Playwrights Guild of Canada (PGC) and the Department of Theatre in York University's Faculty of Fine Arts have established a formal internship program to provide undergraduate students with hands-on experience in arts administration in a professional setting.
PGC has welcomed student volunteers from York's theatre department since 2009. Professor Judith Rudakoff, who teaches playwriting, developmental dramaturgy and contemporary Canadian theatre, initiated the internship project and has been overseeing its implementation and evolution in collaboration with PGC. Both organizations have now signed an official memorandum of understanding to formalize the partnership.
Two internship positions will be offered to York theatre majors each term. Students are invited to apply at the beginning of each semester, and York provides PGC with a shortlist for consideration. Those selected for internships have the opportunity to learn first-hand how arts organizations work, assist in research, and gain access to invaluable theatre-related workshops and performances.
"Playwrights and dramaturgs often work in small groups or alone," says Rudakoff. "This guided experiential learning opportunity injects playwriting and dramaturgy students into the heart of their chosen art form within a highly-respected national service organization. As interns with PGC, they can make pre-professional connections, gain real-world work experience, and put into practice their ideas about what it means to be an artist in the world today."
Robin Sokoloski, Executive Director of Playwrights Guild of Canada, says: "Judith [Rudakoff] has been very supportive in encouraging her students to dedicate their time to this endeavour. Previous volunteers from York University have brought a passion for theatre and the relevant skill set to assist us in driving our mandate forward. It is extremely beneficial for PGC to affirm this ongoing relationship."
In the past, York students have helped PGC in further developing its Carol Bolt Reading Room, promoting its programs, researching information and archiving the organization's resources.
For recent theatre grad Derek Gingrich, who interned from June 2010 to August 2011, it was an eye-opening experience.
"I learned how important the administrative underpinnings of artistic work are," says Gingrich. "I was especially surprised to see the constant advocacy work Playwrights Guild of Canada does. The deep level of commitment they bring to improving the working conditions and compensation for playwrights is under-sung and incredibly important."
Lisa Aikman, a fourth-year student in York's theatre studies program, has been involved at PGC since September.
"This internship has helped me hone my research skills in a way that will certainly be helpful in my future studies," said Aikman. "It has also demystified the administrative side of the theatre world, which I didn't know that much about before."
Both Aikman and Gingrich connected with the program via their participation in Rudakoff's Playwriting and New Play Dramaturgy and Contemporary Canadian Theatre classes.
Playwrights Guild of Canada is a national arts service organization mandated to advance the creative rights and interests of professional Canadian playwrights, promote Canadian plays nationally and internationally, and foster an active, evolving community of writers for the stage.
York University's Faculty of Fine Arts is one of North America's premier schools for the visual and performing arts. Among the most comprehensive professional training and research institutions in the field in Canada, it offers conservatory and academic studies in all the fine arts: dance, design, digital media, film, music, theatre and visual arts.
Eastern Canada's largest theatre school, York's Department of Theatre has been the springboard for a generation of Canadian talent. Alumni include playwrights Anusree Roy, Diane Flacks and Governor General's Award winner Djanet Sears; directors Weyni Mengesha, Stafford Arima, Walter Carsen Prize winner Richard Rose and Siminovitch Prize winner Jillian Keiley; actors Rachel McAdams, Deborah Hay, Thom Marriott, Melody Johnson and Patrick Galligan; designers Charlotte Dean and Deeter Schurig, and theatre writers Alison Broverman, Lynn Slotkin and Stephanie Verge.