Confessions of a Summer Intern: Learning about Culture and Office Work

This is the second post from Erin Quist, who is interning abroad with Upstairs at the Gatehouse theatre company in London, England. In case you missed it, “meet” Erin in her first post.

During the middle of my internship, the sightseeing really cut down and it was work time.

Almost everyday follows the routine of arriving at 10am/noon, making tea, doing some general maintenance work around the theatre, then around 2 or 3pm making a lunch run for sandwiches. Once lunch is over, I finish any maintenance work and start on office work, usually mailings, make more tea around 4pm, and prepare a light dinner at 5pm. Pre-show prep work – ironing, setting the stage, checking to make sure the lights are all still working, making tea – is next, then usher, do the show, make more tea at the interval (intermission),  post-show, turn off all the lights, start the laundry, clean the place where the audience sits, and leave the theatre around 10:30pm. Then it’s an hour to get home with one bus and two underground trains.

The underground station near my house where I catch the Tube to work everyday.
Heather's Underground Stop

Summer theatre is often one of the most grueling theatre experiences. Often it involves changing from one show to the next in two days or less, including setting up the set, making the lights and sound for the space, and hopefully getting the actors out there once. Upstairs at the Gatehouse functions in the summer much like many theatres do during the rest of the year: run a show, take it down, clean the theatre, set up the new show, and rehearse it in a week or more. It’s much more calm for most of the people involved. But for Charlotte, the office assistant, John, the owner, and me there is still always so much to be done. It is a constant go-go-go during the day.

The stage from up in the booth where I work during the shows.
Heather's View from the Theatre Booth[

I am learning quite a bit, though. Culturally, I have learned that the English really do drink as much tea as you think they do. Americans say ‘thank you’ when they are interacting with people and, when the occasion arises, the English will say ‘cheers’ instead. I’ve started using this one. Polish jokes don’t exist in England. The show we are doing now contains adult themes and I would not recommend it for anyone under 15. Parents bring their children and no one has a problem with it or even bats an eye to see a party of 7 year olds enter the theatre.

One of the main things I have learned about is office work. Never before have I done any sort of office work. Yes, I send letters and I type things up for classes, but here the work is often so tedious I am anxious for the next chance I get to go make tea. Mailing is the worst. I really have a new appreciation for those who can sit around for hours just putting the postage stamps on hundreds of envelopes. Sometimes John will write something up for a magazine and I have to type it up as best I can for him – his handwriting is as bad as a doctor’s. Another thing that is my duty in the office is answering the telephone. Mostly people want to order tickets but sometimes they have questions. There are a few little scripts on the desk for when they ask about directions, the content of the play, run time, or the next few shows Upstairs at the Gatehouse is hosting.

The box office and desk area where I do my office work during the day.
Heather's Desk

All of the office work isn’t terrible, but it’s not the same as when I am set to a project pertaining to the stage and surrounding areas. A step was broken recently and no one was quite sure how to fix it, so they set me on it. With a u-bolt and a thin strip of wood, I was able to get the step fixed. The lights operate on dimmers and I’m not exactly sure how all it works. I just know that when I move certain sliders on the light board, certain lights should come up. Yesterday, there were eight lights that would not come up. It is a normal occurrence for a light to burn out, but eight at once signals a problem. The workload on the dimmer wasn’t enough and another light was necessary to correct the situation. I had no clue about any of this, but John knows a little about lights and together we were able to get everything working in time for the show.

I just have a few more weeks left and I cannot believe how time has flown. The show only has another week left and then we’ve got a magic show, a children’s music school performance, and The Diary of Anne Frank. It will be exciting to see what new challenges these will bring.


Confessions of a Summer Intern: Meet Erin Quist

H Erin Quist

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.

New Gatehouse

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.

Logo Design Competition

Calling all UW-Whitewater artists! The Milwaukee Area College Internship Consortium (MACIC), of which UW-Whitewater is a member, is holding a Logo Design Competition for Students.

MACIC would like a logo designed incorporating the new tag-line: Driving the Future Through Internships. The logo will be used on the MACIC website and on letterhead, shirts, stickers, flyers, and possibly more!

The student whose design is selected will win $100 in addition to having their design used to promote the organization throughout Wisconsin.

If interested, please download and carefully review the Competition Information and Submission Form. If you have any questions, please contact:

Stephanie Holguin


Megan Stoelb

The deadline to enter is Friday, April 1, 2011.

Internship with Whitewater Arts Alliance

The Whitewater Arts Alliance (WAA), a local not-for-profit arts organization, is seeking an intern to work in the WAA office. Ideally, the WAA is looking for an intern to work for a 12 month period beginning December 2009, but they are willing to consider single semester internships. This is a PAID internship opportunity!

The WAA is looking for the following in the successful candidate:

  • Junior/Senior standing
  • Self-starter: ability to work independently
  • Willingness to learn
  • Strong time management skills, organizational skills, and communication skills
  • Ability to interact with a variety of constituents: volunteers, artists, business professionals, people of all ages
  • Research skills: ability to find resources, grants, foundation information
  • Proficiency on computers
  • Ability to lift 25 lbs.

The responsibilities of this internship include:

  • Managing incoming proposals for exhibits and performances
  • Keeping an organizational calendar
  • Assisting with newsletter preparation
  • Assiting with volunteer organization
  • Researching grants for Alliance programming
  • Answering email and phone calls for the Alliance
  • Assisting with set up and take down of shows
  • Attending monthly board meetings
  • Organizing Cultural Arts Center/Whitewater Arts Alliance history and donor archives
  • Opening/closing the facility as necessary for shows and public access
  • Performing light cleaning and maintenance
  • Filing

The intern will work 10-15 flexible hours/week. The salary will be $1000/semester, paid in four installments each semester, for a total potential salary of $3000/year.

The application deadline for this opportunity is Saturday, October 31, 2009. To learn how to apply, contact me (Laura Jacobs) at I will pass along the details. You can also find the information in HawkQuest.

The Whitewater Arts Alliance is a wonderful local organization whose mission is “to promote the visual and performing arts” in Whitewater and surrounding areas. Members include artists, educators, organizations, and community members. The Alliance wishes “to make the visual and performing arts an essential part of the lives of all Whitewater citizens” in the belief that the arts are “an essential and integral part of revitalization and growth” of the Whitewater community.

This is a great opportunity for a UW-Whitewater student to work for an important cause and support the local community.

New: Field-Specific Resources

Some new resources have been added to the UW-Whitewater Student Internships website. In the “How to Find an Internship” section, you can now access lists of field-specific internship programs and resources.

The current menu of fields includes the following:

Within each section, you will find notes on internship opportunities in or near Whitewater. You will find information on internship programs in Wisconsin and beyond. You will also find links to additional resources related to the field. Eventually, resources to help you in creating your own internship in the field will be added.

Are there any areas of interest that haven’t been covered? Do you have information on programs or resources that you don’t see currently listed?

There is also a link to the International Internships section of the site. The International Internships page has been recently revamped, so be sure to check it out.

In addition, the Internship Search Plan has also been revised. Again, check it out if you haven’t already seen it. It’s a helpful tool at any point of your internship search.



Finally, I want to welcome my colleagues’ new blog to the web: Career Spotlight. Ron Buchholz, Kathy Craney, and Ellen Hatfield will be writing about permanent job search strategies, the employer perspective, development of your personal brand, how to present yourself professionally, and success on the job. They are very excited about blogging and are very passionate about teaching students how to succeed in their professional careers. You will now find a feed to their most recent posts on the right-hand side of this blog.


We’re only a couple of weeks away from the beginning of the fall semester. Remember that the staff in Career & Leadership Development are available to help you connect with co-curricular activies, identify internship opportunities, and prepare to graduate to the professional world. Stop in and see us soon!


Photo by D Sharon Pruitt (pinksherbert)


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