Rabbit Box: The Kindness of Strangers
By Melissa Harward
Everyone got cozy last Wednesday as Rabbit Box kicked off 2016 with a packed house for January’s The Kindness of Strangers. Tara Stuart was our lovely Master of Ceremonies for the evening, guiding us through stories that spanned the globe while making the world just a little smaller.
Our first storyteller was Rabbit Box veteran Mony Abrol, who recalled his time spent as a young ship’s engineer traversing across Italy with the help of three strangers.
When Daniel Rodriguez-Granrose is on the verge of giving up, help comes from a few unexpected places out in the desert of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Of the hundreds of people we come across each day, some make an impression that lasts despite how fleeting the interaction may be. In the back alley of her Denver apartment, Elizabeth Taddonio meets Chris.
Strangers on a hitchhiking trip keep asking Paul Guillebeau if he likes to do anything. This is a hilarious tale of the kindness and the random things you find along the road.
Our crackerjack storyteller of the night was Katie McDermott, who warned us about the dangers (and hijinks) of finding a roommate off of Craigslist.
While traveling through South America, Jesse Houle quickly learns that those strangers who have the least to give are the most generous. In a desperate time, he remembers how truly connected we are all and how that can change the context in which we interact.
Lee Pierce makes the ultimate sacrifice for a stranger in this tale of things gone so very wrong.
After her whole world crumbles, Angela Romero finds solace in the words of someone who understands exactly what she’s going through.
Getting lost in possibly hostile territory finds Lewis Earnest scrambling for someone to show him the way. A misunderstanding reminds him that kindness can come from anywhere on the street.
Rabbit Box will return on Wednesday, February 10th with Black Like Me, a collaboration with Life the Griot of Chess and Community
By Melissa Harward
The history of humankind can seem like an endless litany of barbaric acts. Look around the world today and note the atrocities, the pain, and the tragic aftermath of violence. If there’s one truth in this reality, however, it is that in the debris of war there will be people helping other people.
On Thursday, our Rabbit Box storytellers brought us their stories of war, of compassion, of standing for what they believe in and rising above violence. Some were funny; others had us on the edge of tears.
In her first appearance as Master of Ceremonies, Heather Broadwater welcomed each storyteller to the Foundry stage with wit and aplomb. One storyteller, we learned, was her mother: the also-witty Elaine Westfall.
Reverend A.R. Killian kicked off the night with a tale set on a wintery night at a German airbase during the Korean War era. A revelation by his roommate, disliked by others on the base, makes the story all the more poignant.
As Heather explained when she introduced him, Javier Romero-Heesacker now has more public speaking experience than most of us, and he’s only 14. Javier’s story of joining the ROTC program at Clarke Central High School leaves us thinking about whether it’s necessary to strip away a person’s individuality to foster allegiance to one’s company.
Jennifer Bray thought joining the Army would be a great way to pay for her education. When she finds herself aiming a rifle at a local man in Somalia and waiting to be told whether to shoot or hold her fire, she reconsiders her choice to enlist.
After getting in the wrong line at a military recruitment event packed with thousands of others, Earnest Thompson learns that new recruits don’t necessarily receive a hero’s welcome.
Our crackerjack storyteller of the night was Joerg Mayer. Drafted into the German Army at the end of the Cold War, he — like Jennifer Bray — found himself carefully aiming when someone came too close to the base.
Former Chief Elected Officer of Athens-Clarke County Gwen O’Looney described her work for the Red Cross in Vietnam and the power of just listening to soldiers at war-ravaged outposts — and, later, talking talking talking to save her life.
There are always casualties in war, as Sean Polite reminded us in his sobering tale about serving in the Navy during the second Gulf War. But he also enjoyed setting out to see the sights, though he often stood out as a tall African-American based in Japan.
Elaine Westfall talks about her overseas exchange as a teenager with a soldier who responded in 1970 to the first of her letters addressed to “Any Soldier” in Vietnam.
Our final storyteller of the evening was John Mincemoyer, who served aboard a submarine in the Atlantic Ocean. Night after night at the sub’s helm in 1998 he helped others working alongside him pass the long hours in a surprising, touching way.
Rabbit Box will return on Wednesday nights starting January 13th with The Kindness of Strangers. Thank you to the Rabbit Box team for a wonderful year of stories — and an even bigger thanks to each of our storytellers who illuminated the stage with their memorable and meaningful stories.
Our upcoming show on the 12th — “War and Peace” — is a special one to commemorate Veterans Day.
We’ll hear stories from several veterans who served during times of war and relative peace. Earnest Thompson will tell about how he determined which branch of the service to join during the Korean War era, while John Mincemoyer will describe how he passed long nights deep in the darkness on a submarine in peacetime.
We’ll also hear from Reverend Archibald Killian about his service during the Korean War and from Sean Polite about his days serving in the Navy as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ignited. Soldier Jennifer Bray will tell about her deployment to Somalia on a UN peace-keeping mission when she was just 19.
We’ll hear from others, too, on this theme. Javier Romero-Heesacker, a freshman at Clarke Central, will provide a snapshot of what Junior ROTC is like these days. Former mayor Gwen O’Looney will tell about her Red Cross work in South Vietnam, when she traveled by helicopter to bring recreational opportunities to soldiers in far-flung and often grim encampments. Another story centers on the letter-writing campaign of a high school girl, Elaine Westfall, who connected with young soldiers a world away in South Vietnam.
If you’re brave you can put your name in the hat during intermission to see if you’ll be chosen as the “Crackerjack Surprise” storyteller who will tell an impromptu, 4-minute story that adheres to the theme.
We’re so pleased that our crackerjack-sharp friend Heather Broadwater will emcee the show!
Rabbit Box alumni Shannon McNeal, Sarah Beth Nelson, Denise Mount, and Hunt Brumby will be performing as the Bad Ass Storytelling Quartet in a show entitled “Can’t Tell You Why” at the Classic City Fringe Festival in Athens this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday October 23 – 25 with a preview teaser by Hunt Brumby on Thursday, October 22. http://classiccityfringefestival.com/ or email Denise Mount at email@example.com if you have any questions.
by Melissa Harward
This month’s Rabbit Box brought us all a little closer to nature. In the spookily lit woods of Sandy Creek Park, the night air soon filled with stories of the wilderness out in the world and the wilderness within us. Our emcee of the evening was Alex White.
Russell Cutts began the evening with a tale of a survival trek turned wild goose chase. Equipped with nothing but knives and wool blankets, Russell and the group must fare for themselves in an unexpected downpour.
After realizing her English-teaching position has landed her in the middle of the African wild, Elli Woodruff must face off with the animal natives.
The hunt can be exhilarating. After breaking a few rules on a night of coon hunting, Joshua Knott gets a little too much excitement when he finds himself surrounded and on the run.
With any ecological research there’s usually collateral damage to the environment. An experiment takes a dangerous turn when Uma Nagendra catches something unexpected in her research plot’s netting.
In a first for Rabbit Box, we had two crackerjack storytellers for Wild Things! Megan Westbrook shared a wild story of the craziest person she knows and a road trip turned road show. The wildest thing Kyle McSherry knows is a group of teenagers. Kyle leads a group of these wild things during a summer backpacking camp and encounters one of nature’s more shocking elements.
Jan Turner is the wildest person she knows and always manages to spook us. In this tale of her Pacific Northwest adventures, Jan warns that wild things could be lingering just outside the door.
In 2009, Gretchen Sneegas was deployed as part of a disaster relief crew to West Virginia, where she and her team encountered quite a few wild sights in their mold remediation work. Gretchen found one resident and her colony of feral cats especially creepy.
Our last storyteller of the evening was Olive Hebert, who reminded us that there’s nothing wrong with embracing your wild side.
Rabbit Box will return to the Foundry on Thursday, November 12th, with War and Peace. Big thanks to Mark Woods for the lighting and Roger Stahl for audio set-up and all of the other volunteers who made Wild Things wild! Look for the show to return on Wednesdays in 2016!
Rabbit Box is collaborating with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens (UUFA) for a special Sunday afternoon show called “Rabbit Box, Too: Sunday Memories.” The event, a benefit for Rabbit Box, is Sept. 27 at 2 in the afternoon in the UUFA sanctuary at 780 Timothy Drive.
What a powerhouse line-up! Storytellers include Thinc UGA director Jared Ruiz Bybee; the founder of the Athens Tutorial Program, Barbara Thurmond Archibald; retired principal Larry Johnson; UUFA lay minister Myrna Adams West; political activist Madelyn Clare Powell; and UUFA member Caryl Sundland, who has overseen adult religious education at the fellowship in the past. The performers will each tell a true, eight-minute story from their childhood memories of Sundays.
Judge David Sweat will emcee the show.
This will be the Fellowship’s first afternoon CommUUnity Forum, a new initiative to develop programs of interest for the community at large.
Keeping with the Sunday theme, the collection plate will be passed around for donations for Rabbit Box. We’re a nonprofit organization under the umbrella of the Athens Area Arts Council and use donations and ticket sales to record all our events, update our searchable archive and website, and pay a small stipend to our director, bookkeeper, photographer, and web guru.
As with our regular shows, people can put their name in a hat during intermission if they’e game to be the “Crackerjack Surprise” storyteller who gets four minutes to tell a story about their Sunday memories. Attendees are also encouraged to pin a small photo of themselves in their childhood Sunday best as an icebreaker at intermission.
For more information, contact UUFA member Betsy Bean at firstname.lastname@example.org