Why You Need a Theatre Internship

theatre internship

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I’m a huge proponent of internships. HUGE. I’m on my third internship and I’m just a sophomore. Of course, I did get my first gig before I even started college, but that’s besides the point. There’s nothing quite like the experience you get as an intern, and let’s face it, I’m hooked. I just adore everything about interning, and I truly believe every theatre student needs at least one internship before they graduate, ideally more.

I could go on, but let’s just get to the point:

Why do I love internships so much?

You learn skills you can’t learn in the classroom

I’ve always said that there’s only so much you can learn from staring at your textbook. You can spew theory all day long, but unless you’re able to put it into practice, your knowledge is essentially useless. During an internship, you’re not only given a platform on which to practice these skills, but you’re also given the opportunity to learn skills your professors don’t cover in class. Plus, you’re given a chance to apply these skills in actual, real-life scenarios and see the results. 

You meet people who know what it’s really like to work in the industry

Your bosses and your coworkers know the ins and outs of your field. They can tell you about the industry dynamics of right now. Any upcoming trends, developing techniques, or exciting news, they’ll be the first ones to know about it—and you’ll be right there with them on the front lines, getting the inside scoop and learning the ropes. (Psst, your coworkers can also give you their secrets to success!)

You figure out what you’re good at (and not so good at)

Having an internship throws you into a demanding, fast-paced environment, which is quickest way to learn what you’re capable of. It can also help you figure out if the field you’re in is actually something to which you want to dedicate your life, and if you’re really cut out for the work it requires of you. But don’t sweat—I’ve found that when I’m put in a challenging situation, I surprise myself with just how much I’m fully able to do, and it’s a genuinely validating experience knowing that I’m good at what I want to pursue.

But, these are qualities internships in any industry can offer. Today, I’m talking about theatre internships. You may think I sound insane telling you to “work for free” when you’re already swimming in debt, but that’s not what I’m suggesting at all. As a student, there is still so much you don’t know about your field. And (after your education, of course) internships are the best way to learn more about it. Think of it as getting the opportunity for on-the-job training with professionals—because it is! You’re not going to be fetching coffee or filing papers all day, you’ll be fully immersed in the industry. So, hear me out on this one.

Why you need a theatre internship

You get a feel for the local theatre scene

Theatre scenes are as diverse as the people who are part of them; they each have distinctive heartbeats that resonate in every scene rehearsed, in every show produced, in every moment created. When you intern at a neighborhood theatre company, you get a behind-the-scenes look at the relationships, influences, and dynamics shaping your local theatre scene. And, you get first-hand experience by being part of that creation!

You get access to valuable resources

I’m going out on a limb and guessing that your college’s theatre department probably doesn’t have access to the same resources that professional theatre companies have. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, as a student, when you do have access to the technology, connections, and other tools local theaters have, you’re able to get a feel for what it’s really like to do theatre in a professional capacity.

You grow as an artist

During your internship, you may be asked to do some tasks that, quite honestly, you don’t feel ready for. And that’s okay. You may have tons of questions, or make a mistake. And that’s also okay. You’re still learning. Your bosses know that, and they’re training you—they want to see you succeed. So take those challenges and use them as a chance to grow. Plus, you’re surrounded by people who create new work for a living! You’ll totally find inspiration somewhere to help push you beyond your creative boundaries and open up new possibilities you never even dreamt of before. 

You meet the next generation of theatre

Chances are, you won’t be the only one interning at one of your neighborhood theaters. You’ll have a group of other insanely talented interns working alongside you. And these fellow interns? They’ll be the ones making waves in the contemporary theatre world, so get to know them! Now is not the time to be competitive and have an “I’m-not-here-to-make-friends” attitude. Take advantage of working with other college students who are just as passionate about theatre as you are, and make those connections! Not only will you have a larger network of people with whom to collaborate, but you’ll also get a sneak peek at what the next era of theatre has to offer.

Next week, I’ll tell you guys my top five secrets to landing your dream internship! 

Let me know in the comments below what your favorite internship experiences have been! 

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More about Kelly

Hi, I’m Kelly! I’m here to give busy college students a guide to navigating the modern theatre world. I’m passionate about spreading my love of theatre, traveling, and trying new things.

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