Erin Quist just completed her junior year as a Theatre BFA student at UW-Whitewater.
Internships are a common summertime activity for many college students. Traveling across an ocean to intern in an Off West End theatre is not. I started my journey to find a summer internship in the UW-Whitewater Study Abroad office. There I found many places to travel through and eventually ended up with the Ovation at Upstairs at the Gatehouse company in Highgate, a borough of London, England.
Upstairs at the Gatehouse is a Fringe theatre company, which depends entirely on the support of the community for its existence. The owners are also the producers and directors for many of the productions performed here. It is a decent size theatre, a house of about 120 seats, situated at the top of Highgate Hill, atop a pub.
The cast is made of equity (union) actors and the designers are also part of unions. I am not yet an equity member, but I take on many important roles at the theatre. During my first couple of weeks, I learned the show by working with the temporary light and soundboard operator and talking with the cast and lone crew member/stage manager.
Our current play is Play It Again, Sam, an American play by Woody Allen. Once I had the show quite well learned, I was set loose and ran the boards on my own. I also come in early to help the stage manager set the props for that night’s performance, do any laundry that might need washing, and fix any problems that might arise in conjunction with the show. My bosses are really nice people and understand that I will probably never return to the UK, so they have not been calling me in early as long as I am at the theatre by 6pm GMT. This lets me do some sightseeing around the city during the days.
So far, I have learned a lot. For example, in the US, the job I am doing here is run by crew members. It would be called by the stage manager, but here it is called by the production stage manager. From my training back home, the jobs I would have thought are assistant stage manager jobs are stage manager jobs here. I already know how ETC (a lighting company) boards work, but I am learning Frog, an English lighting company. I have never done anything with sound back at Whitewater, and here I am the sound board operator.
It’s almost overwhelming to learn so much so quickly.