A friend posted an article on a popular social media site. It called into question the legitimacy and legality of unpaid internships. I have only ever taken one unpaid internship in my career (so far) and that was while I was still in college and had financial aid from my parents (I even had to pay for housing and transportation). I loved the company I was working for and I eventually found a way to make money, but after reading this article I do not know if I would take another unpaid internship in the future.
The article titled, Half of Us Are Victims of This Illegal Act After College. It's Really Not Ok. is more of an illustrated article or infographic. It is written by Joseph Lamour with illustration by Matt Bors. The article got me thinking about my past and possible future with internships.
While in college I held two different internships. After graduating I have done two more. Luckily the latter two paid (a little) and offered free or reduced cost housing (they were in different states than my permanent residence). My very first internship ever also paid and I was able to live at my parents' house (free rent!). The internship I spoke of above was my second internship, in California, and I needed it to graduate (for my Minor). The cost of living in California is very different that the cost of living in my home state of Nebraska. According to Salary.com I would be down about $4,783* in disposable income (assuming I made any money, which I was not going to)! According to another site, Cityrating.com, I would have to make substantially more money than that to enjoy the level of living I was accustomed to in Nebraska. It would have been hard to do this while making no money.
Back to the article. One of the poignant parts of the article was when the author described people's legitimizing of unpaid internships. I had heard all of them before from the people offering internships, teachers, parents, etc. The bar graph that followed helped illustrate how untrue some of these claims are. The most heard defense of an unpaid internship in theatre (that I've heard) is "It could lead to a job". I know some people who are the exceptions to the rule, yet most people do not experience this rare gem. I was not one of these people. My internship in California did not "pay out" into a hiring.
On the flip side, one of my volunteer experiences in high school did allow me to get my foot into a theatre that later hired me as an overhire stitcher/crafts person. This position then lead to my next job as a lead costumer on A Christmas Carol tour. I was able to volunteer because I was still in high school and was thankfully provided for by my parents. Little did I know that my connection back in high school with the local theatre would aid in my first job out of college. This antidote is more to illustrate the phrase "It's not what you know, it's who you know". I firmly believe in this as truth.
An unpaid internship can get you connections yes, but will you be able to support yourself on no pay; and for how long? There are many internships I have looked at and apprenticeships I have ogled at; unfortunately most if not all of these amazing opportunities were tarnished because they were unpaid in a city whose cost of living was decidedly above my reach. If connections are what you are after it might be easier on your wallet to work a job that pays decent and contact people in the field you wish to enter.
(Another antidote!) I took a public relations course during my time at my university. In this class our professor assigned each of us to find a PR professional in an area of the US that we wished to live. Then, and here comes the scary part, we had to contact them and ask for an interview. It was just informational, no job on the line, no resume given. It was a way to meet someone who could end up a great connection if we were choosing to enter that field. I am very grateful to that professor for showing me a way to connect with my role models (in my field) and to gain information from them. In my opinion this may be as valuable or slightly more valuable than an unpaid internship.
The arguments surrounding unpaid internships are tough. They include legal, ethical, and financial questions that are not easy to navigate. I hope the article I cited above will open a dialogue amongst us young professionals so that we may make better informed decisions when it comes to accepting internships.
*based on a $14000 income using the two different sites' cost of living calculators
I am in the paper! The Omaha World Herald ran a story on the creation behind the scenes of Omaha Community Playhouse's Les Miserables. I was pleasantly surprised to find my photo not only in the print version, but online and in a short interview with the costume designer and our shop supervisor. (Link below)
It is very strange to see yourself in print, but also very exciting. Hopefully people will see the work everyone has been doing over the past few months and become even more excited to see the show.
I am a firm believer in using costumes and accessories to help tell the story. There are many ways costume technicians do this, whether it is through silhouette, fabric, etc. Something I have always been interested in and have used in my designs since beginning in costumes is color. The meanings of colors in certain cultures has always interested me and I have tried to find ways of incorporating the cultural background of the play into my color plots.
Blue: It is one of my favorite colors, and one of the first colors I wanted to incorporate into my design of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. In western cultures blue is a color associated with protection which is why I paired it with an old man's street coat. One can assume it was Cinderella's father's coat which she now keeps as a remembrance of her father. She uses the coat as a "safety blanket" although her father can do nothing to protect her from her evil stepmother and stepsisters.
There are more colors I incorporated into the final design, but I wanted to overall scheme for Cinderella to be blues. Cinderella is the character with the least amount of protection, yet she is in need of it most. Through my color usage I wanted to subtly introduce the idea that Cinderella's self made form of protection was the barrier she placed between herself and the outside world. This is mirrored through her actions not only at home but at the ball.
Now, the average viewer of the show will not spot this or have a discussion at intermission about the color choices and meaning of said colors. This is where a customer must accept that many hours of hard work and design may not take center stage in the eyes of the audience, but it will add to the overall story being told. Picking the right color can add volumes to the story, but choosing the wrong one can spell disaster. Just think what might have happened had I chosen hot pink for Cinderella's apron! (ew!)
Color Meaning: Back to what I was saying about colors and their meanings. It is important to have a vague idea of cultural color choices and what emotions they bring up in those cultures. For instance, in the west if a bride wore any other color besides white/ivory some guests might be in a huff. Yet, if a bride wore white in India the guests would be beside themselves with grief. In India the brides usually wear a red sauri because white is worn when in mourning.
Some widely accepted colors and their meanings in western culture:
Breaking the "Rules":After establishing the cultural view of color, it is sometimes fun to play with it. For example, while in undergraduate studies I was in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. The costume designer for the show wanted to enforce the blurred boundaries and complicated topics the show presented through her design and color choices. Knowing that a western audience would be watching she placed the character of Satan in a clean, white, linen suit. The stark contrast between the audience's view of what the color white means and their view of what Satan should be caused some audience members confusion. As a member of the cast I understood the concept. The audience's preconceived notions of how some characters should be, and the way they were presented (through the script, costumes, acting, etc.) were muddled.
The blatant play on what color a type of character should be wearing based on its cultural meaning interested me. It is something that again, adds to the story being told (if used correctly).
Colors and the meanings we associate with them are fascinating. A costumer could spend years studying just the color meaning and history of the one culture. I believe color is an integral part of telling our part of the story. Why is the character wearing this color? What color should they be wearing? Why has the playwright specifically noted that she wear a yellow dress (Glass Menagerie)? Although they are more questions to ask as you design, they could be the difference between a good design and a great design.
Having written about Pinterest recently I decided to list my top five places to do costuming research (not on the internet).
You remember the Library right? It is normally that large old-ish looking building on a college campus or in your town that holds books and other reference materials. Libraries are a great resource because there are also people there to help you find what you are looking for. They have tools like scanners, copiers, rentals, and nice quiet rooms for you to scan the books you find. It is amazing!
But seriously, many libraries have archives of fashion histories, magazines, ads, etc. that can greatly aid in your costuming research. I suggest taking time to read through the books and scan pages you want to references. This way you do not have to lug the books home and you save trees by scanning the documents to your thumbdrive or emailing them to yourself.
Much like a library, a bookstore has many different printed materials. Unlike a library one must buy these books before taking them home or scanning them. If you find costuming books that have many different eras in them I highly suggest purchasing one or two to keep in your own library at home.
Some bookstores will even special order a book for you if you request it!
There are many different kinds of museums. Some are more helpful than others. It just depends on what kind of costume design you are doing. For instance, an Air and Space Museum would not be good for a traditional concept of Pride and Prejudice, but it may be a great place to gather information for A Piece of My Heart (maybe).
Museums often have what most scholars refer to as "Primary sources". These include, diaries of people who lived during the time, original fashion of the time, photographs (assuming it is an era that came after the camera), etc. These things can be very useful when designing.
I like malls and thrift stores for many reasons. First, you can people watch. If you are doing a modern show this allows you to see how people are wearing today's fashions in an everyday setting. Secondly, you can see how fashion designers intended their closes to be worn (mannequins, photo shoots in stores, etc).
It also allows you to grab a few articles if you are currently pulling clothes for a show. (I like thrift stores because you can often find the exact same thing you wanted at the mall but for a severely reduced price)
Now I know this isn't exactly a place, but it does make for a lovely research area. There are many different places that do many different things in the clothing area. Traveling to these areas and speaking with locals or experts will help you gain insight to that area's different clothing customs. You also get a trip out of the deal and could potentially return home with authentic costume pieces to add to your design!