When college students ask me how to get a job in the performing arts, I always tell them to do two things: Examine their work ethic and do an internship. As you can guess, an internship looks great on a resume. It says that you’ve had experience in the “real” business world. It suggests that you are mature enough to conduct yourself appropriately in an office and meeting environment. One can assume that you realize that sweatpants and tank tops are not proper attire for casual Fridays. An internship says “I can fix the copy machine six ways from Sunday blindfolded” and “I make better coffee than Mrs. Olsen.”
But here’s where examining the work ethic comes in. An internship in the arts does not mean you will be on stage. You won’t be backstage or in a dressing room. You do not attend rehearsal, nor do you chat up the musicians. The actors are not looking for friends to hang out with and the cushy red velvet seats are not for noontime naps. The entertainment world is a business just like any other. The office setting? Close your eyes and you could be at a law or accounting firm. Our staff may be able to give you the lyrics to any show tune, name the writer of an obscure play and explain exactly what “jazz hands” are for—but they are there to work, produce, contribute, collaborate and make an impact on our community.
Future interns who want to be actors, pay attention: For the love of Richard Rogers, show up early and stay a few minutes late. Do more than you were asked and then ask for more. Yes, it’s true–dress for the position you want. Learn everything you can from everyone you can. Act like a professional. The copy machine is actually a very important and expensive piece of equipment. When it breaks down, it can disrupt an entire day of productivity. Fix it and you will be the superstar on a different kind of stage. Take pride in everything you do. If you’re asked to set up coffee for a meeting, do it better than anyone ever has. This, my young friends, is work ethic and it can’t be bought for any amount of money.
Oh, and if you intern at PlayhouseSquare? Trust me, you’ll see more shows than you ever thought possible in a semester. You may not meet the director, but you’ll have a greater appreciation for what it means to bring the arts to the people. And dancing down our hallways is completely acceptable. (Just not in sweatpants).