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Rainbow Box by Melissa Harward
From the LGBTQ Community, Rabbit Box presents the final chapter of 2014: “Rainbow Box.” A special thanks goes to Matthew Epperson and our Master of Ceremonies of the evening, Katherine Edmonds, for working hard to put this amazing night together.
“Athens is not the Deep South,” I overhear from the crowd. Glancing around the Melting Point’s lounge, that much is clear. For those who call Athens home, the South’s connotations of ignorance and cruelty have been replaced by diversity, creativity, and acceptance. Like a separate pocket full of treasured, lucky items, our Classic City is a safe haven for those who think and love differently.
Katherine Edmonds of the famous mattress story was our Master of Ceremonies for this evening of bravery, openness, and great storytelling. The ten stories referenced below span each group of the acronym—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer—cultivating a true sense of community. With moments of both heartbreaking honesty and stomach-clenching hilarity, it wasn’t a night to be missed. Luckily, you can catch the recording and summary of each performance here.
Tara Stuart, our first storyteller and karaoke aficionado, regaled the Rabbit Box audience with the origin of Athens’ first Lesbian Olympic Summer Games. With boob medals on the line, the bikini-clad competition grew fierce (and a little messy). Jealous? You should be.
“Are you sure you’re bi?” It’s a question Elsa Durusau is sick of hearing. For those who identify as bisexual, being “on the fence” isn’t actually a reality. After a night out by herself, and with a little unexpected help, Elsa is able to settle into place where the only choice to make is to be herself.
Noah James Saunders spoke on coming up and out in a community filled with hatred for his identity. As a student, Noah decides to fight for social justice in the face of death threats, abuse, and the turned-heads of administrators. A surprising win emerges from gay-hating Cobb County.
James de Molyneux and Rex Crawford have an anniversary to celebrate this week. Although they were raised without a model on how to be together in their respective Southern communities, they’ve built a life together for 35 years. Congratulations to them both. This is the story of how they met.
Our Crackerjack Surprise storyteller of the evening was Valorie McGovern (a natural, as you’ll see), who provided a glimpse into the dynamics of a loving family who gets it right when reacting to news — sent via a funny e-mail — of their daughter’s coming out. This was Valorie’s first Rabbit Box story, and we hope she returns as an official storyteller soon!
From Rashaun Ellis, we learned that Memphis punk queers don’t put up with much. Rashaun gave us a glimpse of the types of inner conflict found within the LGBTQ community itself, as those who color within the lines of the rainbow sometimes look down on those who dare to define themselves outside of it.
Jay Morris, a rare native of Athens, was “that church kid” growing up until the divide between his identity as a gay black man drove him away from the religious community that raised him. In an effort to be authentic, Jay puts his push and pull to poetry at Athens’ Word of Mouth and finds a new community.
Sometimes there’s a fairytale written between the lines of a tragedy. After years of failed marriages and inner conflict, Rhett Crowe discovers there is only one way to feel comfortable in your own skin: Leave denial behind and embrace who you are.
For someone born in the wrong body, the realization that change is possible can be a powerful driving force. For Riley Kirkpatrick, growing through the inner land mines of puberty, tackling addiction, and learning to embrace the person inside was a laborious journey that lead him home to Athens.
The evening concluded with rolling tears and laughter as Mike Musgrove took to the stage, leading us down a winding trail of self-discovery and self-hate. I won’t give anything away here, but this is one story you don’t want to miss.
Rabbit Box will return next year on the second Thursday of each month. Happy holidays to each of you, and see you on January 8th for “May I Help You?: Stories from the Service Industry.”
Want to explore and shape your own story? Come join us!
When: Saturday, November 15 from 11 – 2:30pm & Sunday, Nov 16 from 4 – 6pm.
Where: Marti’s at Midday (1280 Prince Ave, Athens, GA 30606 – in Normaltown)
On Saturday we will develop and shape our stories based on two related themes: “New Beginnings” and “Second Chances.” On Sunday people will have the opportunity to perform their stories in front of the group.
Lunch on Saturday will be provided by Marti’s at Midday (and is included in the cost of workshop). Workshop attendees will have the option to go out for dinner with the group on Sunday after the performance. (Dinner is optional and not included in the cost.)
The workshop will cost $60 (for a total of 5.5 hours over the weekend) and will be limited to 12 people. Two half-priced scholarship tickets are available. Please contact Marci White at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706.206-0291 for more info. You can register online by following the link below.
You are now able to order your ticket online via Square. You can register and pay for a ticket in full here, or you can register by making a $30 down payment or pay for an approved scholarship pass here.
Rabbit Box: Bewitched
By Melissa Harward
We may have missed the Blood Moon, but October 8th still brought the spooks as storytellers and guests gathered in the blue-lit woods of Sandy Creek Park for “Rabbit Box: Bewitched”. Appropriate for the season, the evening theme centered on stories of bewitchments, something that has cast a spell over our performers.
Alex White, emcee of the night, welcomed everyone to S’mores (called it!) around a flickering campfire. Before the start of the show, Mr. White had asked each of our storytellers to reveal something that they had bewitched in their lives, their own hidden masteries. Turns out, many hidden talents aren’t so hidden. By the end of the night, many of these stories (and the surrounding woods) had this scaredy-cat of a writer feeling the heebie-jeebies. Check out the recording of each story at your own risk!
Name: Eddie Glikin
Hidden Talent: Dancing
Toward the very start of his career as a percussionist, a young Eddie is lured by the exotic drumming of a group of Hindus at a campus festival in Baltimore. Plucked from the crowd and chosen to drum with the men, “Ettie” has an out-of-body experience the causes him to flee the scene, drumming dreams in tow.
Name: James de Molyneux
Hidden Talent: His passion
The commanding de Molyneux brought the audience a surrealistic tale of his first night alone in the Smithonia Plantation, an 1863 estate in Oglethorpe County. Taking on an extensive renovation of the plantation, de Molyneux hopes to expose the atrocities associated with the property: slavery, the hard life of convict laborers often rounded up because of Jim Crow laws, and — earlier still — land usurped from Native Americans.
Name: Rachel Cassity
Hidden Talent: Rock-climbing
As a child, Rachel was enchanted by the idea of having a magical talking chicken, just like Dorothy’s Billina from Return to Oz. When she comes into possession of an Easter rejection in the form of a pink-dyed chick, Rachel’s wishes are almost fulfilled. Her own Billina grows up on the farm of Rachel’s great-grandmother, where the family discovers that the sweet pink chick has matured into a white, blood-thirsty rooster. The dream of the talking chick seemed to be crushed — until an unfortunate accident on the farm.
Name: Jan Turner
Hidden Talent: Unknown
Born with “extra perception,” Jan has always seen ghosts. While working as an associate director for the 1976 film Exit, Dying, Jan curiously explores the set: the Grand Opera House in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Tales of ghosts draw her down to the dark deeps of the theater’s boiler room, where Jan learns that not all ghosts are friendly and why you shouldn’t venture into creepy places by yourself.
Name: Cindy Dyer
Hidden Talent: Crafting baby blankets and jewelry
Bewitched by the search for love and acceptance, Cindy falls into an endless cycle of alcohol and sex. Never satisfied, she continues to flutter from one dangerous situation to another. When a phone call to long-lost home brings revelation of a life worth living, the spell is broken.
Name: Whitney Holley
Hidden Talent: Sounding like a dying cow on the bassoon
If there’s one thing Whitney has learned from exploring the supposedly haunted Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky, it’s that you don’t want to be first in line, and you certainly don’t want to be last. Historically a hospital for tuberculosis patients, Waverly Hills boasts its fair share of horror and ghost stories, but on this trip, Whitney encounters her own.
Name: Janet Martin
Hidden Talent: Bringing harmony
Coming from a family of scientists and trained as a veterinarian, Janet’s practice, as well as her thinking, is founded in evidence-based conclusions. However, as Janet learns on a research trip into the deep forests of Papa New Guinea, not everything in the world can be explained by facts alone.
Name: Russell Cutts
Hidden Talent: Being the last Rabbit Box speaker
As an honorary member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Russell explains that certain Native American traditions can seem creepy. After a close friend is “conjured” upon, he sees that we all have the potential for some magic, be it good, bad, or somewhere in between.
Our crackerjack storyteller of the evening was Jonathan Hallemeier, who, after choking during a mandolin gig, was lured on an epic bike journey by the enchanting call of bagpipes in the distance. The music lead him to discover just another moment of absurdity in life.
Join Rabbit Box next month for “Rainbow Box: Stories from the LGBTQ Community”. Special thanks go out to super-volunteer Mark Woods, whose brilliant lighting for the “Bewitched” show set the perfect mood.
September 10, 2014
by Melissa Harward
In a town that centers on education, there was a surprising number of teachers and professors getting schooled at last week’s Rabbit Box, featuring stories on—you guessed it—education. Time to take notes, boys and girls.
“Tea-cha” Rachel Bailey started the evening off with a tale from a South Korean kindergarten class. Bailey, a former snarky music-writer-turned-teacher, tries to turn her five-year-old students on to “good American pop music” and instead gets a glimpse of how growing up is hard in any country. Justin Bieber, unfortunately, saves the day.
UGA Veterinarian Hospital professor and Director of the Community Practice Clinic Ira Roth recalls one of the most onerous things about being a teacher: failing a student. When an anxious and seemingly dull-witted student joins the rotation, Roth struggles to accommodate his anomalous mannerisms. A botched surgery is the last straw, leading Roth to face the Scholarship of Appeals Committee.
With kids, says Debbie Mitchell, there’s always two things that are true:
One: They’re risk-takers and two: they’re hungry. The perfect combination for a gardener. Debbie, an AmeriCorps volunteer and the agricultural teacher at Clarke Middle School, learns quickly that controlling middle-schoolers outside is a little like herding cats. Throw a little dirt and some veggies into the mix, and a classroom garden can get a bit messy. This is the story of how a small summer garden project transformed kids as they prepared meals alongside local chefs, showing Debbie that outside in sunshine isn’t the only place growth can be seen.
The quick-charmed Paul Quick learns that a fancy education can sometimes leave you empty handed. From fisticuffs in a suburban Ivy League high school to weave-pulling girl brawls in the Charlotte, NC public school system, Paul’s adjustment comes at a price: his white-collared background.
After a brief, craft-beer-filled intermission, Amy Watts, our crackerjack speaker of the night, laid out the ever-present question in a Southern society: What church do you go to? For those living below the Mason-Dixon line without an answer, peer pressure, fear, and a ferociously independent mother can make fitting in at a new school that much more challenging.
What do running and the never-ending struggle to keep kids safe — from themselves — have in common? Dr. Larry Johnson, former principal, knows all too well. Dr. Johnson learns a lesson in stamina after chasing a stubborn little girl to the brink of disaster.
Ian Altman has a dream that the intelligent young students he teaches at Clarke Central will all go to college. Seems reasonable enough coming from a teacher, but when you add in the label of “undocumented,” things can get heated.
Politics in education almost never ends well for one group: the students. For undocumented students, the battle lines are clearly drawn as barriers to a proper education. This usually leads them to the door of an understanding teacher, and in Ian’s case, a teacher-turned-advocate who goes above and beyond to fight for them.
Bravery looks like a 16-year-old undocumented girl named Diana Umana walking onto the stage and declaring herself a willing and able-minded student. Diana, who has lived in the United States since 2002, described the real struggle of undocumented students striving for an education of their own. The crown jewel of the evening, Diana—straight-faced and steady—remembers how she discovered she was in this country illegally and what she’s trying to do about it now.
Our final storyteller of the night, Joerg Mayer, demands respect with a European flair in his classroom at the University of Georgia. When a Facebook violation by a student sends him over the edge, he learns that when the Dean of Academic Affairs leaves you a message, there’s only one type of appropriate response: immediate. What do the students have to say about his “little incident”? Find out in the recorded sessions.
The lovely Mary Whitehead was our emcee for the evening. The next round of Rabbit Box features stories on the theme “Bewitched.” Has something or someone ever cast a spell on you? Let us know. We’ll gather around a bonfire at Sandy Creek Park on October 8, 2014. I hear there may be S’mores involved.
The theme for August’s Rabbit Box was “My Brush with Death.” This subject inspired so many people that it set a record for how quickly we filled the lineup of storytellers. The MC for the evening was the delightful Mary Whitehead.
Hollis Rosson was next and told a “what else could possibly go wrong?” story about a dangerous, late night allergic reaction that included a blackout, a vet who faints at the sight of human blood, and kin who are there when it really matters. She also gave us a new reason to fear tick bites.
Shawn Shubert then told a story about a much needed vacation in a luxury cabin on a mountain top by a lake. Unfortunately her peaceful break ended up becoming a nightmare of creepiness. She realized that what you’re trying to get away from can follow you on vacation.
The next story was told by Rabbit Box veteran Matthew Epperson, who took us through some dramatic close calls with Type One Diabetes, from childhood to present day. He shared how he has learned to live with it, taking step after step to ever greater independence with the support of his family and friends.
The next story, told by Amy Moss, was an emotional and nail-biting tale of standing up for a friend when the friend’s abusive ex-husband turned up unexpectedly. When Amy tried to protect her friend, Amy became a target as well.
Kirkby Amick lightened the mood (somewhat) with a story about two close “brushes with death” involving car crashes, explaining how each one may have been an encounter with the devil, but also set him on the path to a new career and living in Athens.
Paul Guillebeau told a story of a childhood car trip (in the days before seat belts were required) with his brothers that ended with them all in the hospital. His main concern upon waking in the hospital was that his mother would be angry because he had lost his new expensive glasses before the wreck even happened. After doctors decide to transfer him to a hospital closer to his hometown, the story takes a hilarious turn with an ambulance ride gone awry.
Lisa Smartt finished off the evening with a tale of how she ended up studying the final words spoken by the dying. She told about her father’s behavior as he got ready for “the big event.” She also shared stories of other people’s final days, explaining how there are gestures and words that are proving to be quite common, suggesting striking similarities between people’s experiences of death.
Recap of “The One that Got Away”
July 9, 2014
by Lori Keong
With a theme such as the “One that Got Away,” it’s easy to make a gut assumption on the stories shared. Historically the phrase has evoked associations with bitter romance and tears on a train platform, and for this reason, the lineup of Rabbit Box’s July 9 show was surprising and illuminating for its varied, subtle iterations on the theme. Only one story, the crackerjack’s, truly bore the skeleton of a traditional romantic tragedy, but, well, you find out it’s not really the stuff of a Nicholas Sparks novel, either.
Emcee Alex White served as our gracious, comical host for the night, beginning the evening with a hop-skipping dance and leading the crowd in a call-and-response of “BAAA”s. If it sounded like he was conducting a chorus of sheep, his exercise was also an illustration of the importance of audience participation to a Rabbit Box story. It reminds you that storytelling is not just a one-way interaction between teller and audience, but is instead something closer to a conversation.
Ansley Hayes kicked off the night with a wonderfully descriptive story about a mare—no, no, not a gelding, mind you—with an attitude. English major Hayes is equally as well-versed in horses, and when given the opportunity, she thinks she’s got the stuff to tame a particularly hard-headed but beautiful brat-of-a-horse. She may or may not succeed in her goals but learns a lot more about herself and who is truly “the one who got away.”
Following shortly after was Hunt Brumby, who related his life-long, complicated relationship with his hometown of Murphy, NC. Murphy becomes almost a dynamic character in the story, shaping Brumby’s stifled beginnings, urging his escape from the town and luring him to return as a wiser, worldlier outsider. Murphy shifts and changes along with Brumby, challenging his presumptions and complicating his aims of finding a sense of home within its boundaries.
Musician/physician Neal Priest delivered a nail-biting E.R. drama of a man who had made a desperate, split-second decision that landed him in critical care. Priest, the man’s E.R. doctor, was determined to save him. Colorfully describing the razor-thin line between life and death, Priest shows how a little can go a long way in the right moment and what joy may be found in redemption.
The Crackerjack storyteller for the evening was Paul Quick, who deftly shared his story like a Rabbit Box veteran. Beginning and ending his hilarious tale with an exclamation of “Thank God!” he revealed the details of a college love thwarted by the usual culprits: mismatched aspirations, travels abroad and — of course — hunky lawyer-types with money.
If in Britain, “women come and go talking of Michelangelo,” it seems in France tourists walk fro-and-to speaking of the Pompidou. In Robert Alan Black‘s account of his travels to the City of Lights — Paris! — he settles for himself the running debate on the artistic merits of the famous modern art museum. This story not only involves aesthetic tastes but also details the quirks of travel in France, as Black earns his nickname of “the Wanderer” meandering from one dazzling attraction to another.
Jami Mays tells a poignant story that captures the pain of losing a loved one to a regressive mental illness: in this case, Alzheimer’s. Mays puts the disease in perspective by describing how the mental deterioration of her grandfather, a former Marine, weakens him and causes him to become more and more of a stranger to her.
Ophelia Culpepper began her story at a familiar locale, Horton’s Drugstore downtown, during an equally familiar moment of frustration with life and her accomplishments. Culpepper’s story backtracks through her academic life, fraught with setbacks and struggles, but redeemed by breakthroughs in art and deep insights in philosophy, two of Culpepper’s specialties. When remembering times of hardship, it’s sometimes difficult to say exactly who or what was slipping away, yet perhaps the important thing is to know you survived.
There’s nothing quite like the frenzy of preparing for a wedding, especially when you’re one of the bridal party and even more troubling, when you’re the very pregnant maid of honor. Describing a nightmare straight from the annals of “Bridezillas,” Sarah Beth Nelson was our last storyteller of the evening. She recalls having to wait on a custom bridesmaid dress whose ETA, she’s promised, is “any minute now” and yet again . . . “any minute now.” When it comes down to the wire, she has to make a sacrifice that teaches her to count her blessings.
Thanks to everyone who came out to the Melting Point for “The One That Got Away.” Note Rabbit Box’s new logo, courtesy of Roger Stahl, Stephanie Aguilar and Jessica Magnarella of mPrint Design Studio. We hope you’ll join us next month on August 13th to hear a slate of accounts relating to the theme “My Brush with Death.”