1. What is the purpose of this survey? This project was first conceived in 2008 as a way to rate college stage management programs. Unfortunately the factors involved in choosing a college are too diverse, so the idea was mothballed for several years. I wanted something that inspired less "team spirit" but was just as critical to the training of new stage managers. Internships were the next logical step.

    There is a cultural assumption in the theatre industry that internships are both necessary and evil. There are urban legends stating that many internships are illegal "slave labor," and that the employers get far more out of them than the interns do.  My goal with this survey is to find out the truth - if any - behind these assumptions. The method is a comparison of the internships against an ideal educational scenario: full undergrad courseloads in college for an equivalent number of terms. After all, when an employer decides to take on interns, they are positioning themselves as a viable substitute for a school.

  2. Why are there no spaces for our opinions? How do you gauge the effectiveness of an education? How do you measure training in a craft as variable and reactive as stage management?

    Teachers and school administrators have been trying for years to come up with a way to adequately rank how students are learning. Despite complaints that standardized testing requires "teaching the test" and success is dependent on skill at actually taking tests, they have remained the primary way of monitoring schools' performance.

    Some popular websites offer a more subjective way for the common man to rate those in power. The website uses opinion as its primary barometer of quality. It provides reviewers handful of sliding scale radio buttons and a big area for comments. This makes for "ratings" that are totally arbitrary and don't account for things like grudges and fake reviews. Sites like Yelp and Angie's List use similar models in the consumer realm. You cannot consider one "five star" rating truly equal to another "five star" rating, making the stars are pretty much useless for all but the most popular subjects with enormous sample sizes.

    The site GreatSchools creates a more reasonable blend of objective and subjective, applying their own reader-friendly interpretation to publicly available school performance statistics and then allowing parents and students to make additional comments on "what it's really like." This is a better model, but the classroom educations rated on GreatSchools assume by default an enormous sample size, and rely on publicly available third party metrics like test scores. In contrast, there are far fewer people who take on stage management internships, and there are no easily accessible statistics, GPAs or tests out there that we can use as a third-party score here. We have to make our own.

    Besides, people would expect something more creative, organized and thorough from a survey that purports to speak for stage managers.

    I have chosen a standardized grading system for internships for several reasons:
    • To help keep internships framed within the culture of education, instead of "jobs for no pay."
    • To create a consistent metric that can be used to compare internships on a statistical basis.
    • To cast this as an aid in both decision-making (on the part of the student) and a program development crib sheet (on the part of the employer), while hopefully keeping SMNetwork from becoming the sole reason behind anyone's choice of internships.

  3. Why are there so many survey questions? In choosing this route I have designed a survey that asks many more questions than your standard review site, but does not allow much room for subjective opinions. It measures success based primarily on the breadth of learning opportunities offered to an intern, selected from a standard menu of skills that would be expected of a stage manager working at a professional level. It takes into account the limitations of union regulations and the length of time spent on the job.  Most of the questions are true/false and multiple choice. Opinion takes a backseat to fact.

  4. How should we use this information? This survey is not meant to be a cause behind anyone's choice of internships. This is simply applied science, measuring the effectiveness of internships as they currently stand in the US and seeing if the anecdotes about them are true, false, or somewhere in the grey area between.  Just like SMNetwork itself, which started as a way for me to access my own forms when I was in the field, this may grow into something more than I initially anticipated.  However, if this happens it will be due to how you choose to use this framework.

    The primary goal of a standardized test is to compare the performance of the schools, or in this case, the employers. Tests also provide a way to measure an individual student's performance, but only as secondary goal and always but with the understanding that they ignore factors like talent, dedication and specialization. As with any grading, pure objectivity has its weak points.

  5. I did a lot of stuff but my review says the educational value was poor. What's up with that? There is a difference between doing stuff and learning. This is why we track educational value (how much you learned & improved) separate from robustness (how much you were allowed to do). If an employer lets you do many different tasks, that means that the program is nicely robust and will be good for an intern who wants a lot of hands-on experience. However, if you as an intern aren't challenged, don't grow, it's all the same old stuff - then the educational value is not terribly great regardless of how much you get to do. If a company is showing good robustness but the interns aren't learning anything, that's a very strong indicator that the people hired as "interns" at low wages really should have been hired as "pros" with real wages.

  6. Doesn't the skill of the intern have an effect on the outcome of an internship? Yes. Therefore, a warning: when reading these results, remember that the caliber of the intern may limit the number of opportunities that an employer can offer. We have provided a little feedback on the expertise each reviewer had before they started, and the circumstances that led them to that particular gig. Use this as a point of comparison as you read through the reviews. Internships are supposed to be educational even when its to the employer's detriment, but a theater company cannot allow a weak intern to interfere with its primary duty of providing quality entertainment to its patrons. If you see that a company has many high ratings and one low rating, it's worth considering who is primarily at fault for the latter.

  7. I am an employer and your reviews are unfair/detrimental/make me unhappy. First of all, very sorry about that. Secondly, be aware that the rating system was tested extensively with both ideal and real data before it was opened to the general public. All ratings are normed so that an average internship winds up with a score between 70-79% (Satisfactory) in all areas, and so that ratings are distributed fairly across a curve. The length of an internship, number of productions, union affiliation and musical vs straight play repertoire are all taken into consideration.

    In addition, reviews are regularly patrolled by trusted volunteers, who remove any reviews that appear to be fake, dishonest, or submitted while the author was bearing a grudge.

    If you're really unhappy, you can report a review that you disagree with to a staff member. You will have an opportunity to explain your concerns. If we feel that your concerns are valid, we will delete the review from the system.

  8. Why are you only reviewing American internships? The US Dept of Labor has very specific laws pertaining to what is acceptable in unpaid internships. As a US citizen I was comfortable enough with those rules that I was able to write a strong survey that takes most of them into consideration. These rules may not apply to internships in other countries. You are certainly welcome to try the survey if your internship was elsewhere, but I cannot guarantee that the ratings will be as accurate.

  9. My internship was in (lighting/design/acting/general theatre/something other than stage management). Can I submit a review anyhow? Sure, as long as it was somewhat theatre-related. Bear in mind though that the survey is trying to determine the effectiveness of stage management internships, and as such the scoring and questions are geared towards tasks that a stage manager should know how to do.