RB59: Toil & Trouble

September 13, 2017
“Toil & Trouble – Stories about Work”
by Marci White

Tim Denson ably did the honors as emcee for our show in honor of Labor Day – “Toil & Trouble.” Tim is an advocate for labor rights and in the past has worked as a cowboy, mental health counselor and touring musician, among other jobs.

In 1956 Tom Kenyon became the first person in his family accepted to a university. He was 17 and desperately needed a job to be able to pay for college. He answered a newspaper ad looking for a “strong man” needed for heavy labor for $1.25 an hour. Would he be able to hack it?

After college, Robin Whetstone and her friend Susan shared an apartment and worked at Ray and Dawn’s Seafood Grill, where it was impossible to make enough to live on. But one of their new coworkers “knows a guy” with some really “good stuff,” and if Robin and Susan will help him move it, he promises that their financial situation will be much improved.

Dr. Walter Freeman, early in his career as a chemist, was misled about a job. He took the job only to find out that he would not have access to the superconducting NMR he so longed to use. His determined quest for this treasured and expensive tool would call for him to develop skills not directly related to chemistry, and those came in handy throughout his career.

Gabe Newman grew up near a golf course in a small town in Georgia and spent much of his time “in the woods…looking for golf balls.” He’d really wanted to be a baseball player for the Cubs but found himself living precariously in Athens. In 2007 he had a dream that proved to be a good omen and led to a series of new opportunities that continue to unfold.

Steven Bellan’s name was chosen out of the box to be the Crackerjack Surprise storyteller of the night. As a wildlife biologist, Steven worked in Namibia studying jackals. Part of his job was trapping them to put on, remove or replace the collars that collected data about their movements. This could be very tricky, and late one night it all came to a head.

When Christy Lin decided to stop freelancing to get a steady job at an ad agency, at first it seemed intense but good. The five “creatives” at the agency worked fast-paced, 60-80 hour weeks. It was fun to be part of a creative team, work hard and be compensated well. But when a personal issue came up that demanded some time and healing, she had to face the true nature of what she’d signed on for.

The second job Joe Willey got driving a tractor trailer was a truck driver’s dream gig: hauling carpet and yard from Dalton, Georgia, to New Orleans and to Andalusia, Alabama, and then home for the weekend. But then Hurricane Erin came along to shake things up.

As a professional paramedic and Emergency Medical Services educator, Roscoe McCoy knows how things should go, ideally, when the police and paramedics are called out to deal with an emergency. One day nothing goes according to plan.

RB58: I Didn’t Sign Up For This

August 9th, 2017
“I Didn’t Sign Up For This”
by Sean Polite

A rollicking Rabbit Box offering, “I Didn’t Sign Up For This,” took place on Wednesday, August 9th, a pleasant, cool evening at The Foundry. The assortment of tales spanned juvenile rivalry, impossible missions, international goodwill, rashly taboo purchases, accident recovery, the slow and steady slope of progress, solemn reckonings made to family, and amusing journeys to reveal one’s identity.

The inimitable Tara Stuart served as our Master of Ceremonies.

Connie Crawley kicked off the story set, taking the audience back to her elementary school days. The bliss between her and a best friend was interrupted by the arrival of a spunky usurper to their affections. Connie’s parents sent her to play with the child as the girl faced ever-worsening challenges.

A lifetime ago during his time working for the EPA in Washington, D.C., Paul Guillebeau took on the noblest of off-duty tasks: helping a co-worker move. The furniture-transporting team had issues from the outset as recounted by the always-wry, expert storyteller Guillebeau.

Dr. Leara Rhodes‘ first trip to Haiti found her in the middle of boiled-over political strife. Passage home came only through body-strewn streets and a rampaging crowd of desperate people.

Bard Jim Lavender returned to Athens to regale us with a humorous tale of the power of what hard-earned money can buy. The crate that boy Jim ordered by mail sounds rather like Pandora’s Box!

Laura Hanson was selected as the evening’s Cracker Jack Surprise storyteller. An expert working in the field of neuro- and bio-feedback, Laura found that her world turned awry after getting news that her daughter had been in a terrible accident.

Patricia Tacuri, a Rabbit Box Engineer, recalled the developmental differences her first child exhibited. She educated herself once she learned the diagnosis, nursing his (and her) spirit by always seeing his potential.

Elsa Durusau stepped up to fill a spot in the line-up left vacant late in the day. As in all our lives, the spectre-like presence of death grows as the years go by, and the miles seemed to widen between even the tightest of friends. Elsa told a touching story of the sudden and tragic loss of two beloved friends.

Evie McGovern, our final storyteller of the evening, remembers a special crush when she was 11 that led to a redefinition of her identity in relation to attraction to others. A charming storyteller, Evie recounted the sometimes-confusing path she has traveled and the ways she informed others about what she discovered about herself on her journey.

Special thanks to The Foundry and all the Rabbit Box family and audience for another wonderful evening. Thank you, storytellers that night — and you storytellers of nights to come! See you soon!

RB57: If These Walls Could Talk

July 12, 2017
“If These Walls Could Talk”
by Marci White

More than 300 people came out on a sultry Georgia night to hear stories on the theme “If These Walls Could Talk.” The stories were an extraordinary mix of antebellum walls containing romance and Chippendale furniture, Facebook walls, psychiatric hospital walls, dilapidated party-house walls, prison walls and walls haunted by ghosts. It was a night to remember. Thanks to all the storytellers, our co-sponsors the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, and to all the people who came and listened to the stories so raptly.

Adam Hebbard, president of the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, was our convivial emcee for the evening.

Daniel Epting is a 4th-generation Athenian who was raised steeped in Athens history. True to his roots, he restores historical homes, and his home in the historic Boulevard neighborhood is a perennial job-site. Daniel told a short history of some of his preservationist work, including some of the very odd, old things he’s found on job sites.

The mansion at 150 S. Milledge Avenue is currently the sorority house of Alpha Delta Pi, but its history includes the adventures and international intrigues of Ned Hodgson and family, who bought the house in 1906. Tom Hodgson told us the story of his grandparents Ned and Mary Hodgson and the role they and their house played in an unlikely international romance.

When a group of student ballet dancers at UGA left town for a long holiday, they asked Rhett Crowe and her boyfriend to house-sit the antebellum house they were renting. Only after they returned did they ask, “Did you notice anything strange about the house?” Um . . . YES!! This story gave us all the creepy chills.

Riley Kirkpatrick, in his previous life as a non-violent drug offender and addict, got acquainted with the gritty, claustrophobic confines of many county jails. Those walls can tell stories of hard, hard times, sickness and perseverance.

Kristin‘s name was chosen out of the Crackerjack box to tell an impromptu story. She told of being in a locked ward for the mentally ill in New York City with lots of doors, lots of keys. The only thing to do was to be fully herself — to face the fear and boredom and connect with the people stuck there with her.

Lee Epting, a native Athenian responsible for the renovation of many old homes and buildings in our town, told the story of an old woman he knew who was house rich but cash poor and needed to sell her historic mansion. She asked him to help her put on one last dinner party in her beautiful home. The meal had to be perfect in all its particulars. “Yes, ma’am,” he said. Things didn’t turn out as planned, but the dinner party turned out to be unforgettable.

As a freelance journalist, David Ferguson spends a lot of time hanging out with co-workers in online chatrooms and on Facebook walls. He got to be close friends with one coworker, Dan, long before he ever met him in person or even talked on the phone. When Dan’s life started going downhill, David saw it all happening, sometimes even before Dan did. They finally did meet in person but not in the way either of them had planned.

Starting in 1977, Paul Butchart participated in the Athens music scene and laid-back, bohemian lifestyle of the times. In 1980 he moved into a famous party house on Milledge Avenue that he rented from a Latvian immigrant with a mysterious and colorful past: Mr. Antons. Paul lived in the house for 28 years, and his life became intertwined with his eccentric landlord’s.

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.