Internal Conflict

Venice Theatre, whom I last mentioned when their open secret of paying some but not all performers went public, has decided to modify the script some more. They announced a move hinted at in the previous Jay Handelman article on the subject of payment–acting internships:

The chosen actors will get housing and a small weekly stipend. They also will be expected to audition for several mainstage, Stage II or cabaret shows, where they will compete against other local performers. [Producing Director Allan] Kollar said there are no expectations that the interns get leading roles. Auditions will remain open to all interested actors.

The interns will also take part in a variety of outreach programs, presenting brief shows at community and retirement centers and schools in the area.

The first few times (that I know for sure) I was in a Venice show with a paid performer, those performers were Equity actors. It was a pretty solid line: union received paychecks, and had their names marked specially in the program, making their status clear. It wasn’t until later that I discovered non-union volunteers were receiving paychecks in some cases, as well, which is where things start getting incredibly muddy.

On one level, I think this new program is perhaps meant as an attempt to re-establish that “professional” line. Over here are the people who will be paid. They went through special criteria to get on the books. They are, effectively, staff. Or, at least, they’re meant to be regarded as such.

I’m especially interested in the comment about the roles interns will play in shows. In what I’m assuming is a bid to assuage volunteer fears and head off attrition, the theatre wants to make sure folks know that interns aren’t guaranteed any kind of lead roles. They’re auditioning just like everyone else. And I’m sure most directors will try to be fair about that kind of thing.

Of course, it seems like it would speak especially ill of either the applicant pool or Venice’s choices if their interns aren’t the kind of performers who are going to be in contention for significant roles throughout the year. Especially when they’re picking the interns knowing full well their performing needs for the season.

Even tossing that aside, it’s hard not to expect that interns won’t be used regularly, lead or no. Not using them would seem to be a rather horrible ROI, after all. If they aren’t the leads, then it only stands to reason they’d be filling out the ensemble of Venice’s larger shows. Which brings us to the same, chafing situation as has happened before if you’re paying ensemble members and asking your leads to do it all for free.

Let me stop right now: ensemble is hard. It’s exhausting and frantic and often filled with the kind of nightmare quick changes and whiplash shifts in character that no featured role outside A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder will experience. This isn’t about belittling any of that.

However, if we’re talking about teaching folks about professional theatre: barring hazard or specialty pay, in professional theatre, isn’t ensemble remuneration lower than that of featured performers? Not only, then, might that situation wind up rubbing featured performers badly; it seems to be actively working against the stated intent of the internship, which is to prepare the interns for the reality of a professional career.

I’ll give a thumbs up to this inasmuch as this program, on the books and publicized, provides the kind of transparency that I think a community organization should have. It’s out there and everyone knows about it. Or, at the very least, folks would have a hard time pretending anyone was hiding it.

Of course, this kind of publicity is also one of the continuing frustrations. You know, hooray for bringing it out in the light, but I’m not sure this does much of anything to change the message to volunteers or the frustrations I outlined last time.

It’s also hard not to notice this announcement rather neatly sidesteps questions about how much other hiring might still happen. In any event, I’ll be especially interested to see how this inaugural class shakes out, both in the way Venice implements and uses the interns, and the way volunteer performers respond to them.

Apparently, Myths About Them Breed Quickly, Too

A couple of stories I’ve been working on pull heavily from stuff you’d classify as Tall Tales: Paul Bunyon, Pacos Bill, that sort of thing. Because I don’t just want the people to be over the top, but also the wildlife, I’ve been doing some research into animals that I think would be appropriate in the same kind of story. It didn’t take long at all before I figured jackalopes would fit right in. When you have giant blue oxes wandering around, a rabbit with antlers doesn’t seem too silly. Or, maybe it is silly, but it’s a silly that’s in keeping with the other silliness, right?

Anyway, so I start bouncing around (ha!), trying to figure out what there is in the way of “lore” for the jackalope. I was pleasantly surprised to find all sorts of crazy details I could use, but also more than a little bemused to find that the jackalope is just one of what seems like an oddly widespread range of rabbit hybrid critters.

I’ll stop right here and make it clear: I’m no folklore expert (or medical expert in the case of Shope papilloma). What follows is just what I’ve gathered from link clicking and googling. There will be no Grand Unified Theory of Lepus here, just some amateur compiling.

First, because sometimes reality is a whole lot more messed up than anyone’s taxidermic fantasy, there’s the likeliest source for all these horned rabbit myths (aside from, of course, “bored taxidermists with spare parts lying around”): The Shope papilloma virus. Shope papilloma causes large, horn-like tumors to grow on rabbits’ skin. Usually around the head. The pictures I found were both terrifying and heartbreaking at the same time: what looks like big, nasty horns and fangs can eventually become so large that the victim is no longer able to eat, so the rabbit starves to death. Don’t google that one if you’re at all sensitive, folks.

One upside of the disease is that apparently research on affected rabbits and the virus itself was part of the model used to help develop the HPV vaccine. So, there’s that. But you’re not here for medical realities. You’re here to read about crazy hybrid rabbits, so let’s get to them.

We’ll start with the skvader. Apparently the Swiss were less impressed by horns, so their taxidermic experiments in folklore grafted wood grouse wings onto a rabbit. Now, not only did you have to worry about rabbits burrowing in under your fence to steal your vegetables; they could just fly over the bloody fence.

Completely unsatisfied with either / or options, Bavarians spliced both antlers and wings onto the wolpertinger. Also, because flying, antler-goring attacks weren’t enough, they added fangs. Which makes sense, really; it’s not a good, Germanic fairy tale creature if it can’t eat you, now is it? See, you thought Monty Python was just pulling that man-eating rabbit out of thin air, but actually, we now see they just did better research.

Hybrid / mutant rabbits don’t appear to be an exclusively European construct, either. While I have a lot harder time finding actual sources on it, there does appear to be a hybrid rabbit creature in some Islamic poetry, too: the Al-mi’raj. This one only has a single horn, which is usually drawn as straight and tapering. So rabbit-narwhal, I suppose. Or rabbit-unicorn, depending on your preferences.

So, you know, maybe Bullwinkle wasn’t pulling the wrong thing out of his hat. He was just grabbing another hybrid variant.