If you've answered it once, you've answered it a thousand times: "Hey! How are you! How was your summer?!" This is pretty much how conversations open for the first two weeks of classes. For theater students, what is really the best use of your summer? Here are some options for a year from now, when the internship applications are flying around, auditions are everywhere, and the beach just won't stop calling to you!
1) Summer internship
One of the most common and productive ways to spend your summer is an internship. While it will consume most of your time (and oftentimes doesn't pay), an internship can be a great way to get some legitimate experience in the field and to make some great connections!
Rebecca Esquivel's summer consisted of an internship with The Goodman Theatre in Chicago, and she would recommend it to anyone. "I spent my summer in the heart of Chicago's theater district, interning for one of the best production managers in the country and recognizably the best artistic director in the country, Bob Falls. The Goodman is an incredibly professional institution, and I really gained an appreciation for the organization and professionalism of the company. I was the production management intern, and I felt like I was at the center of all departments and learned so much from attending production meetings and technical rehearsals.
"I have done a summer internship every year of my college experience and don't plan to stop. It really puts you 10 steps ahead of the game when you graduate. And especially working in theater, an industry that relies heavily, if not entirely on connections, you really have to just get out there and meet people."
2) Summer stock/productions
While it may be challenging to find, you can't go wrong with performance experience! An added benefit is not having to worry about schoolwork and classes while you're in rehearsals, tech week, or performances.
Zach Kaufer spent his summer performing in Hair with a small, independent company. "I got involved with Hair when a friend of mine from another production contacted me about auditioning. I think that anything that furthers your education is a valuable use of your summer. I learned that the small, independent companies that put on the shows that we will be cast after graduation are vehicles for us to use every skill we learned in school. I was called upon to fix some lighting issues because I had taken a lighting class and knew what a fresnel is!"
For some of us, summer is time to save! With rehearsals and classes during the school year, there just isn't time to work and make money. For Sarah Powell, this meant working at a kids' drama camp in Palo Alto. "I chose to work this summer because I am planning on getting an internship in the fall and I needed to raise money to buy a car. Also, I love working with kids and I had the job lined up from working for TheatreWorks the year before!"
"I was responsible for a group of kids all day as they went from class to class. At the end of each session, we put on a show that the kids wrote! I was able to see the positive effect theater could have on students of any age. No matter who you are, you aren't just learning theater, you're also learning a thousand other things that are important."
4) Be a self-starter!
Can't find a job/internship/audition? Doesn't appeal to you? No problem—do what does appeal to you, give your ideas a kick-start! Over the summer, Maddy Heyman (and company) decided to produce her own show. "What this entailed was finding a theater to perform the show in as well as rehearsal space; finding and auditioning actors; and above all, learning how to make sure people came to see it! We also had to find funding.
"I learned a lot about what goes into putting a production up, especially management and marketing. Studying acting and directing in school is nothing like attempting to put up a show on your own, and I feel much more prepared now for whatever I will face out in the real world because I know that I can make my own theater. I have now built a foundation that I could hopefully incorporate into my career someday, and it was in a relatively low-risk environment."
Another option is using summer to put some work into yourself as a "product"—updating your resume, getting new headshots, or printing some snazzy business cards. Tona Tiuh did this by designing a website as a marketing tool for his career. "It took me about a week. After I took voice over acting [at USC], Phil Allen encouraged us to be our own advertisers and self-promoters. So I googled how to code, bought a domain name, and started cracking. I found a software that made building a page really user friendly."