Confessions of a Summer Intern: Saying Goodbye to England

Erin Quist and Co-Workers

I have now completed my internship and returned home. It was a very short internship, only the run of one production and then some, but it has taught me quite a bit and given me experiences I could never have attained through a classroom.

In my last few days of my internship, we were setting up for a production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” which had performed at another theatre prior to coming to Upstairs at the Gatehouse. The stage manager, which is the job I normally do, had never run a show before, so it was my job for those few days to try and ease her into it. She got the hang of it by my last day and ran the show very smoothly opening night.

It was very sad to leave. Even though I hadn’t been with the theatre for very long my habits and routines were comfortable and I was feeling more and more certain of my abilities, including working with English electric and their ridiculously huge plugs.

My very last day in England I did not have to work, but I did have to be at the airport by noon. So I got up very early and went back to all my favorite places in London. Trafalgar square, Embankment gardens, traditional English tea and a particularly long Tube ride out to Heathrow.

London Sight Seeing

Tea Time

Upon landing the first thing I wanted to do was get a good American hot dog.

Since being home, I’ve found it hard to keep from saying things such as ‘In England….’ But I do not really see this as a big problem. I have had an experience that many people have not. I have learned about differences in theatre that might not be obvious and I have met people who are very different from those in Wisconsin. With only a year left in school I hope that my internship will help me to take more out of my schooling, that in the future it will help open more doors, and that my global experience will prove beneficial to my future productions.

Read Erin’s Internship Journey

  1. Meet Erin Quist
  2. Learning about Culture…and Office Work

Other Summer Intern Confessions

Sarah Suter

Alysondra Milano

Gabby Fenzel

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.

Internship with the Lake Geneva Theatre Company

If you have an interest in the behind-the-scenes workings of the theatre and are looking for an opportunity in Walworth County, then check out The Lake Geneva Theatre Company. The company, a professional regional theatre, is currently looking for short-term summer interns to help with their production of The Mystery of Irma Vep.

They are looking for interns in the following areas:

  • Loading in the set on Sunday, May 31 and/or striking the set on Sunday, June 28 (FREE Potbelly sandwiches!)
  • Running lights/sound (need to be available the first week in June and all weekends in June)
  • Assisting stage manager (setting props, rigging special effects, etc. – again, need to be available first week in June and all weekends in June)
  • Assisting with box office/front of house (can do one or more of the 16 shows)

The dates/times of the performances are in June 2009:

  • June 5, 6, 7
  • June 12, 13, 14
  • June 19, 20, 21
  • June 26, 27, 28

         Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00pm
         Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00pm

All performances are at the historic Horticultural Hall (330 Broad Street) in downtown Lake Geneva.

As a new company, they are not able to offer pay at this time. However, they hope to give interns a positive theatre experience and professional credit to put on a resume.

UW-Whitewater Students: If you would like the full details on this opportunity, particularly information on who to contact regarding your interest in an internship with the Lake Geneva Theatre Company, shoot an email to me, Laura Jacobs, at MorrowL@uww.edu. You can also find this opportunity posted in HawkQuest.