Final year BA (Hons) Applied Performance (Community and Education) student Naomi Cooper, took part in a six week work placement with the Play House Theatre in Education Company, based at Birmingham Rep theatre, and answered a few questions for us about the practicalities and benefits of her time on placement.
Where did you complete your work placement?
I completed a six week placement last summer term with The Play House Theatre in Education Company, based at Birmingham REP. The company also tours primary schools all around Birmingham.
How did you secure your placement?
I emailed the company but was also recommended to them by my tutor, so I could secure the placement early before anyone else got in there! That would be one of my biggest tips in securing a decent placement – get in there early!
How did your tutors encourage you?
I have been able to tailor many of my modules to what I want to do, to get the most out of them. I’m also lucky that Peter Wynne-Willson, (Programme Leader) along with other tutors here, specialise in Theatre in Education and working with children, so they can offer great advice. We have had many opportunities to meet and work with industry professionals and I think Peter is really hoping to expand this element of the course.
What kind of things did you get involved with on your placement?
I spent the first two weeks of the placement rehearsing with Malcolm Jennings, a Teacher-Actor who works for the company. I then went on tour with him, performing twice a day, Mon-Thurs for the other four weeks. We performed a participatory programme called “Paperchase” which was all about exploring the English curriculum and Personal Social and Health Education. We used speaking and listening techniques and of course, drama. I spent Fridays talking to the other members of the Play House team about the workings of the company and learnt about all the little details that go into running a small theatre company. I found these talks really useful as this is what I would like to do once I graduate.
Has your placement helped you with your course?
I took my placement at the end of my second year. It helped me to confirm the path I want to go down and meant I could really personalise my final year modules and projects, so that I got the best out of them. My dissertation was a Theatre in Education Project plan, my final performance project was a piece of Children’s theatre, and my final project was working in a special school, gaining some Special Educational Needs experience. Without my placements, I don’t know if I would have made those decisions and I don’t think I would feel as ready to graduate as I do right now.
Do you now have a better idea of what you’d like to do after your degree?
Definitely! I came onto the course with an interest in Children’s Theatre and Theatre in Education, so I don’t think I could have picked a better placement. I’m very lucky to have been able to perform on tour with them and although it was hard work and tiring, it was so rewarding and has confirmed that this is the path I would like to take.
What is the best piece of advice you took from your placement?
A work placement is the best place to put yourself outside your comfort zone and learn as much as you can because it is a safe, encouraging space (Or it should be, if you’ve got a good host)! You’re not expected to do, or know anything you’re not comfortable with, and don’t be afraid to ask questions, or say if you don’t understand. Your hosts know you’re a student and you’re still learning. However, you’re in a working environment and that’s the best place to get a realistic representation of the world you’re wanting to enter. You’ll get an idea pretty quickly of whether this is for you or not!
What advice do you have for other students thinking about their placements?
Research! If you know what you want to do, then start looking early. Don’t waste your placement opportunity. On the other hand, if you don’t know what you want to do (and that’s fine) don’t stress! If you don’t like your placement, you can still learn from it. At least you know that that particular job isn’t for you! Also use your tutors. It was my tutor that recommended me to my placement host. They have contacts and you never know who they know! They are more than happy to help you find the perfect placement.
Did you make any good industry links that could help you with your career?
YES! I have secured a paid internship at the Play House for the coming year! It was an audition process but I do believe my placement there really helped, as I already knew the workings of the company and the staff. I’m very excited! If I hadn’t have won that particular internship, I would still have been added to their pool of freelancers, who they rely on a lot for their programmes. Another module we did this year was run and moderated by Gareth and Phil from the Little Earthquake Theatre Company. We got to know them well throughout the module and now have them as contacts should we ever need any advice and tips. When I finish my paid internship, I want to travel back up North (I’m from the Lake District) and basically do what the Play House does, but back at home and I feel well equipped to be able to do that now. The contacts I now have, although they’re based in Birmingham, are always there at the end of the phone or email and can offer advice. They might even know people up north who they can introduce me to! It’s all very exciting.