At this time of cuts and unemployment, many are questioning Arts degrees and, even more so, Arts placements. Is there really much point in taking a year out to work for an industry that is more cut-throat and unpredictable than ever? Simply put, yes, there is a point. And that point is unbeatable experience.
Lauren Walsh is part of the second cohort of Theatre Studies students at Surrey, and took up the opportunity of a placement year with the English Touring Theatre (ETT). I decided to get her to contribute something to the university’s paper, The Stag, as insight into the world of an intern.
“As a second year you are set with finding a placement within an already highly competitive, yet rather inclusive industry. Theatre might be to the public eye to be booming, however trying to get a foot in the door is one of the hardest things – especially for students with little to no professional experience. You are also up against the fact that it is extremely unlikely you will get paid. Travel expenses maybe, but a starting wage, no.
Beginning my placement at ETT was one of the most exciting and daunting points of my student life. Being set rather mundane ‘housekeeping’ tasks is something I’ve realised should not be frowned upon – they have given me an insight in to how a theatre company, any company, can run and the jobs which have to be done. From updating databases, answering the phone and doing research for marketing campaigns, in my short time at ETT I have learnt that as a placement student you are a vital person within a team, whether you are just making tea or giving your ideas in a meeting. The best part so far has been helping the company prep for the press night of their newest production, by watching a run of the play, making presents for cast and crew, and helping with the running of the evening.
After just two weeks, one of the most important things I have learnt is that everything is based on your reputation within the industry. If you have a good reputation, people will be very happy to work with you and take your advice. And that is where placement is vital to a theatre student, making the beginnings of the reputation that will precede you for the rest of your career. Even if you don’t want to be within an office environment as your career, it is a crucial experience that will teach you more than you realise, as your knowledge of how the theatre actually runs will be challenged and changed for the better.”
I myself am not opting for a placement, finding small bits of experience as I go along in a variety of industries, but I have no doubts that it is one of the best ways to be sure of a job once you graduate. I’ll end on some final words from Lauren:
“If you get the chance and can afford to do a placement then I would advise anyone wanting a future within the theatre to go for it. But choose your company wisely because your experience will all be down to who you are working for.”