Summer is upon us, and many young theatre students are undoubtedly headed for summer theatre jobs and/or unpaid internships. This recent article on the Guardian Theatre Blog talks about both the pros and cons of working for free in the theatre.
A couple of years ago a friend of mine taught me a handy shortcut for deciding whether or not to accept a project.
You look at three things: the project, the people, and the money. If two of the three are positive, then you take the job. Otherwise, you don’t.
Here’s how I define the positive aspects:
The people: People you enjoy working with. People you’ve always wanted to work with. People who will push you as an actor. People you’ve never worked with who could introduce you to a new circle of people you didn’t know previously. A company you admire.
The money: At the bare minimum, a living wage. Enough to cover your expenses. Enough to not need another job while you’re rehearsing. Maybe even enough to keep you going for a few weeks after the show closes.
The project: A dream role. A dream show. A script you feel passionately about. A role that will stretch you. A role that scares you.
Any one of these in isolation is not enough. A dream role won’t be a dream for long if it means both hating the people you’re working with and eating Ramen noodles every night.
I learned this shortcut WAY too late in my career, but you know what? It’s guided every decision I’ve made about my career since and it’s never steered me wrong.