*To listen on your mobile device, download the MixCloud application on your iPhone or Android device. Then search for “RabbitBox”!
by Elise Stangle & Marci White
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.”
Art Rocked Rabbit Box!
June 11, 2014 at The Melting Point
Art Rocks Athens (a months-long arts event celebrating the arts and music scene in Athens from 1975 – 1985) and Rabbit Box got together on June 11, 2014 to put on a unique night of stories.
Before the 1970’s, Athens was a rather sleepy, conventional Southern town. There wasn’t much to do downtown. “The sidewalks rolled up at 9 PM,” as one storyteller put it. So the young people of Athens, in line with the times, set out to make things more interesting. They would create their own fun, their own art, their own music and rebellious culture. Out of this fireball of creativity – much of it centered in UGA’s Lamar Dodd School of Fine Art – came rock groups like R.E.M., The B-52’s, Pylon and many, many more.
The folks who told stories on this night in June were there! They helped get the ball rolling – the ball that is still bouncing around, making Athens the font of creativity and fun it is today.
Maureen McLaughlin (a director of Art Rocks Athens) started things off with her description of how creative cross-pollination started happening between New York City and Athens, with Maureen, the “queen bee” of networkers, smack in the middle of it all. Keith Bennett told us about his discombobulated arrival in NYC for The B-52’s first tour and how he handled his roles as singer Cindy’s Wilson’s boyfriend and also new roadie for the band. Roy Bell talked about his strong friendship with Ricky Wilson (original guitarist for The B-52’s who died in 1885) when they were growing up together in Athens. As teens they were two of the few (but proud) long-haired boys around town. Judith McWillie told a story about an intriguing, boundary-smashing figure in Athens in the 1970’s. DeeDee was a black, gender-bending, glamorous, tough girl who won the respect of the both townspeople and students with her unapologetic individuality. For Judith and many other Athens artists, DeeDee was an inspiration both personally and artistically. As Crackerjack storyteller, Jeff Hannan described the original, Athens, rock ‘n roll party scene and how awesome it was…. and continues to be (at least for him). Rick Baker told a story about a long-running, late-late night lemonade (or “lemon-aid”) stand that had people lined up on Meigs St. and around the block. Curtis Crowe regaled us with a description of a memorable and suspenseful night playing drums for Pylon at a gig in Philadelphia, opening up for Gang of Four. And Bryan Cook told about a certain incident involving a limo he rode in with three of the guys from R.E.M.
On May 15, Rabbit Box held a curated show for elder storytellers: “Silver Box – My Life in Black & White” at the Melting Point. Punctuated by the sound of pouring rain on the tin roof, nine storytellers told personal narratives relating how issues of race have affected their lives or discussed broader social narratives that pinpoint areas of social injustice. With Mary Whitehead acting as MC for the night, these storytellers showed that issues concerning race may not always be strictly black and white.
Donald Johnson began the night with a story that took place in 1964, the year he, at 16 years of age, saw the passing of the Civil Rights Act. A former congressman for the 10th district of Georgia, Johnson told of the murder of Lemuel A. Penn–a decorated Army reserve officer who was followed and killed by members of the KKK–and his father’s involvement in the case as a member of the prosecuting team. Reading impactful statements from his father’s closing argument, he transported the crowd to the stifling courtroom that was divided by race.
96-year old Robert Ayers took to the stage with an effortless personality that moved the crowd easily from laughter to tears within the span of only a few minutes. A self-proclaimed “PK,” or preacher’s kid, Ayers related how he became sharply aware of the social atmosphere of the times when Rae, the family’s young African American cook, became the accused in a situation where she was clearly the victim.
Valdon Daniel’s story was a lesson in geography, economics and self-worth. Daniel’s family lived in Broad Acres-the Projects of Athens–where his hardworking mother and father juggled responsibilities and long hours to earn their small salaries. Daniel himself worked across the street at a small neighborhood grocery store, where he came to realize he was being under-compensated for his work. To solve this problem of supply and demand, he adopted a Civil Rights-era tactic of peaceful protest: The Walkout.
Scientist Sydney Bacchus related a serious modern account of the intersection between politics and civil rights. A pertinent story given the recent mayoral election, Bacchus highlighted how local politicians are responding, or failing to respond, to voices on the periphery of the community. She specifically detailed how the Billups Grove Baptist Church, which was formed by freed blacks after the Civil War, has been affected by sewage sludge runoff from the adjacent dump.
Alzena Johnson told a story of the ways in which race can isolate a person, whether as a young teenager working her first job at a department store, as a student shielded from racial conflict by a protective mother, or as a professional affected by prejudice. Change has to occur under pressure and time, Johnson said, and people will know change when they judge by character rather than skin color.
Earnest Thompson dubbed his ‘60s era story the “Boy Who Loved Azaleas.” Living in an integrated neighborhood where black and white children played peacefully on sidewalks, he related how the arrival of some new white neighbors disturbed the peace. When Thompson, as a young boy, spied the new neighbors’ son picking flowers in his backyard, he defended his territory. The response from law enforcement was not something he expected, nor was it something his mother could protect him from.
Sylvia Priest described her sheltered childhood in a little farming community in Indiana and the diversity she never experienced in the homogenous white towns she travelled to throughout her life. She didn’t truly recognize racial conflict until she became the coach of an integrated girls’ basketball team that was searching for a place to sleep along the racially divided Route 66.
In an era where affirmative action is still a subject of debate, Mony Abrol told a story of race-based discrimination. At 30, he sought a position as test chief for a shipyard in New York City. An overqualified candidate, his credentials were questioned on the basis of race. Instead of taking the personal slights to heart, however, he used his experience to rise above the situation and to avert a crisis.
Ivan Sumner closed off Rabbit Box with a story of his pursuit of a Southern belle named Patsy Pepper. Hoping to take a bus in 1961 in Atlanta, he discussed a poignant moment of self-awareness and shame when he realized he was in the wrong racial section of the bus terminal.
To listen to these stories click here
“Silver Box: My Life in Black and White”
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
The Melting Point
Contact: Mary Whitehead: email@example.com
The Athens storytelling collective Rabbit Box presents its second-annual Silver Box performance, “My Life in Black and White.” More than 250 people attended Silver Box last year. This year’s show will feature elder storytellers recalling personal stories about a time in their lives when race mattered—in the past or more recently.
Earnest Thompson will recall being a child of eight and discovering the invisible boundaries in his mixed-race neighborhood in Charleston, where black and white kids played together, but only on the sidewalks. Valdon Daniel will speak of his job at a white-owned grocery store in Athens, where, as a 12-year-old, he carried groceries to his black neighbors. Mony Abrol will speak of being eminently qualified for a job, but facing racial discrimination during an interview.
Those are just a handful of the stories that will be told at Silver Box: My Life in Black and White, on Wednesday, May 14th at 7:00 p.m. at The Melting Point, 295 E. Dougherty Street in Athens. Admission is $5.00.
For more information, please contact Mary Whitehead at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Life is a precarious balancing act that often requires making big gestures, taking risks and going out of your way to reach someone else or to save yourself: you can call these efforts “going out on a limb.” On April 9, Rabbit Box reconvened at Sandy Creek Park where seven storytellers provided their own personal take on the theme “Out on a Limb.” Roger Stahl was the MC for the evening, introducing these varied, entertaining and occasionally sad stories.
Alex White told a story of a hiking trip when he was a Boy Scout in Florida. He and his father found a camera hanging on the limb of an oak tree and captured a moment that ended up becoming a special Christmas surprise.
Jim Ford took to the stage asserting that “any boat that floats can go under.” His story detailed his adventures as a vagabond living off a skiff in a fishing boat community. One particular boating trip took him to a lagoon surveying whales during mating season, where he explains an unfortunate encounter with a 40-ton whale.
Brittany Barnes described a time she took a dive into more adventurous, er, sustainable eating. Her story offered advice from the time she scouted out the finest meal on the streets: road kill. She walked us through the basics of finding a fresh deer and ways to prepare and cook it. And hey, if farm-to-table’s not immediate enough for you, road-to-table findings, as Barnes reminds us, are organic, local, fresh and antibiotic-free.
Scott Shamp told a story of connection in spite of racial differences. Rooted in the South, Shamp’s story involved him as a boy, and his grandfather, the day they were engaged in a surprising exchange with an African-American man. (I won’t say that I teared up a little, because I’m certain it was just dust in my eye.)
Shamp’s story closed off the first half the intermission, which rolled on longer than usual since people were fully immersed in the gentle process of making s’mores. Darkness was falling and fireflies were flickering, so it seemed more than appropriate to grab a stick, a marshmallow (or several) and gather ‘round the fire.
After the intermission, Roger Stahl announced the storyteller for the Crackerjack, a story by a volunteer from the audience, which he noted is “unpracticed and straight from the hip,” but usually very good.
He selected first-time Rabbit Box attendee Andy Slagle, who was no exception. Slagle found himself alone in Rome the week the Pope died, lost among thousands when his tour group left him behind. A story that conjures the theme from “Chariots of Fire,” it describes Slagle’s Olympic effort to return to his hotel, equipped with only a few words of entry-level Spanish and a will to go the distance.
The second half kicked off with long-time Rabbit Box collaborator and photographer David Noah. When he took the mic, he delivered a story about his shy 16-year old self and the day he skirted the top edge of the local water tower with his teenage crush–an assertive poet named Terry–for a game of “chicken.” He describes the self-revelations they made in the moments when they felt close to death and how these moments continued to connect them after they grew apart.
Bert Parks followed soon after with a story of his first night as a soldier in Fort Jackson, an environment he said at first felt like a jail. The prison-like feeling certainly wasn’t helped by the fact that Parks, exhausted from a day of work, found himself caught up in a fight with a loud-mouthed soldier who just wouldn’t go to sleep. Parks settled the matter in the most diplomatic way he could figure out.
The last storyteller to take the stage was our only non-Athenian of the bunch, Greyson Morris, who lives in Asheville. Her story was a hilarious, but poignant Odyssey of finding jobs, losing jobs and sustaining the will to carry on and survive through it all.
To hear these stories and more, click here.
*Thanks to Amy Moss for Photographing the event, and Lori Keong for writing the blog post.