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.

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.

Rabbit Box Teasers: Cooking Confidential

Recap of “Cooking Confidential” on August, 10, 2016 at The Foundry

by Marci White

On a sultry summer night in August, more than 200 Rabbit Box fans gathered in downtown Athens to listen to stories about the alchemy of cooking.

Tara Stuart was the always-vivacious emcee.

The first storyteller was Stevie King, who talked about how much black folks (generally) love a good barbecue and the fine art of putting one on. A tip: “Don’t ever ask what someone has in their red Solo cup. You don’t want to know.” On one special occasion his family decided to have a barbecue to welcome a new sibling into the family – a 245-lb, 6-ft, 38-year-old, “bouncing baby boy” whom none of them had known existed.

Alon Wilson, creative and innovative chef extraordinaire, regaled us with tales of some of the highlights of his long culinary career. And it’s not over; Wilson continues his quest to create fine foods experiences with his own, cross-cultural stamp of excellence.

Paul Guillebeau was in fine fettle, telling about a time when he and his brother Bill decided they wanted to cook a special country dish for the Sunday dinner. With their grandfather’s help, they had to learn the lost art of “sulling”: catching, preparing, and cooking a critter.

Mary Miller learned long ago that “food was the problem, but cooking was the cure.” In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, she volunteered to help at the St. Francis Animal Sanctuary in New Orleans, where she became the default camp cook for a big crew of hungry volunteers.

When his buddy Art called to say he’d found something amazing on the road, Peter Loose went over immediately to see what it was. They had never cooked this particular species of roadkill before but decided that they would cook an extraordinary, unforgettable meal to impress their wives. Peter credits his long marriage to “good food, adventure, and a wife who doesn’t blame me for much.” The last two factors figure prominently in his story.

Alzena Johnson has volunteered at a local homeless shelter, helping to feed the hungry of Athens, for the last six years. The winter homeless shelter, now called Bigger Vision, has persevered through many challenges and relocations over the years. All are welcome there – none are turned away, no matter how many times you’ve fallen. Anyone can get fed, and anyone can bring a hot meal for the shelter.

“Losing” a parent is not like “dropping my mother off in a parking lot and forgetting where she is,” says David Ferguson. It’s more like an earthquake or a hurricane . . . something that shakes you to the core. In grief a person might become detached from all the pleasures of life, or he might embrace all the visceral things that make him feel vital. There’s a reason why people bring rich, tasty food to the grieving, David says. What they bring is more than just food – it’s alchemy for the soul.

Rabbit Box Teasers: On The Run!

On the Run Summary

Melissa Harward

Rabbit Box kicked off July with tales of endurance, struggle, and getting away from it all. Our storytellers shared stories of being on the run — from competing in marathons to pursuing the history of displaced peoples. Jesse Houle was our Master of Ceremonies for the evening and shared with the audience some of our performers’ favorite experiences in Athens.

Rabbit Box veteran Ivan Sumner started the evening with his story of training for the Detroit marathon. After failing to find a compatible running partner, he settles on the only person left with a flexible schedule.

Running is apparently a virus that some folks just catch. After getting the bug from his brother, Paul Quick ends up qualifying for the Boston Marathon and joins 30,000 others suffering from the same affliction.

Sara Winick-Herrington lost her job and found herself lost at 38. She found herself after sitting in silence for 10 days. Later she found herself across the world in Bali.

As young teens on the European Command Base in Germany, John Mincemoyer and his friends had a knack for getting into trouble. One particular night of sometimes-dangerous mischief led by another boy leaves John on the run from the military police.

Our crackerjack storyteller of the evening was our very own Neal Priest, who decides to take revenge on a camp director after running into him berating a camper.

While some prefer to run as a social exercise, Tim Bryant prefers to train solo. In the early mornings by himself, he can come across some strange things.

Robert Alan Black has ranged across 93 different countries. On a trip to France with his girlfriend (later his wife), the couple finds themselves searching everywhere for a resting place. When they find it, they can’t decide whether to run.

Instead of running away from life, Adam Lassila runs toward the things he believes. In 2014 he finds himself exploring the northern regions of Guatemala learning about a massacre that devastated local villages.

Rabbit Box returns on August 10 with Cooking Confidential. If you’d like to join Rabbit Box as a storyteller, contact us at rabbitboxstories@gmail.com.

Rabbit Box Teasers – Tying the Knot

Tying the Knot

Summary by Melissa Harward

Rabbit Box returned in June with stories of love, disaster, and the good old ball ‘n’ chain. Summer means wedding season is upon us, and our storytellers brought us tales from all over the globe about settling down. Our Master of Ceremonies of the evening was Neal Priest, who presented the audience with marriage trivia facts throughout the night.

Neal welcomed his wife – and our very own – Pat Priest to kick off the night with her story that will resonate with anyone who has been part of a bridal party. As a bridesmaid, your responsibilities typically include keeping the bride sane throughout the wedding process. Pat learns that sometimes, this includes keeping the bride’s family sane, too.

Emily Rose Thomas always thought weddings were synonymous with disaster. On her own wedding over the Thanksgiving holiday, she gets her own taste of calamity.

Finding a compromise between different cultural and family values on your wedding day can be difficult.When her friends ask her to preside over their marriage ceremony, Molly Williams agrees. Through watching them find a middle ground, Molly’s faith in romantic weddings grows.

Sometimes tying the knot isn’t always for forever, but that doesn’t mean two people aren’t committed. Dan Everett explains his approach to marriage.

Our crackerjack storyteller of the evening was Rabbit Box veteran Earnest Thompson, who told the audience about his own wedding day 49 years ago.

Marriage in other cultures can look a little different than the Western idea of falling in love and becoming life partners with someone. After witnessing her brother navigate through the idea of an arranged marriage, Sonia Sharmin explains that a family’s opinion of your future spouse can change the tide.

Craig Wiegert has been married to his husband three times. This is the story of their journey through 17 years of fighting for their right to marry.

What happens when an Atheist marries a Muslim? In this story, Angela Romito reflects on the cultural and religious differences that sometimes tie us closer together in marriage.

Rabbit Box will return on July 13th with On the Run and Cooking Confidential in August. Thank you to all of our supporters, volunteers, and the Foundry. If you’re interested in telling a story, be sure to contact us at rabbitboxstories@gmail.com.

Tying the Knot coming up this Wednesday! 

Join us on Wednesday, June 8th, at The Foundry for tales on the theme Tying the Knot – Wedding Stories. Come hear heartfelt and hilarious stories about weddings gone right or terribly, terribly wrong.
Our storytellers Include:

Dan Everett

Ismael Cuthbertson

Angela Romito

Molly Williams

Sonia Sharmin

Pat Priest

Craig Wiegert

Emily Rose Thomas

Put your name in the box and you could be our Crackerjack storyteller at the end of intermission!

Rabbit Box Teasers: All Creatures Great and Small

All Creatures Great and Small

Summary by Melissa Harward

Lions and tigers and bears and chickens and coyotes and beavers, oh my! Rabbit Box storytellers brought the whole animal kingdom to May’s “All Creatures Great and Small.” Sean Polite, who joined us back in November as a storyteller was our Master of Ceremonies of the evening. He kicked things off by identifying the spirit animal of each of our presenters, which included a horse, a guinea pig, and even a vulture. Read about the night’s creature tales here:

In the first story of the night, naturalist Tommy Tye examined the way animals have taught him to be still over the years, enabling him to explore and share their world.

Almost every little girl, at some point, asks Santa for a pony for Christmas. Despite her mother’s fear of horses, Mel Cochran Davis was no different.

Wildlife rehabilitator Thomas Guillebeau delighted the audience with a hilarious tale of a beaver rescue that quickly gets out of hand.

Through her work at UGA’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Lynsey Jackson lends a calming hand to those creatures who stress about treatment. After traveling to a wildlife park in Thailand, Lynsey met an elephant who really needed her help.

Our crackerjack storyteller of the evening was Evelyn Mackenzie, who introduced us to Bob the chicken.

Sometimes old cats can teach us new lessons. Loren Hansen described how he learned resilience from his cat, Skeeter.

Sometimes the natural world reminds us there are unseen reasons for everything. Sarah Hubbard shared her story of a quiet dawn interrupted by one of these surprises.

Few relationships come close to those that we have with our pets. They are there for us even in the toughest of times, wagging tails at the door or a soft bell around the corner. In this tribute, Rachel LoPilato remembers her cat, Mia.

Virginia Baumgartner ended the night in laughter as she told us of the many mischievous undertakings of a Basset Hound named Dupree.

Rabbit Box returns in June with “Tying the Knot – Wedding Stories” and in July with “On the Run.”

Interested in telling a story? Get in touch with us at rabbitboxstories@gmail.com.

Rabbit Boxing!

Thursday, APRIL 28, we’re unveiling a new storytelling format…Rabbit Boxing.

Have you ever kept a secret that you shouldn’t have? Been burned by someone who shared yours? Watched, or participated, as a secret became public?

Craft a 5-minute story around the theme “Secrets,” come to Hi-Lo out in Normaltown and put your name in a box. The first eight names chosen will perform their 5 minute stories for the crowd–and a panel of judges.

Winner gets a $25 Hi-Lo gift certificate.

Don’t want to share your secrets? Come watch, listen, and cheer for your favorites!

Stories start at 8:30.