5 Tips for Theatre Interns
Having completed internships at New Jersey Repertory Company, Premiere Stages, and New Jersey Theatre Alliance, Deonté Griffin-Quick reflects on his journey from an intern to an employee. Offering advice to aspiring, young theatre professionals on how to secure a successful internship. Deonté now works as the Community Engagement Associate at NJTA and with Poetry Out Loud at the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
October 2017: I had just finished a stage management internship at New Jersey Repertory Company, working on their production of Iago, and was trying to figure out what was next. While trying to balance being a full-time student, working a part-time job in retail, being the VP of a very active campus organization, and still performing in productions, I wanted something else to do. (Crazy, right!?) It was during a Theatre Administration class at Kean University that John McEwen visited as a guest speaker to tell us about New Jersey Theatre Alliance. I'm pretty sure I was the only person in the class that took him up on his offer to pursue an internship with the organization.
Fast forward: I became the marketing and communications intern at NJTA, learning about e-mail communications and social media, among many other tasks. It sounds so cliché, but I truly fell in love with the organization, the staff, and the work that we do. Interning with the Alliance afforded me opportunities to network with industry professionals from across the state and country, learn new skills, and get hands-on experience as an arts administrator.
June 2018: One month after graduating from Kean University with my BA in theatre, John McEwen, the Alliance's Executive Director, asked me if I was interested in becoming a part-time employee because we were going to have a staff vacancy, but the show had to go on. So I stepped up to help maintain our communication efforts and assist with planning for our upcoming Curtain Call event. Welcome to the life of a working professional!
Here are some tips I have learned during my time working as an intern:
1. "Yes, and..."
This is one of the most basic theatre saying and exercises you learn as a new actor. I have learned that employers will take more interest in you when you have a willingness to try something new. And they'll like you even more if you have something else to offer. Don't be afraid to contribute new ideas, take risks, or offer a new perspective. Always think ahead, because it will be appreciated in the end.
2. Manage your time wisely.
Balancing a hectic personal schedule and a work schedule can sometimes be challenging. Manage your time wisely to ensure that you are completing your work efficiently, without burning yourself out. With "yes, and...", it is also okay to say "no thanks" (sometimes). Creating boundaries for your own personal well-being can save you a lot of trouble in the end. Employers, especially theatre managers, will be more compassionate and understanding if you are honest with them.
3. Presentation is essential.
When going to an interview, dress as if you are going to an interview. You do not need to be formal, but presentable, clean, and appropriate. If presenting a resume, cover letter, writing sample, or portfolio it is good to have someone else look over your work. If you are interning already, ask if your supervisor can assist you with this. They can help to find mistakes that can be fixed before you submit them to your potential employer.
4. Do your research.
Every theatre company and organization is different. Be sure to do research on the work that they do. This will help you determine if this organization is a good fit for you and also save you a lot of time and energy if you do your research in advance. Research will also help you determine which internship programs are best for you based on your needs because not all internships offer monetary compensation or housing.
5. Let your reputation speak for you.
Sometimes your reputation is more important than your resume. Once you get a foot in the door, do your best to create a lasting rapport with everyone you come in contact with. The theatre community is very small (especially in New Jersey), so word travels quickly. I'm grateful that my reputation and my work carried enough meaning to open many doors for me and has afforded me opportunities to work with some awesome people.
Below you will find information on internship programs at several of our member theatres:
The Centenary Stage Company Internship offers qualified candidates the opportunity to serve as artistic interns for a season with the professional Equity Centenary Stage Company, and offers a monthly stipend for candidates who are hired into the program. The program provides each intern the opportunity to explore all aspects of theatre ranging from performance to production, and is geared toward candidates who have completed their undergraduate training, seeking to bridge the gap between the academic world and the world of professional theatre, and helping young artists in need of a place to build their careers.
Paper Mill offers non-paying internships in all areas of administration, including educational programming, marketing, fundraising and finance, company management, and non-union production management. Internships are available only during the presenting season from September through June. Paper Mill Playhouse does not provide housing for interns and internships are not available during the summer months.
During the summer, Premiere Stages offers internships that are full-time, seasonal positions. These internships are for individuals who desire practical experience in areas of Producing, Marketing, Education and Community Engagement, Production, and Literary Management, and for those who are willing to fully commit their time and energy to the program.
The McCarter internship program is designed to empower tomorrow’s theater professionals to develop in their chosen field. By incorporating our interns into the work of McCarter in a deep, vital, and mutually beneficial way, we help to foster thriving, passionate colleagues in the theater community. These internships are fulltime, full-season commitments. All McCarter interns receive a weekly stipend of $125, and free shared housing is available.
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s Intern Company is designed for early-career professionals interested in specific non-acting areas. Interns are in residence in one department throughout the summer under the guidance of The Shakespeare Theatre’s professional staff. Internships offer in-depth practical training and provide the opportunity to gain hands-on experience at a professional level while obtaining connections with respected artists, administrators, technicians, and educators.
The Skyline Theatre Company Apprentice Program gives students the opportunity to work directly with professionals in a production setting. Technical Apprentices assist directors, designers, choreographers, and staff during rehearsal and production, while Performing Apprentices experience the professional rehearsal and production process from auditions to closing night.
The Surflight High School Apprentice Program is designed to allow talented young people the opportunity to work directly with theatre professionals and gain first-hand experience in professional theatrical production. An Apprentice is a student that is entering 9th grade through just graduated High School and who has an interest in theatre.