Placement, intern, researcher? It’s a two-way approach
Wednesday 7th December 2011
Blog Category: Acting Company Blog
For the last couple of weeks Mind the Gap has hosted an internship with New York theatre-maker Katy Rubin. Katy is the Founding Artistic Director of Theatre of the Oppressed NYC. A US organization called The Theatre Communications Group, funded the internship through its Global Connections scheme. It was a really successful experience for everyone concerned.
Each year we get scores of requests from students, practitioners and researchers who want to come on placement, or internship or who want to conduct research into the use of theatre with marginalized communities. We work really hard to accommodate these requests though understandably we are not always able to do so. It’s worth looking at what makes for a good experience.
Katy established good communications right from the start. She had secured funding from a US foundation, which meant there was no financial impact on Mind the Gap. She provided us with clear guidance about what she wanted to get out of her time with us and she also made an offer of what we could expect in return. We provided a plan of activity and organized accommodation, which she paid for though her intern funds.
At the end of the visit, Katy said, "It's been fantastically useful placement. There are several tracks through which I've been seeing what's useful to me. The first is the art that Mind the Gap is making and the emphasis on quality. I loved the show 'Stig of the Dump' and the set blew me away! Part of making quality art is thinking about the whole process. I’m curious about the process of making a production and how it all comes together.
I was also really excited by the training and the wholeness of the approach. I liked the way that there is unison between Acting Company and Making Theatre. You can see how seriously Making Theatre take their training.
The other track has been having great conversations and hearing from everyone about making the work happen, learning about the knowledge that's been built up. Business Development Manager, Vici Keighley spoke to me about how she approaches 'a corporate' and the ethics of that - it's been so interesting. It's also really interesting to learn how the arts work in the UK.
It's been huge to see how everyone is full of goodwill towards everyone else here.”
The best experiences are where there is a real exchange of skills, knowledge and experience. Where the person knows what they want and knows what they have to offer. Where there is real support from the educational establishment or foundation.
We are willing to do our bit to support the development of aspiring arts practitioners. We really hope that first meetings can develop into lasting relationships.
Tim said “I see many requests that begin ‘Dear Sir/Madam I am really interested in your company (insert name of company here). I believe I have a lot to offer you…’ It feel really disappointed when I read that kind of approach. A good internship should be well researched and two-way. It’s all about dialogue.
Mind the Gap has a wealth of experience and we are happy to share. We happily welcome people in and hope they benefit from our experience. We are also open to learning. You can never see the back of your head, we all have blind spots – it is great to evaluate an internship find out if there are any gaps that we need to mind"
So these are our top tips for a good placement.
1. Clarity of purpose – what do you want to get out of experience?
2. Reciprocity – what do you have to offer in return? This might be in the form of skills, knowledge or experience that Mind the Gap might benefit from. It might also be an attitude or approach to theatre making, something less tangible but equally important.
3. Good communication – who is supporting this work? We have worked with many educational institutions in the past and we have become adept and working out those who really care about placements. It’s all about good communication.
4. Financial support – we are a small charity and do not command the huge resources of educational institutions and foundations. We have to direct our resource toward the people who will most benefit from our activity. We do not want to exploit people and we have to make choices as to where our resources go. It’s a balancing act.
5. A sense of humour. We deal with some pretty difficult subjects at times and it is important that people approach the work with good humour. Goodwill is also essential to any high functioning groups. Laughter can be a sign of great rapport.
Please feel free to add your own ideas of what makes a good experience for everyone…