POST-GRADUATE INTERNSHIPS - An internship with a recognized professional company can be a very effective transition between our academic theatre program and full-time employment in the arts. There are three major considerations which should be properly addressed by an internship:
- enhancing one's résumé with credits that are widely recognized in the professional world
- expanding one's personal contacts in the artistic world
- gaining practical skills, techniques and knowledge which make you a better artist
Consult with your advisor and other faculty members far ahead of any time in which you would like to do an internship. Also consult regularly the "CAREER DEVELOPMENT" section of ArtSEARCH on the periodicals rack. Finally, there is always a clip of current internship flyers under the bulletin board in the conference room, and the World Wide Web has also become a major source of information regarding theatres and internships.
An internship should offer some compensation; housing and a small stipend is probably as much as you can expect from a post-graduation internship.
ENTRY-LEVEL PROFESSIONAL WORK - While it is certainly not the norm, many students over the years have found jobs in the profession upon graduation. Most of these jobs have been in technical areas such as costumes, props and/or scenic/lighting construction/management. There are usually a number of paid positions for which students who have been consistently involved in production areas through four years here would be competitive. As usual, they are listed in ArtSEARCH in the PRODUCTION area. In addition, for students who have had special experience in box office and/or publicity, or who have developed extensive computer skills, there are occasional jobs in arts administration for which recent graduates might be considered.
Nearly all entry-level positions in theatre and dance are quite poorly paid. The reasons for this are many and complex, but don't warrant further comment here. The more students can minimize their credit card and auto-loan debt, the more flexibility they might have to accept a promising, rewarding, but poorly-paid position in the profession.
GRADUATE PROGRAMS IN THEATRE AND DANCE Graduate school is a common way for students of theatre and dance to complete their training for the profession while earning a graduate degree. There are two general types of graduate study in Theatre and Dance: 1) a studio-based degree program in performance-or related fields-which awards the M.F.A. degree, and 2) a scholarship-based degree program that awards an M.A. and/or Ph.D. Both of these types of programs have their respective merits, and students should think carefully about where their abilities and enthusiasms lie as they begin planning for applications to graduate schools. M.A. and Ph.D. programs generally require the GRE exam and emphasize your academic record in their admissions decisions. M.F.A. programs usually require auditions, and admissions decisions are primarily based on demonstrated talent and potential. Recommendations are a significant component in both admissions processes.
GRADUATE PROGRAM INFORMATION AND CONTACTS - A file containing information about numerous graduate programs is kept in the conference room. This is an easy way to start getting an idea of what's out there in terms of graduate school options. The file is organized geographically and is kept up to date. Consult your advisor and others in the department as you narrow your search. Try to contact graduate programs early in your senior year if you plan to apply/audition.
URTA AUDITIONS- Of particular interest to those in theatre who wish to pursue M.F.A. degrees in performance and design is the URTA national audition. The University/Resident Theatre Association, comprised of over 30 good to excellent graduate programs, holds unified auditions every January in New York, Chicago, and Long Beach, California. This is a good way to have a lot of programs see your work. Information on these (and other) auditions is posted regularly on the bulletin board in the conference room.
FELLOWSHIPS - Most graduate programs offer fellowships which help with the financing of graduate school. They are very competitive and need to be pursued in a timely manner. Many of them offer tuition remission plus a monthly stipend in exchange for working in the department. For M.A. or Ph.D. candidates, these are usually teaching or research fellowships or assistantships; for M.F.A.'s, they tend to be in areas of production support. The more experience you have in multiple production areas, the stronger your application for this aid will be.
GRADUATE STUDY - A good B.A. degree gives you some flexibility in terms of graduate study. A person who speaks and writes well, with good recommendations and accomplishments in and out of class, will be favorably viewed by many programs. Theatre and Dance majors have often attended law school, or earned M.A.'s or Ph.D.'s in English, History, Comparative Literature, Psychology, or other related fields.
THE GENERAL JOB MARKET - There have been a number of students over the years who have entered the theatrical job market successfully upon graduation. This is not common, but it is possible. Students who have a broad range of demonstrated technical and organizational skills have found the best opportunities for success. Another helpful factor has been completing a summer or junior year internship with a professional theatre company. The ideal preparation is both of these. It is hard to over-estimate the importance of technical abilities in obtaining entry-level employment in professional theatre. There are many opportunities for performers who can also contribute in other areas. (Equity Membership Candidate Programs often work this way.) In addition to opportunities in technical theatre and shops/crafts, there are occasionally opportunities in office/box office/management. Again, any demonstration of experience and abilities in these areas strengthens one's chances of obtaining employment. Plan carefully to obtain such experience through your time in our production program, and talk to your advisor and other faculty members early on about your plans. If you are exclusively interested in performance, you don't need a re-statement of all the grim statistics: suffice it to say that earning money as an actor or dancer is extremely challenging even for very experienced performers. If you intend to begin a career as a performer immediately after you complete college, you should save carefully, minimize your debt, move to an area where there are a lot of opportunities (New York, Washington, Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco...), and look for a cheap place to live. You'll need to find a job to keep the rent and food bills paid, but also one with the flexibility to allow you to audition (and accept low-paid or no-paid "showcase"-type production opportunities if offered). Again, you should talk to faculty members early and often if you plan to take this post-graduation route. Would-be actors should also purchase a copy of Robert Cohen's book Acting Professionally.
Students with a strong interest in dance may also wish to consider careers in dance education (at the K-12 level, in higher education, or in private studio situations), arts administration (e.g., managing a dance company or working for an organization that produces professional dance performances), or dance therapy. While some of our graduates have successfully pursued their desire to dance and/or choreograph professionally or semi-professionally, others have found rewarding work in the teaching, administrative, and therapeutic areas of the dance profession. Consistent, active participation in both curricular and co-curricular work in dance at Dickinson, and in a summer intensive dance program if possible, will provide a good basis for exploring these options. In many cases, graduate school will be needed for career development.
REQUESTING ADVICE - Talk to any and all faculty members throughout your time at Dickinson. You will have an academic advisor who should be consulted regularly each semester, but all Theatre and Dance students should seize any opportunity to "talk shop" about careers with all appropriate sources. This includes guest artists/visitors to campus as well: nearly all artists are willing to give advice, and those who aren't are still usually honored by the request. Take advantage of these opportunities.
REQUESTING LETTERS OF REFERENCE AND RECOMMENDATION - All members of Dickinson's faculty are pleased to supply letters of reference upon reasonable request by any of their students. Students should feel free to ask for such letters as they are appropriate and necessary. A faculty member who doesn't feel he/she knows the student well enough will indicate that when the request is made. Please try to allow some "lead time" with your requests, and be sure to fully explain to the faculty member how the reference/recommendation fits in with your overall career plans and academic goals. In nearly all cases, employers are looking primarily for evidence that a student has always been there, been there on time, and been there prepared; and that the result of this has been the best work of which the student was capable.