Theses Master's

Internships in the New York Not-For-Profit Theatre: Past, Present and Towards a New Future

Gershtein, Natalie P.

What is the future of internships in our field? How will the trends of related industries affect (or potentially threaten) the stability of our small industry? And finally, what are the best practices and necessary changes that must be adopted in order to allow the field to survive potential scrutiny? Theatre internships are an important part of the growth and development of budding professionals entering the field, and are one of the most successful ways of entering the industry by providing hands-on training and opportunities to make invaluable connections. However, unpaid and stipended internships, specifically, pose a legal threat to all not-for-profits that do not comply with the Department of Labor’s specific internship guidelines, which in themselves do not reflect a true understanding of the nuances and hands-on nature of the theatre industry. In addition, unpaid internships are also perpetuating a class divide in the field and financial instability for millennials who are being trained and are offering their services without remuneration. Given the current challenges faced by the commercial entertainment industry and other industries with similar internship structures, it seems that the continuation of the current internship practices will inevitably result in legal inquiry, which could greatly harm small not-for-profits, while also perpetuating a lack of diversity and a future of continued underpaid employment in the field. Although an ideal ultimate goal is, of course, to pay for all labor, this goal is an unrealistic one at this point in time and would take years of development and evolution. Many not-for-profit theatre organizations would not be able to operate at their current level without the support of early-career millennials; these institutions would be forced to undercut current programs or would bottom out financially. Therefore, since we can neither convert all interns to paid employees nor eliminate intern support altogether, we must at minimum improve upon the educational and experiential outcomes for current theatre interns, and restructure our internship programs to align with existing regulations.



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More About This Work

Academic Units
M.F.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 21, 2015