Over on howlround, an essay/post by Annah Feinberg...Confessions of a Serial Intern. Not a surprising read (I think her observations are perennial), but it is frank, sharply written, and I'm sure it will ruffle some feathers. Always a good thing to featherruffle. Plus, she makes the point, which can't be made enough, that an upper-middle class upbringing gives you a leg-up as an artist in this country.
I'm sure a lot of the debate will center around the validity of her claim that interns don't get hired by the theaters they volunteer for very often. (Some comments over there are already talking about that.) Two thoughts about that from me.
One is that I've always found that whole process questionable anyway. Is her point, "Look I gave you my free labor in order to move to the front of the hiring line, and I was able to do so because I can afford it. But this unfair advantage I thought I would get was misrepresented?" I know it isn't, of course. It's just a bit too much inside-baseball, first-world problems, writing a memo to Human Resources, to really keep me invested.
Second, it's less interesting to talk about post-internship hiring practices than it is to talk about the way in which financial constraints force large artistic organizations to use free labor on a mass scale. Don't we have a jobs crisis in this country? Couldn't these unpaid internships, with a little public funding, become jobs? There's a strong economic argument to be made that better funded theaters and dance companies, large and small, could employ more people. And if these were jobs, even part-time or seasonal jobs, wouldn't that reduce the disparity in the class issue? It would mean that people who need to be paid for their work would still have "working at a theater" as an reasonable option.
On a personal note, I must confess, whenever I read about the "industry" I sort of die inside. I keep forgetting I'm in an industry. Or maybe the problem with my career thus far, such as it is, is that I'm expressly not in the industry. I just write plays and try to get them put on. I'm doing this wrong.
Then again, I think I want to be in the industry. Don't I? But then again, it's an industry. Isn't it?
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.