December 2011

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December 2011

News From David Grindle, USITT Executive Director

The intern...

Who knows what tasks an intern might be asked to perform? Or whether they will end up in a music video at the end of the experience like the folks in Santa Fe Opera?

Photo/USITT Archive

It brings pride to the person carrying the title and trepidation to the person hiring for the position.  Most of us look back on our internships in the industry with memories both fond and embarrassing.  We are eager to learn and probably drove our mentors and coworkers insane with our energy.

In his series focused on the character Thursday Next, the author Jasper Fforde created a world where time travel was a matter of daily fact.  As such, people could go back in time and warn themselves of things that would make their life in the past less complex.  It makes me think about what I would say to the stage management intern at Cincinnati Opera in the 1993 season.

I think the first word would be Breathe.  You are surrounded by brilliant people who know the industry and their jobs.  List and pay attention.

Be honest about your abilities would come next.  The urge to augment my resume was strong, so that I would look more experienced than my age.  The fact was I was 21, which means I should have had the experience of a person my age.  Anything more would seem strange to someone reading my resume.

Be happy with your work assignments is a plus.  You are the intern, make copies and tape floors with pride.  Do it well and be excited that you get to sit in the back in a production meeting to learn as your reward.

Be there when you are needed and its corollary take time off when it is offered are both necessary.  You won’t endear yourself to others by taking residence in the theatre whether you have a call or not.

And finally, be honored to have been chosen.  The people who hired you saw something they liked, but it doesn't make you irreplaceable.  There were interns before you, and more will follow.  Do good work, but don't think you are the greatest. You are the intern.

That is what I would tell me.  Of course a rose colored memory says that I didn't need any of that advice.  But the years since have put me in contact with more young technicians, designers, and stage managers than I can remember and true life tells me there is no intern that could be harmed by good information.

For those of you headed for internships, think about what I would tell my youthful self.  For those hiring interns, what would you tell yourself if you could go back?  I think we would all be excited and horrified if we could travel in time.

There is one other thing I would say more if I could go back.  Thank you.  Thank you to every person at Cincinnati Opera in the summer of 1993.  In hindsight, I learned something from every person I came in contact with, and those lessons made me who I am today. And that all came from spending a summer as an intern.

David Grindle

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