Professional Field Experience and Internships
A professional internship is an essential part of pursueing a career in the theatre. This is how you get your start as a theatre professional.
There are many things to be gained through an internship:
- Learn new things and how to do things you know in a different way
- Meet professionals who will share their knowledge and experience with you
- Make contacts for future job opportunities.
- Build you professional résumé
- Consider registering with Actors Equity as an Equity Membership Candidate so that you can earn points toward the fifty weeks of work required to join Equity as an actor or stage manager.
- Discover if you've got what
it takes to be a theatre professional and see if you really want to
be doing this for the rest of your life.
An internship is an opportunity for on-the-job training in a theatre-related job while still a student. The object is to apply what has been learned in the classroom and the studio and to learn further through hands-on experience with working professionals. Training is enriched and new information and skills are brought back to Skidmore. Occasionally, internships are available in specific areas such as stage management, lighting, scenic design, costume design, sound, management, directing, acting, etc. More often than not, however, students find themselves with the title Intern, Apprentice, or Production Assistant. This tends to cover every possible task one might be asked to perform in a theatre.
The Skidmore Theatre Department encourages students to participate in professional internship programs whenever possible. Academic credit is available through Professional Internship in Theatre, TH299 (3 or 6 semester hours) and TH399 (3, 6 or 9 semester hours). The total number of TH229 and TH399 credits will be restricted to a maximum of twelve over four years. Most students taking advantage of this program do so in their junior year and/or during the summer. Some people have combined a 9 credit internship during the spring or fall with a 3 credit summer experience. Others have received 3, 6 or 9 credits for each of two summer experiences. Internships may be supplemented by an Independent Study with faculty sponsorship.
Internships are possible for a full semester, during all or part of the summer, or, locally, on a part-time basis while enrolled in courses at Skidmore. Internships may be setup with production organizations (regional or summer stock theatres, opera or dance companies, commercial production companies, etc.), individual artists, radio or television stations, film companies, scenic, lighting, prop, costume or wig shops, casting directors, etc.
In addition to the valuable skills and information gained in an internship, there are a number of secondary considerations which include the development of a more impressive résumé, vital professional contacts, and the very real possibility of a job with the same organization upon graduation.
Interns are rarely paid much or anything for this work. Some internships or apprenticeships involve a fee to be paid by students to cover room and board and/or tuition. Some theatres provide living stipends and/or housing.
Some of the most valuable internships are year-long and are designed for students who have already graduated.
Summer internship applications are generally due during the month of Feruary or very early March.
Seek-out appropriate sources of information (posted flyers, resources listed below, word of mouth, Career Planning Office files, family friends, etc.)
- Chosse between being a "big fish in a little pond" (e.g.: a small non-union theatre) or "a little fish in a big pond" (e.g.: a well-establish summer theatre like Williamstown or a Broadway Producer) — both can be of great value.
If you want academic credit (TH299/399) obtain guidelines from the Dean of Studies Office and talk to an appropriate faculty member who would sponsor you.
Locate target programs and research internship opportunities. Be sure t look at well known institutions like the Juilliard School, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Smithsonian Institution.
If possible, talk to students who have completed internships.
- Complete applications for part-time internships during the academic year and for summer (full-time). Be prepared to audition or interview for placements, where applicable.
Prepare résumé and cover letters (include SASE).
Mail material as early as possible.
Make follow-up calls.
- Be flexible and consider all available internship opportunities. Many theater industry internships offer a stipend. Always ask.
Audition or interview (if called)
Obtain departmental and college approval if seeking academic credit
Things You’ll Need:
- Transcripts (for full semester or post baccalaureate programs)
- Letters of Recommendation
Sources of Information:
Some Placement and Service Organizations
- American Theater Wing
- New Dramatists
- Stage Managers Association
- Stage Source - Greater Boston Theatre Alliance
- Theatre Communication Group
- University/Resident Theatre Association (URTA)
- Juilliard School Internship Program
- Drama League of NY
Internships for Pace Acting and Theater Majors - PDF Document includes links to employers!
2. Newspapers and Periodicals
- Back Stage (weekly)
3. Books & Bookstores
- Backstage Handbook for Performing Artists, Sherry Eaker
- Career Opportunities in Theatre and the Performing Arts, Shelly Field
- Directory of Theatre Training Programs, Jill Charles
- Internships: Peterson's Guides (annual)
- Handbook for Theatrical Apprentices, Dorothy Lee Tompkins
- New York's Other Theatres, Mindy Levine
- Opportunities in Theatrical Design and Production, Ann Folke & Richard Harden
- Professional Actor Training in NYC, Jim Monos
- Performing Arts Career Directory, Bradley J. Morgan and Joseph M. Palmisano
- Regional Theatre Directory, Jill Charles
- Summer Theatre Directory, Jill Charles
- TCG Theatre Directory Theatre Profiles (TCG)
- The Business of Show Business, Judith Katz
- The Actor's Picture/Resume Book, Jill Charles
- Drama Book Shop: 250 W. 40th St., New York, NY 10018, Tel: (212) 944-0595
- Applause Theatre Books: 19 West 21st Street, Suite 201, New York, NY 10010, Phone 212-575-9265, Fax 212-575-9270
- Samuel French, Inc/Ltd
- Theatrebooks, Inc.: 1600 Broadway, room 1009, NYC 10019 (212) 757-2834
Look here for helpful career development information.
Check out the videos by noted theatre professionals - Careers Guides
The World Wide Web: Here are but a few selected websites -- explore them and allow their links to lead you elsewhere. Some of these programs are for the summer, some for a full semester and some for after you graduate.
Some Definitions and Explanations
Commercial Theatre: Theatre for profit; generally involves trained union professionals
Broadway: Commercial theatre in the legitimate theatres in a designated area in NYC; Independent producers create production organizations for each new production and then rent available theatres for open-ended runs
Off-Broadway: A combination of commercial and not-for-profit theatres in NYC; generally much smaller than Broadway theatres; most have union contracts in force; some maintain permanent staffs and offer internship opportunities
Off-Off Broadway: Generally noncommercial theatre in the smallest of venues in NYC; nonunion; often involves experimental or alternative approaches to theatre
Not-For Profit Theatre (Noncommercial): Organizations supported through foundation grants, local, state and federal funding programs, donations, underwriting, and ticket sales; includes professional organizations and amateur/volunteer organizations
Regional Theatre: Noncommercial theatres in cities throughout the country belonging to LORT (League of Resident Theatres); Permanent production organizations; limited union contracts; internship opportunities; usually in operation Sept. through May
Arts Centers: Noncommercial performance complexes such as the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and Lincoln Center in NYC.; range of activities including theatre, opera, music, dance, film, etc.; permanent professional staff
Summer Stock: Hundreds of theatres in operation throughout the country during the summer; range of types involving both professional and amateur staffs including "star" houses, musical tent theatres, Equity regional theatres and nonunion resident theatres; includes prepackaged touring shows, classics, tryouts of new plays depending on type of theatre; both union and nonunion personnel; internship and/or apprentice opportunities in addition to full-paying staff positions; often involves producing one show each week; one might have large responsibilities as a "big fish in a little pond" in a small nonunion house or a "little fish in a big pond" in a well-known union house where there are opportunities to learn from trained professionals -- both situations can be valuable
Community Theatres: Grass roots local theatres that are based upon volunteerism of both trained and untrained amateurs; nonunion
Dinner Theatres: Often found in resort and suburban areas; light comedies and musicals, often packaged; either union or nonunion
Dance and Opera Companies: mostly not-for-profit; all employ administrative, production and technical personal and many accept interns; often involves national and/or international touring as well as residencies; might be union or nonunion
Children's Theatres: Companies (often touring) specializing in production for children; commercial and not-for-profit; often retain permanent staffs, usually nonunion
Equity Showcase (Equity Waiver) Theatres: Short-run productions showcasing Equity actors, directors, designers and playwrights; little if any pay; union members work under contracts allowing for inexpensive production costs; most based in NYC and LA
Industrial Shows: Productions developed for large corporations to introduce products and inform and reward franchise owners; organized by specialized production companies; all union
Equity Membership Candidate Program: A program developed by Actors' Equity to allow nonprofessional actors and stage managers to get credit towards Equity membership for work at certain Equity theatres. An EMC must complete fifty weeks of work to qualify for membership. These hours may be accumulated over a period of time in a number of different theatres. After forty weeks the EMC takes an exam. Once passed the EMC may join Equity. After the fifty week period an EMC has a five year eligibility period. Not all Equity theatres have EMC programs and the specific conditions and responsibilities differ from theatre to theatre.
Examples of Internships
- Production Assistant (we regularly place students in such local summer theaters as The Lake George Opera Festival, The Saratoga Shakespeare Company and The Adirondack Theater Festival)
- Semester-long stage management internship at a regional theater
- Television, radio studio or film production assistant
- Apprenticeship in a summer
stock theater (we regularly place students in such theatres as The
Williamstown Theatre Festival)
Theater Festival (Saratoga Springs, NY)
Senior Seminar - TH377
This course is offered every fall semester. It is designed to help students determine the best way to prepare for their next step forward in the theatre after leaving Skidmore. All aspects of career development are covered here including
- graduate schools and other training
- major theatre cities
- resume development
- headshots for actors
- information resources
- day jobs
- theatrical unions
Audition Workshop - TH251
This is a course designed to
help actors prepare for their next auditions for professional companies
and productions and for graduate schools and studio. Seniors may be invited
to participate in a NYC showcase in May.