a well-connected network and many of these links can be made during your internship.  It is not uncommon for an internship to lead to a job in the same organization, so make sure you leave a good impression.  Finally, don’t worry if your internship held some disappointments.  It is just as essential for you to figure out the facets of a career that do not interest you, as it is for you to discover where your true passion lies.

Kennedy Center at Sunsetphoto by Carol Pratt

Kennedy Center at Sunset
photo by Carol Pratt

Although internships are varied, my experience with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts was truly amazing.  The DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center administers this program where the day-to-day duties of the interns are augmented with lectures and workshops full of useful information. The Institute leverages the Kennedy Center’s network to train, support, and empower arts managers and their boards locally, nationally, and internationally. The Kennedy Center provides insight into highly professionalized systems and resources.  Additionally, many of the employees have worked there for decades and their knowledge is unbeatable.  There are several Kennedy Center departments in which you can intern, but I highly recommend working with Theater for Young Audiences.  Along with a full season of presentations, TYA is one of the only producing branches of the Kennedy Center and it was an honor to work on the exciting new commissions.  Intern duties in this department range from writing contracts to helping with auditions, to even researching promising children’s books for future productions.  Plus, who could resist the exciting and supportive work environment made up of such wonderful TYA advocates!

An internship is a highly personalized experience that can hold many incredible opportunities.  If you take the initiative to fully explore all three phases of the experience, you will realize your individualized requirements, be equipped to take advantage of all the opportunities as they arise, and secure lasting professional relationships.  Good luck!

Grand Staircasephoto by Carol Pratt

Grand Staircase
photo by Carol Pratt

For more information on internships at the Kennedy Center click here

Amy Russell teaches theatre arts at The River School, an independent school that offers an inclusion model for children with hearing loss, in Washington, D.C.  She received her undergraduate degree from New York University’s program in Educational Theatre and will receive her Masters in Arts Management from American University this May.  She interned with the Kennedy Center’s Theater for Young Audiences department last summer. 

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