Author Topic: TEACHING: Designing/Running a SM internship  (Read 2433 times)

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TEACHING: Designing/Running a SM internship
« on: Dec 29, 2016, 04:02 pm »
Hey, all, I could really use some help, here! The theatre at which I'm resident has a long history of offering internships in several fields: Scenic, Electrics and Puppet shops, Performance, Marketing, Museum, and I'm sure I've missed a few. I've been asked to open up a Stage Management internship. I had one fantastic intern, last summer, and I have two more lined up in the new year.

But I'll be completely frank; I flew by the seat of my pants with that last intern. I've been given no extra time to prepare a program, and no guidance on what I'm supposed to do with them! Last time I just treated her like an ASM in rehearsal, and trained her as a potential replacement SM for performances; she ran one public performance. It seemed to work out.
If anyone else has run SM internships, I'd really love to hear from you, and what you included/didn't include in your program. Also, if you had a really great, or really awful internship experience, please share that, and why it was so wonderful/scarring, too!

For additional information, this is a small, professional but non-equity theatre where I run sound/lights/mics myself, there are no running crew/ASM positions, and 90% of the time all our designers are in house. Interns are brought in from first day of rehearsal through opening. No prep week, no run weeks. The previous resident SM did not take on interns, as far as I can tell.

I have, at least, been able to stipulate that I won't take anyone without at least a few shows of SM or ASM experience. It's a one and a half woman department; we don't have time to train anyone from the ground up!

Edited to add topic tag- Maribeth
« Last Edit: Feb 23, 2017, 07:02 pm by Maribeth »
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Re: Designing/Running a SM internship
« Reply #1 on: Dec 29, 2016, 09:07 pm »
I'm sure others will have better answers than I will, but I want to comment that a true internship is supposed to be about helping the intern learn the job/craft/field - not about cheap labor, as some (not necessarily you) forget. With my last intern, for instance, I had her sit in on a paper tech, so she could see what it was like - simply observing, and she was released after half an hour or so, to work on some other project. She didn't need to "do" anything during the paper tech, but I wanted her to see how it progressed. As she was a college student, attending classes during the day, I also much more made sure that she didn't stay as late as the others if at all possible, to accomplish the rest of her homework. Meanwhile, the other ASM(s) were getting paid, so they got more of the paperwork responsibilities.

Also, with an intern even more so than with assistants (though I like to do the same with others), I try to go into more of the "why" I'm doing something, rather than just doing it. There will also likely be more "how can we help you with the next step of your career" discussions, and I try to have more of a grain of salt if they don't "get" something the first...or second...time around.

Yours is a bit different of a situation from many, given that you have no ASM, nor anyone planning to stay for the performance part, so the idea of training them as your replacement seems a good way to have worked part of it.

As for a past "scar" - on the closing interview of one internship, I was told several things that I really wish had been brought up earlier, so I could have shown my ability to adapt/change/learn. In fact, one item I learned during that exit interview is something I've held really dearly and now often mention in the first discussion with any new assistants/interns (having to do with how you present yourself). I guess the short version is, "check in" with each other as needed, especially if you feel you have any issues.

Oh, and since the other departments have been doing this, see if there's anything specific to add. Some theatres have an overall "intern meeting" once a week or whatever, so they can all check in with each other and do more of the professional learning opportunity type things.


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Re: Designing/Running a SM internship
« Reply #2 on: Dec 30, 2016, 10:20 am »
Piggybacking on the great recommendations from smejs, here are a few things that either were or would have been helpful, when I was an intern and subsequently when I worked on a team with/supervising interns:

-Regular intern group meetings. Sometimes they're best when it's a formal practice (e.g., everyone meets for thirty minutes on Wednesdays, and discusses 3-5 items on a pre-determined agenda).

-Clearly identify the people who handle the following, on the first day of the internship: money items (compensation/reimbursement, contracts, parking vouchers); workplace safety (practices and protective gear, if relevant); HR/conflict resolution. If at all possible, the person who handles conflict resolution should not be the person that the intern reports to daily--they should be a relatively impartial third party.


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Re: Designing/Running a SM internship
« Reply #3 on: Dec 30, 2016, 01:28 pm »
If they're going to be working as a stage management specific intern you should be fine in terms of hours on the job. However, if they're a general intern with a focus in stage management and may be working in other departments as well, make sure you pay very close attention to how many hours they are working. My worst internship had me regularly working 24+ hr shifts across three different departments. One day saw me going into a 10/12 tech running deck alone with live firearms and pyro after an 8 hr rehearsal, a 10 hr hang/focus and prop load-in because my supervisor didn't coordinate with the other crew chiefs.


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