At the beginning of my spring 2020 semester I spent a lot of time worrying about what path I wanted to pursue for the coming summer. There were jobs available at my university where I could spend the summer giving a boost to my bank account (and I’m a college student, so this would have been helpful). There were internships and part-time positions that I could apply for that would be logical next steps as a rising senior Creative Writing major, such as an entry-level opening for a journalist for a local news outlet. And then there was an unpaid internship with Oak Park Festival Theatre (OPFT), a Shakespeare theatre near Chicago, where I could spend the summer paying my living expenses out of my own savings and doing work that I didn’t even know if I would like or not, but . . . I love theatre, so when I was offered the internship, I took it. Then COVID happened, nearly anything else I could have done with my summer was cancelled, and the OPFT internship was shortened and moved online, allowing me to still do something productive with my summer despite the pandemic. In this case, I guess fortune favors those who go out on a limb and jump on the opportunity to do the crazy, completely impractical thing, . . . which happens to also be the only thing they really wanted to do in the first place.
I was reminded last summer of why I love Shakespeare’s work so much. Because OPFT is a theatre that focuses on performing Shakespeare, all of the interns were given the opportunity to perform in a scene from one of his plays in a showcase at the end of the summer, which we managed to do online via Zoom. While I had already read and seen much of Shakespeare’s work—and loved it—in this internship I learned a lot about how to analyze Shakespeare’s plays from the perspective of an actor, which helped me to see even more depth in his works. There was a practical side to this: I can keep this in mind as I read plays in the future, and apply what I learned to my own work as a playwright. However, the easier thing to lose sight of in my stress for my unknown future career is that this was also simply a fun experience that sparked an almost childlike enthusiasm in me, as a writer, actor, and Shakespeare nerd.
With OPFT, I was exposed to career opportunities I had not realized were there for strong writers in other liberal-art-related fields, including theatre. Each intern in the program was connected with a mentor in the company, and I had the great opportunity to have a mentor who was also a writer. She makes a living doing grant writing and serving as the CEO of a fundraising company, both jobs that help raise money for theaters, where she does what she truly loves: acting. And my mentor wasn’t the only person I met this summer who was pursuing what she loved; nearly all of the interns I was working with were theatre majors, and it became clear over the course of the semester that they were not in this industry for fame or fortune. They were, rather, doing what they loved because they loved it. And they were given these mentors to help them along a path that would allow them to keep that spark of love for their career while also keeping in mind the need to make a living, as my mentor does with her grant writing and fundraising work.
As someone who is stressed for the future, torn between her interests and the need to be practical and make a living, it was inspiring to be exposed to a group of interns who were pursuing acting against all the odds, knowing what a competitive field it is and that it would be rough at first but deciding to pursue it anyway. It was inspiring to be exposed to professionals in the theatre industry who had found ways to support themselves while doing what they loved without sacrificing either need. I’m not going to be a professional actor—although I do really enjoy acting when I get the chance—but as a writer, this served as a reminder that I can support myself in the future without losing sight of what I love in the midst of what I feel like I “should” be doing. It is not about choosing one or the other; rather, the goal is to find a healthy balance between both. I love writing fiction. I love reading, watching, and performing Shakespeare. And while I will one day graduate and have a day job, no matter how many distractions vie for my attention, I will do my best to never lose sight of those things. I will do my best to hold on to that childlike spark of enthusiasm, because, when it comes to a career, especially in something like creative writing or theatre, that spark is what keeps you in love with what you do. I am grateful that the Sigma Tau Delta Summer Internship Stipend allowed me to pursue this internship opportunity and reignite that spark.
Sigma Tau Delta offers funding for current undergraduate and graduate student members accepting non- or low-paying internships. The Internship Stipend is a competitive program providing a limited number of stipends of up to $1,500 each.
The internship must involve working for an “organization” while being directed by a supervisor/mentor within that organization, and the intern’s duties must be consistent with the applicant’s level of education, area of study, and career goals. Financial need will be taken into consideration in addition to internship length. Applicants are responsible for obtaining and providing verification of the internship. Please review the application guidelines for additional information.
The internship stipend does not apply to activities that are part of a student’s degree requirements, such as student teaching, and cannot be used to supplement a graduate assistantship.
Applications are due by Monday, April 26, 2021, 11:59 p.m. Central Daylight Time (CDT). Notifications will be made by May 25. Questions regarding the online submission process should be addressed to [email protected].
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