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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.
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.
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