At the point at which I am in my life/”producing career”, getting some work experience in the real world this summer was something I really wanted to do, and something I discovered there was basically no advice about or guidelines for, anywhere on the internet (that I could find). This is what I did to try to get an internship, which I was successful in doing: I hope it is helpful to you!
Finding the Internship
I would suggest starting to look for summer internships in January, with a clear idea of exactly what dates you’re actually available, and what dates you’re “willing to be available” (e.g. can you miss the first two days of lectures of a third year university course if you’re doing one?). You should give people the dates you’re actually available, but know that you are willing to negotiate (if you are).
There is no up to date list of producing internships available, although this one, from A Younger Theatre (which, incidentally is a great website you should absolutely check out!), despite being a few years old, and so not all the links being up to date, is a fantastic place to start. Go through the list, and bookmark every link which works for internships that you are eligible for.
Then, google as many theatres as you can, in as many places as you would be willing/able to do an internship! A list of London theatres can be found here. While there are a lot of theatres in London, it is an expensive place to try to live, and more people will be looking there than anywhere else, so I’d recommend also checking out any regional theatres you can find online (if they’re in your home city even better!). Look for their vacancies and/or internships pages (which are often found through the little tiny links at the bottom of the home page, or under “About” or “Contact”), and see if there is anything you could apply for, or an email contact you could ask about interning. Lots of places don’t actually advertise, but might be willing to take you, so note down any possible email contacts, as well as bookmarking any advertised placements you could apply for.
Getting the Internship
Once you have your list of possibilities to apply for, you should start applying! Draft a general email, saying something to the effect of:
I am [whatever you are currently doing, e.g. second year student at X University, or student at Y School], looking for a placement [this summer].
I am particularly interested in your theatre/company/placement [as appropriate] because________________________________________________________, and I think I would be suitable because ________________________________________.
Please find my CV attached, and let me know if there is any further information I could give you about myself which you would find useful.
References are available on request.
[If you have a professional website, e.g. Linkedin, you could include a link here]
You may include more or less information, depending on what you can find out about each possibility, but you should absolutely make each email tailored to the individual theatre/company or if there is one specifically advertised internship, and why you think you would be suitable.
It’s worth sending out a couple of more speculative emails, e.g. if you’re on a course which doesn’t require a placement, email places which say they only want interns who need placements (obviously, acknowledge that they have said this, apologise if you are ineligible, and thank them for their time!), or places which take volunteers…
Email as many people as you can (I did this in mid-January for the majority of the placements I applied for, with a list of those who only accepted applications 3 months before to write to in April if I got nowhere with the first set) and don’t worry if several don’t respond at all. I think I got about 50% of people respond, which was more than I was expecting. You may find that even if they can’t take you, whoever you’ve written to will offer you advice, or tell you that you look like you’re on the right track, which is both incredibly helpful and lovely to hear!
If they invite you for a meeting or interview, that’s great, congratulations!! Your next step is to be prepared, and be honest. Read up as much as you can about the theatre/company. Their website, and any social media they may have are a great resource for you at this point: you want to be able to show that you are interested specifically in their theatre! (And to be honest, reading in depth about theatres/theatre companies is fascinating – you’ll learn a lot!) Make sure you remember all the things you put on the CV you sent them, and any additional forms you filled in for them, and then all you can do is be yourself! Be honest, but enthusiastic – you presumably love theatre to want this job: don’t hide that!!
Funding the Internship
The last step, once you have an internship (again, congratulations!!!) is to work out how to fund it. Unfortunately, unless you’re very lucky, you won’t be paid for your work as an intern. You may, if you’re lucky and in London, get some travel expenses paid, but this is also quite rare. So, you need to find money to travel to and from work, and if you’re interning in a town you don’t live in, to live and eat.
Your internship is likely to be part time, so one way to help fund it is to take on paid part time work, e.g. in a café. If you are a university student, look into any grants your university has available for summer opportunities, and apply for them all! Look into any funding available from societies/communities you are a part of (e.g. theatre groups, church communities, student societies…) Other ways to get actual money to pay for things include crowdfunding, using any savings/birthday money, asking the Bank of Mum/Dad/Any Generous Adult Vaguely Related To You…
I would also recommend, if you can, trying to stay with friends or family rather than paying for accommodation, but if you do have to pay for it, look for the cheapest you can find. In London, where this is the biggest expense, if you’re there in the summer it is worth looking at accommodation from universities (e.g. UCL or Imperial College London) who rent out rooms relatively cheaply. Otherwise, trying places like Craigslist or Gumtree might be useful, as would asking on Facebook if anyone could put you up. Again, it is also worth looking into anything like accommodation or food provided by any societies/communities you are a part of (church communities are particularly good at this in general, but theatre societies can also ask members who may have been in your position!).
Funding an unpaid internship is difficult, but not impossible, and, if at all possible, you shouldn’t be discouraged from applying for one of these placements by the cost – there is a lot of help available, and a lot you can do to cut costs (e.g. I’m only staying in London for the nights I have to this summer, and I’m travelling there by coach, rather than train, which, while more uncomfortable, is significantly cheaper…)
Let me know in the comments if you’re looking for a theatre production internship, and if this was helpful to you, or if you have had one in the past, if this resembles how you went about applying for it! Feel free to like the post if you enjoyed it and/or follow the blog if you want more!
I’ll see you on Friday to let you know how Newnham June Event went!