Andrew Woolner is the artistic director of Yokohama Theatre Group (from now on YTG). They are taking interns throughout the year and do a great job, as former interns coming from Internship Japan already told us. A lot to learn and an overall great experience, they said. As an artist, you got to get on the stage! Period.

IJ: Please introduce Yokohama Theater to us.

The Yokohama Theatre Group is a 114 year-old company, now operating as a non-profit. Our mission is to bring modern, multilingual and multicultural theatre to Japan, and to take our uniquely Japanese theatre out to the world. To do this, we create original shows and conduct theatre classes. We also want to continue to tour our shows to other cities and other countries.

No one, other than the class instructors, is being paid. All staff positions and ensemble positions are volunteer at the moment. We hope to change that in the future as we continue to evolve into a professional, international theatre company.

IJ: We do promote arts and culture since we believe that the SOFT POWER going with it, can be especially now, in the internet age, more powerful than what the politicians do in the name of nations. The heart of people is shown in culture and arts, and transferred to other nations, loving those very points. Arts and culture are shaping the image of a nation. Do you agree?

AW: Absolutely!

IJ: One quote from your profile at the YTG website:

Andrew believes in the power of theatre to change the world.

Tell us more about the vision behind this.

AW: Any artistic action can change the world, as long as it’s motivated by the artistic impulse and not by commercial interests. Theatre is unique in that it’s a live performance, and is about something larger than any member of the team that put it together. This unique combination of factors makes theatre ideal for spreading new ideas,thoughts, or feelings. And new ideas, thoughts, and feelings are what change the world.

IJ: You started the internship program of YTG. Tell us why you believe in internships and how they are supposed to be.

Since we are essentially a volunteer-run organization, interns are just another type of volunteer. An intern has certain differences from an ordinary volunteer in that an intern is usually committed to a certain period and certain number of hours of work; an intern is generally willing to learn new skills and ways of working. From the intern’s point of view, the value is in the learning (and sometimes in school credit as well, for those who have an internship requirement as part of their studies).

Also, we are such a small organization that nobody’s job will be exclusively “make-work” like getting coffee and fetching things. While all of us do some fetching, most interns who work with us end up being given more responsibilities and real work that at larger organizations

IJ: At our founding event, you spoke about “bad apple-interns”, too. Interns who are not determined and only come to gather the credits they need for graduation. What are the NO GOS from your side, and how is an intern supposed to be?

AW: We strongly believe that interns must be determined and do a great job, too.
I’m not interested in working with someone, intern or not, who is only interested in doing the minimum amount of work to get things done.

I’m also not interested in working with someone who isn’t willing to learn or respect the experience of more permanent YTG members. We value the expertise that some of our interns bring from their previous training, but they need to realize that the other volunteers at YTG have been making theatre (and making theatre in Japan, in particular) for a long time and sometimes we actually do know better. Sometimes. But the respect needs to work both ways.

IJ: We are often asked how a company can benefit from an intern, and some also do not get what benefit an intern has. To make this understandable, we created the Value Add guidelines. Anything we missed?

AW: Nope.

YTGIJ: You are not able pay a salary, but you provide benefits. Tell us about these. We always say that anything can help, be it a train pass, a meal or a sofa to stay on for the time interning.

AW: As a small NPO with limited budgets, most of our ensemble members and volunteers don’t even get their train fare paid, except on special projects with outside funding. This holds true for interns, too.

We will pay transportation that is outside the scope of an intern’s regular duties. For instance, if we were to tour a show to Osaka, train fare would be paid.

Obviously, interns see our shows for free (frequently, interns are in the show, so that kind of goes without saying), but they also can take YTG acting classes at a steep discount (sometimes for free). Sometimes, YTG is given free tickets for other companies’ shows, so interns sometimes get free tickets to other shows or events.

IJ: Especially in the culture and arts-filed, the talents are amazing, but it is hard to make a living, right? What do YOU at YTG need? How can people support you? You are also a Non-Profit Organization, correct?

AW: Yes, YTG is a non-profit. At the moment, nobody on the team makes their living from working for YTG.

IJ: We are planning to offer scholarships for interns in culture and arts. How do you feel about that?

AW: That would be fantastic. Interns should be compensated directly.

IJ: To offer scholarships, we as NPO need to make money. Any ideas on that? Could we cooperate with you for example and have you and the interns play at our events or so?

AW: With the kind of work IJ does, I’d expect sponsorships and grants would be the key to generating operating revenue. It’s not feasible now, but in the future, you could also ask intern “alumni” who got experience through an IJ placement and have now got great jobs to donate to help others. Sadly, the kind of performance work we do doesn’t lend itself to corporate-style events.

IJ: What is your message to internship-prospects, what do you want to tell those youngsters willing to come to Japan?

AW: If you’re serious, and committed to doing good work and being part of something creative, then we’re waiting for you!

IJ: How can WE, Internship Japan, do better? What do you wish us to do in the future?

AW: No complaints.

IJ: Any words of wisdom for the youth that come to Japan hoping to find a career in theatre or other arts-based field?

AW: Don’t do it for the money. This goes for anywhere, but especially in Japan.

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