Acting internships are relatively rare because of the way most acting jobs are obtained. There are many internships that will allow an individual to attend acting classes in exchange for working other jobs around the theater. In some cases, an acting job may be formatted as an internship in order for the individual to get school credit for the work. Most of the time, however, a person must audition and be cast in a production in order to work in that production, and in that case it is typically a job rather than an internship.
Although many acting internships do not involve actually acting, one of the best types of internships involves taking on minor roles or understudy parts in productions in return for feedback and work experience. These internships allow an actor to improve in his or her craft and often provide ample chances to perform. It is sometimes possible for interns to put this type of work toward membership in various acting guilds as well, which can be useful later on.
Some acting internships take the form of classes with performance elements. In these acting internships, a student takes an acting job but uses that job as a class, which makes the experience more like an internship. These jobs can be excellent chances to gain experience without the expectation of professional expertise. In many cases, it is possible to find internships of this type through drama programs at colleges.
Many acting internships involve minimal performance elements if any at all. In this type of internship, an actor exchanges labor for acting classes and connections. Work may consist of taking tickets, doing backstage labor, or performing paperwork. Classes in this type of internship can be quite useful, and often the exchange is worthwhile. Screen acting internships are even rarer than those for the stage, but those that exist often take this form.
In general, it is usually better to try and find real work as an actor than take unpaid internships, unless the internship offers valuable experience or credits. Acting is a craft in which skill and luck can lead to roles whether or not someone has much experience. The purpose of an internship is to gain work experience, but this does not always make sense in the context of theater or screen work, particularly if a person will not actually perform. It is worth considering that the benefits offered by internships are useful only to particular types of people, and those who simply wish to act may be better served by working with community theaters.