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Student accepted onto National Theatre programme

Wednesday 30 April 2014

Sarah Chapleo, a second year English and Drama student, was recently selected to take part in the National Theatre Young Studio programme. The programme gives a creative people under the age of 21 the opportunity to collaborate with other people, and meet with a range of theatre professionals. Sarah tells QMUL Student about the process and her experiences of applying for work experience opportunities and internships.

Congratulations on being chosen for the National Theatre Young Studio! What does the programme entail?

The programme gives a group of creatives under the age of 21 a chance to collaborate and try out ideas with each other, as well as being introduced to exciting theatre practitioners and companies such as director Melly Still and the company 'Look Left Look Right'.

What was the selection process like?

There were different ways to apply, but I found out about the programme via 'Ideastap' which is a really great website for opportunities in the arts. I made an online application, where I talked about my relevant experience and interests, as well as people and things that inspire me. I was then short-listed to attend a 2 hour workshop run by the National Theatre’s Rob Watt and Helen Edwards, and John Hunter of the interactive theatre company 'non zero one'. It was a pretty intense workshop that was all about collaboration with around 30 people, but it was an amazing experience!

How did you feel when you were offered a place?

I felt really shocked and excited! I spend a lot of time applying for opportunities and internships, and of course this means lots of rejections, so when something comes through I feel like it's all worth it - it's a real confidence boost! I'm now really looking forward to collaborating with everyone and squeezing as much as I can out of the experience.

How do you think your time at QMUL has helped with your application?

University is a great place for getting experience in the arts. I've directed a couple of plays now outside of the course, and my Drama course at Queen Mary has taught me so much about collaboration and ways of experimenting already. It's a really good course and I love it so much.

What are your plans for the future?

I'm just going to follow my nose really. In terms of career I know that I'd be happy doing anything creative. I'm just trying to get as much experience as possible in whatever appeals to me so that when I finish University I'll have tools with which to pursue different opportunities. I'm currently shadowing a director at the Courtyard Theatre and I really love that! It would be great to be directing my own stuff in a Theatre like The Courtyard one day.  

What advice would you give to other students who are looking for opportunities to get work experience?

Firstly I would say to do your research, whether you’re applying to something by phone, email or in person, you need to be able to say what it is in particular you like about that company or organisation. Sending out a template cover letter isn't going to get you anywhere fast, take time over your applications. Also, be persistent, get used to making the 'did you get my email?' call! Introduce yourself over the phone, and make sure you get your enthusiasm across. Polite persistence without being pushy will keep you on people's radars!

I've developed a bit of a 'don't ask don't get' attitude when it comes to gaining experience in the arts. Be an opportunist, again without being too pushy, and you'll be surprised how many people welcome you with open arms! I was recently offered a job as an assistant on a shoot for District MTV, just from asking people I'd just met if they could offer me any experience!

Lastly, make sure you're having fun and enjoying what you're doing, experience on your CV is great, but it's not worth it if it's making you miserable! Stick with what feels most natural to pursue!

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