RB56: Acting Up

May 10, 2017
by Marci White

Ashley Na, activist and board member of Athens for Everyone, was our emcee for the evening. She directed the proceedings with an unpretentious grace, musing about everyone’s astrological signs and what they’re prepared to fight for.

Benjamín Milano Albino grew up in a housing project in Caguas, Puerto Rico. In 5th grade, a boy in his neighborhood, Jose, drew attention for being effeminate and acting out. While the dreamy and timid Benjamin looked on, Jose fought and danced and by the time he was in 8th grade, was openly gay and still fighting to be who he was. Jose couldn’t have known that he way a hero and role model for his straight-laced neighbor, Benjamin.

When Lori Hanna started UGA as a “wide-eyed freshman” she stumbled across the food activist group Real Food, and dove right in. She and her friends organized, had rallies, lobbied, educated and petitioned. Lori spend part of this past winter in Cuba, where her “house mother” had other ideas about what it meant to be a radical activist.

When Adam Lassila and his friend Laura flew into Mexico to begin a long adventure hitchhiking through South America, they were surprised to find themselves in the middle of an intense confrontation between the striking teachers of Oaxaca and the Mexican police. Should they join the strikers? The roads were blocked, but their path was clear.

As a young child, Maggie Schmidt was passionate about protecting animals. As a young adult with a new job at a poultry vaccine company, she had an occasion to remember her love for animals and her passion for trying to help them. Sometimes it helps to have a reminder that “we can give ourselves permission to act up.”

Crackerjack storyteller Alan Black was walking through Detroit when he saw some picketers outside a building. These picketers had extraordinarily good-looking picket signs. Who could they be?

Beto Mendoza and his brothers were raised in Mexico by their hard-working, community-helping, obstacle-overcoming and religious-minded mother. She set an example of selflessness they never forgot.

Sarah Bradley grew up in Athens and was a sweet, obedient little girl…until around 5th grade, when she turned into a terror. By middle school, she was a raging rebel and the bane of her teachers. Many years later, Sarah found herself full circle, with a job as a middle school teacher, at the same school she had gone to, teaching kids just like herself.

In 1978 Maureen McLaughlin went with a defense legal team to Reidsville, Georgia, to defend six men accused of killing a guard during a prison uprising. Maureen was the consultant for helping to pick the jury. Hosea Williams showed up. The KKK was there. The town was tense, and more than 100 people were arrested for demonstrating. After this historical trial, Reidsville would never be quite the same again, and Maureen had found her calling.

RB55: Grab ‘Em by the Story – Women’s Voices

April 12, 2017
by Marci White

Dr. Freda Scott Giles was our warm and engaging MC for this night of storytelling devoted to women’s voices and experiences. Dr. Giles recently retired from teaching theater and African-American studies at UGA and is managing editor of Continuum, an online journal of African-American theater, drama and performance.

The first storyteller was Sarah Aldama, who told of taking her mother to a hospital in Atlanta to have surgery and the suspenseful wait to find out how it went. During that pivotal time, a girl made the transition to a woman as she cared for and worried about her mother.

Yvonne Mckethan-Roberts describes growing up in the Bronx with her mother, father and brothers in a tight-knit community where “all the shopkeepers knew you by name.” But the story centers around Yvonne’s mother, who worked hard to become a nurse and wanted to look her best for the pinning ceremony. When her mom came back from a big shopping trip, including a stop at the “All-Day Wig Store,” her children didn’t recognize her.

Rashaun Ellis grew up “large and in charge” with a supportive, loving family. After she moved to Athens and ended up unemployed, broke and down in the dumps, she gave away her car to her twin sister and found herself walking everywhere. After things got even worse, as an emotional release and a way to be quiet and alone, she took up running. She became healthier both physically and emotionally, but not every result from her lifestyle change has been positive or welcome.

Raquel Durden spent 25 years in the US Army and retired recently as a lieutenant colonel. In her twenties, when she trained to be a paratrooper, she was the only female to graduate from her Airborne School training. In the following decades she didn’t have much occasion to use the training but, as she says, “The Army always collects.” She eventually was tapped for a position that required her to renew her Airborne training. Turns out that jumping out of a plane as a forty-something mom was very different from the first time around!

Amazingly, Rashaun’s twin sister Rachelle Ellis‘ name was picked out of the Rabbit Box to be the Crackerjack storyteller. Rachelle shared with us what it was like for her to watch the dramatic physical transformation of her dear sister and, for the first time in their lives, to be “the fat twin.”

Beatrice Brown says, “Sometimes it takes a crisis to find our voice.” She goes on to tell how, when she was doing her medical research at Temple University in Philadelphia in the 1970’s, she experienced a crisis that threatened to derail the research she had devoted so much of herself to. During a uncertain time when her main refuge was a seedy bar full of rough and eccentric characters, she managed, through deft handling, to deal with a boorish new boss, and turn a crisis to her advantage.

Poet and spoken-word performer Celest Divine treated us to an improvisational poem about her journey from being a “chocolate chubby girl poet” facing doubt and dismissal from others to published author, empowered woman and educator of young people.

Chelsea Brooks story was about a traumatic occasion when she was thirteen, when a trusted figure in her family’s life violated her physically and emotionally, and an immediate inquest was called to order. Her journey around these events has been one of reclaiming her truth, her power, and helping others to do the same.

RB54: Getting Even

Wednesday, March 8, 2017, at The Foundry
by Sean Polite

Very much the even point in the show was Mr. Russell Cutts, previous Rabbit Box storyteller and MC extraordinaire. With an effortless mix of warmth in the messages he gave to the audience, and the coolly composure of a solidly running host, Mr. Cutts charmed newcomers, encouraged the storytellers, boasted upon the board members/volunteers, and entertained the return crowds at The Foundry in his own inimitable way.

Once was the era of a precocious young Jim Lavender, a Possum Town, Mississippi scamp whose sense of mischief knew no bounds.  In his day-to-day pursuits of perfecting the art of Getting Even, his accomplices included his pet snake and possum.  His targets, the culture the southern debutante culture, racially-endorsed class designations in Civil War re-enactment society, and even his occasional rival prankster — his older sister (along with a precious hemline of hers).  Want to know more about execution of his schemes and the results?  Listen and find out!

When she attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts at age 19,  Cricket Bancroft‘s study of performance enriched her growing belief in the beauty of life.  Two relationships would organically blossom at this time.  One begat a warm courtship, intimating a romance newborn.  The other marked the blossoming of a platonic friendship, and the hope that it would stay its’ sweet  course.  One of them would change, with six stark words.  Unknowingly and suddenly, Cricket‘s belief would be in danger…and so much more.  Where canGetting Even apply when a situation demands Getting Away?

Returning to the Rabbit Box stage, Mr. Paul Guillebeau invites us to the Alaskan frontier (University of Alaska).  He and his buddy Kit are thick as thieves, until the classic foil of an attractive lady bids their attention.  Both eyeing her affections, even a competition of Gentlemen can yield only one winner.  But oh, when you hear how they one up each other!  So who will win?  And will their friendship be at a loss?

She was the very reason that David Stroud first stepped foot here in the Classic City, to be with the one.  Though this woman was everything to him just the way she was, he could only be everything to her by being everything he wasn’t.  Love at such an imbalance couldn’t bear well for anyone — let alone Mr. Stroud.  What the mind figures would inevitably happen from here is quite possibly catastrophic and saddening.  What the heart hopes that occurs would by redemptive by his story’s end.  Listen and see..

Many moons ago, Donna Smith Fee and her pally roommate take the leap and attend their first party together.  A reckless wind (to put it mildly) provides a stark interruption of their libations.  Donna witnesses the vivid invocation of a pranking spirit prepared for the moment of payback — by the offering of some performing players not yet prepped for the prime time.

Emily Parker + New Job + Newly Svelte Figure + New Wardrobe + New Relationship + Return To Ahens = New Day
New Chance To Try The Art of Seduction + Inspired Purchase + Fantastic Dining + Opportunity With Her Honey + Apt Timing – The Best Laid Plans = An Unintentionally (Albeit Luckily For Us) Hilarious Romp For The Ages

In 1976, Mony Abrol is making his way up the shipping company ladder, and a super-exclusive luncheon club is so far a leap up, that the rung on which he gracefully hangs seems like entry level.  He’s an outsider ethnically and socially to the $500 a plate conglomerate, but he’s a good, genuine, hard-working man with a wonderful, supportive wife.  Patience and perseverance aside, can the underdog Mony even up the odds to score a spot in the big house?

To carry the mantle of baby of the Benson Brothers, playfully sabotaging people isn’t simply a thing to pass the time.  In late 1970’s Philadelphia, it’s a way of life which Greg Benson dabbles into, and then cherishes.  However, with a hit list of cars, the infamous Whaley family. and tractors, the high speed and intensity of the pranking is long overdue to catch up with him.  Taking the risks that he does through the years, his conscience and the fast lane of pranking loom like spectral figures to get even with his silly ways….maybe?

RB53: What I Did For Love

Wednesday, February 8, 2017, at The Foundry
by Marci White

Jesse Houle was the rousing emcee for Rabbit Box’s “What I Did for Love” show in February. The house was full, with about 270 people packed into the Foundry to listen.

Connie Crawley has been a regular attendee at Rabbit Box (along with the large group of OLLI members she comes with), but this was her first time telling a story. She described a funny scenario about going to a wedding shop to buy her dress and coming away with something she didn’t even want.

A Fulbright teaching assistantship brought Sonia Sharmin from Bangladesh to the University of Georgia, where she taught Bengali. She was a long way from home when she spotted a handsome, shy Southerner who lived in the same apartment complex.

In 1966, Tom Kenyon was dreading going on a blind date to a dance. His first two dates had bailed on him for different reasons. It seemed unlikely anything good would come from the third try.

At a dinner meeting about investment advice put on by Edward Jones, Michelle Commeyras met an interesting, friendly woman who was also retired and also into real estate. Card-playing, wine-drinking and confidences traded over dinner and by a bonfire ensued. But then what?

Our Crackerjack Box storyteller of the evening, the high-spirited Sondi Baker, told of working with a colleague whose health began to decline precipitously. Their relationship became more intimate as his health deteriorated.

David Bothe has been through heartbreak and survived to tell the tale. His feelings for his first love were intense, tenacious and loyal . . . but unfortunately not reciprocated.

As a girl, Deby Lantz-Sorenson realized she possessed a capacity for risk-taking — within reason — and a love for adventure. In high school she signed up to do a year-long exchange program in Europe. She was prepared to go to France, but right before she was to go, they said no host families were available in France, and she’d have to choose between two other countries they offered. That detour determined the course of the rest of her life.

When Tommy Valentine saw a beautiful girl in the doorway of the movie theater, the world stopped. A self-described, “confident, egotistical, mess,” he still didn’t have the courage to go talk to her. Lucky for him, later the same girl walked through a different doorway and straight into his life.

RB52: Rites Of Passage

Wednesday, January 11, 2017, at The Foundry
by Marci White

For the first Rabbit Box storytelling event of 2017, the theme was “Rites of Passage.”

Neal Priest was our affable MC. A veteran Rabbit Box storyteller and MC, Neal is also a devoted vegan, environmental activist and a highly regarded physician at St. Mary’s ER.

The storytellers:

David Hale is an artist who has tattooed more than one thousand people. Several years ago he spent many hours inking designs into the skin of a young man named Brennon. The two became close friends, and David loved what they were creating together. But in the middle of working on a full-sleeve tattoo for Brennon, Hale had an nagging premonition.

Like most girls, Brittany Dunn got her first period during middle school — but under cringe-inducing circumstances.

When Matt Pruitt turned 16, his father got him a blue Toyota Corolla to drive – nothing fancy. The car represented freedom and expanded horizons, but another unexpected event around that time became “the ties that bind.”

Denise Mount told a story about the woman affectionately called “the pretty blonde-haired lady”: her mother. Her mom’s long, thick, dark hair began to turn prematurely gray at the age of 25. By 30 it was completely gray, and she decided to do something about it. And then she decided not to.

The name chosen out of the Crackerjack Box at the end of intermission was Tucker Austin‘s. She told of her grandfather, “Big Tom,” who was always the life of the party and the last one to leave. Because Tucker‘s large family loves to sing in harmony together, they gathered around his bed at a hospice to sing when he was near the end of his life.

When Angela Burgess was six, her grandmother entered her in a singing contest. The winner of the contest would get $100! Little Angela had big plans for that money. First she had to sing a jingle for a camera store on live radio, and everyone in her South Georgia town would be listening. Understandably, she was very nervous.

Chuck Horne‘s first job after high school was working as a bushwhacker for a surveyor. A man in his 80s who everyone called “Uncle Tommy” worked with him. The man was a legendary worker with the special skills of a farmer. Horne went on to college and then to another summer job working at a fruitcake factory outside of Athens… and that job, in a roundabout way, led him back to Uncle Tommy.

Delia Turner was “a first-born, over-achieving child who did everything right.” But after finishing a business degree at UGA, she realized she felt unfulfilled. Deciding a drastic change was in order, she went to the local bookstore where she closed her eyes and ran her fingers along the row of travel guides. When she opened her eyes her fingers rested on “Nepal.” Deciding to trust, she jumped into the void.

RB51 Family Feuds and Follies

November 9, 2016, at The Foundry

 

The lovely Tara Stuart emceed this event – yes, the day after the national election. Storytellers added a bit of levity with their stories of interesting and funny family dynamics.

Tara Bulger talked about how everyone in her family was a “black sheep” so she felt compelled to be the goody two-shoes “white sheep.” Tara’s mother was a free spirit and a single mom who left her kids one summer to go live with the Rainbow Family in a national park. But when Tara’s mean aunt shows up at their trailer with her new, much-older husband, it becomes clear that Tara’s mother does have a sense of decorum.

When Paul Guillebeau‘s children were small, they got a very rambunctious kitten that could and would not be controlled. Soon it was a question of who would be the hunter . . . and who would be the hunted.

Evelyn MacKenzie‘s family comes from Appalachia. Her aunt and uncle lived in a hollow in a four-room house with their nine children. An outhouse was their only bathroom. After they came into some money, her aunt and uncle each made a big purchase to improve their lives…and that marked the beginning of their long feud.

When in Nashville for a wedding, Roy Felts got snowed in and was left in town to celebrate Christmas with his grandparents. Things got interesting when one of his grandmothers decided to take him bar-hopping.

Ryan Dekker was surprised to learn that his sweet grandmother had contentious relationships with all six of her children when they were teenagers. Every child, including his mother, has their own story of what happened when their mother finally reached her limit. The grandchildren, luckily, never saw this side of her.

Rebecca McCarthy watched her mother’s slow decline from Parkinson’s disease and was her mother’s main caretaker. Family dynamics can get complicated when it comes to caring for a relative with a debilitating illness. Some potential caregivers just don’t seem to have the “caring gene,” and that can be a problem.

When it came to helping her daughter plan her wedding, Meg Reed was happy to be asked for her opinion about all the many details. Her daughter was well-organized and a joy to work with except for one part of the wedding that the mother-of-the-bride thought violated all the rules of wedding etiquette.

Rabbit Box Teasers: Stranger in a Strange Land – Immigration Stories

Stranger in a Strange Land – Immigration Stories
October 12, 2016
by Marci White

More than 200 people gathered around a bonfire at Sandy Creek Park’s forest amphitheater to listen to stories on the theme, “Stranger in a Strange Land – Immigration Stories.” Nine people shared their stories, including immigrants from seven different countries and four continents.

Our emcee was Brad Smith, longtime resident of Jubilee Partners, a Christian community that provides resettlement help to newly arrived refugees.

Back in Nigeria, most of what Simisola Shebioba-Johnson knew about the United States was from watching “Soul Train,” where young blacks with big afros and platform shoes danced without a care. “That’s where I want to be,” she thought. She married her Nigerian boyfriend, who had traveled to the United States to study abroad. But when she flew to join him in Amarillo, Texas, she was shocked, in more ways than one, by the situation that confronted her.

Humberto (“Beto”) Mendoza immigrated with his brothers from Mexico to the United States, where they opened a mechanics shop together. But hard times came, and they had to close the shop. That year they had a bleak Christmas dinner, along with memories of everything they missed about Christmas time in Mexico.

Patricia Tacuri‘s family lived in Cusco, Peru, where her father was a professor of geology. But when he was ordered to work in a dangerous part of the country controlled by the militant Shining Path rebels, her parents fled Peru and hired a coyote to guide them on the dangerous journey across the Mexican border and into California.

When Neville Anderson‘s mother, Del Rose, immigrated to the United States as a domestic worker, Neville had to stay behind in a boarding house for kids in Jamaica. Eventually he, along with his sister and father, was able to join his mother in Washington, D.C., where he had to defend himself against bullies and learned to run really fast. His mother said, “In this life you fight and then you die.” His parents taught him that you can do anything in the United States if you’re educated — a message Neville took to heart.

Chuck Horne was chosen as the Cracker Jack storyteller. He shared an improptu story with the crowd about his observations on gender roles while working in Saudi Arabia and his encounter with a mysterious woman on a plane.

Benjamin Milano came from Puerto Rico to chilly Iowa to study writing but while in grad school found himself wondering, “Did I come here to write or to learn how to set boundaries against bigots?” The unassuming poet took self-defense lessons from a friend and was soon “prepared like a gladiator.”

Emuel Aldridge was working on a pine-cone picking crew when he accidentally hit a deer with his truck. Not wanting to waste the meat, he took it to some of the Salvadoran immigrants on his work crew. The evening he spent there, working on the deer and listening to stories, was one he wouldn’t soon forget.

Nasrin Rouhani and her husband fled Iran after the Islamic Revolution. As people of the Baha’i Faith, they were a persecuted minority. Eventually they made their way to Athens, found work, bought a house and had two children. But despite achieving the “American Dream,” they were not able to evade violence. Nasrin’s strong faith has carried her through.

As a school girl growing up in a small town in South Korea, Eun Sun excelled in all subjects except English. Little did she know that when she was 12, her father would get a job in the United States, and they would all have to move. For months she didn’t speak at all as she struggled to adjust to the new culture and language. But she rallied and again became an excellent student. She excelled in math and science and got a full scholarship to the University of Georgia. As she noted, this sounds like a typical Asian girl success story, right? But there’s a twist.

Oct 12th Stranger in a Strange Land – Immigration Stories

Join us October 12th from 7 PM to 9 PM at Sandy Creek Park for stories of immigration to the United States from around the world. Rain or shine we will have a crackling fire and stories that range anywhere from tales of heartfelt redemption, to tales of getting smuggled out of the war-torn Middle East. These first hand accounts will give listeners an appreciation for the difficulties immigrants have faced in their move to Athens, GA.

The weather Wed. night is supposed to be clear and cool with a low of 49 degrees, so dress warmly! Some reminders: 

– Stories will begin at 7 pm. However, you may want to plan to get there early to ensure you have a place to park and get a good seat. 

– Sandy Creek Park is located at 400 Bob Holman Road, Athens, GA 30607.

– At the gate, an attendant will collect a $2 per person park entry fee and will direct you to the park’s Fire Circle. (Folks 65 and over can enter the park for free!)

– Although there is some bench seating, people often choose to bring easy-to-carry camp chairs, blankets, and/or cushions. 

– Bring a flashlight! It will be dark when you leave.

– Bring snacks and drinks if you’d like–but remember the park does not allow alcoholic beverages.

– The show will happen rain or shine – there is a covered, alternate venue at Sandy Creek Park in case of rain.