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.

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.

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.

All Creatures Great and Small May 11th!

Join us on Wednesday, May 11th, at The Foundry for tales on the theme All Creatures Great and Small! Listen to Naturalist Tommy Tye, Executive Director of Wild Intellegence Sarah Hubbard and others as they share their triumphs and tragedies, reminding us what it is like to watch nature unfold.
Doors at The Foundry open at 5:00 PM for dinner, and the show starts at 7 PM or a little after. The show ends by 9 – 9:15.

Our emcee is Sean Polite

Storytellers include:

Tommy Tye

Thomas Guillebeau 

Loren Hansen

Rachel LoPilato

Sarah Hubbard

Lynsey Jackson

Mel Cochran Davis

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

Rabbit Box is for adults.

Rabbit Box Story Teasers: Black Like Me

Black Like Me: A Collaboration with Chess and Community

By Melissa Harward

As community leader Life the Griot puts it, there are about 130,000 people living in Athens, and that gives each of us 129,000 different ways to grow. Last week, Life served as Rabbit Box’s wonderful emcee for Black Like Me, a collaborative event with Athens’ local Chess and Community program. Our storytellers gathered to talk race, embracing the culture you come from, and overcoming adversity.

Up first for the night was Celest Divine, who wowed the audience v with her spoken word piece on celebrating skin color and avoiding judgements.

After being tried at age 15 and imprisoned for 10 years under Senate Bill 440 – in which teenagers are prosecuted as adults — Athens native Joseph Houston shared his story of rebuilding a life after life is taken from you.

LaTasha Sheats told the audience about her struggles with self-doubt growing up, now using these lessons to encourage young women through her mentoring organization Strong, Beautiful, & Godly Girls.

As leader of the All Love Movement, rapper and producer Versatyle Tha Wildchyld encouraged us all to choose love over anger, even in the face of dire circumstances.

Local writer and mentor Earnest Thompson, the Crackerjack Surprise storyteller of the evening, is no stranger to the Rabbit Box family. Thompson, a former Rabbit Box engineer, told of his (thankfully) brief encounters as a black man with law enforcement in Athens.

When life at home was difficult, Broderick Flanagan turned quietly to his schooling and art. Broderick now channels the artistic passion he developed as a boy to serve his community.

In his story about his a journey to find his father, Ismeal Cuthbertson (the acclaimer rapper Ishues) illuminated a few of the big cultural issues facing the black community.

Dawn D. Bennett-Alexander explained how her mother taught her never to internalize the hate or threads of racism found in their Washington, D.C., neighborhood. Her story is about standing up for yourself and not messing with moms.

Life the Griot concluded the evening with a story that landed somewhere between the dream world and reality and left us all with the idea of mending bridges, not just between family but between our selves.

Our March show at the Foundry — Wednesday, March 9th — centers on the theme My Brush with Fame. In April we’ll gather at the outdoor amphitheater at Sandy Creek Park for a collaboration with the Athens Science Cafe. Those stories will adhere to the theme “Trials by Science: Dead Ends and Discoveries.

A big thanks goes out to all of our volunteers and brave storytellers!

RB Teasers: The Kindness of Strangers

Rabbit Box: The Kindness of Strangers

By Melissa Harward

Everyone got cozy last Wednesday as Rabbit Box kicked off 2016 with a packed house for January’s The Kindness of Strangers. Tara Stuart was our lovely Master of Ceremonies for the evening, guiding us through stories that spanned the globe while making the world just a little smaller.

Our first storyteller was Rabbit Box veteran Mony Abrol, who recalled his time spent as a young ship’s engineer traversing across Italy with the help of three strangers.

When Daniel Rodriguez-Granrose is on the verge of giving up, help comes from a few unexpected places out in the desert of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Of the hundreds of people we come across each day, some make an impression that lasts despite how fleeting the interaction may be. In the back alley of her Denver apartment, Elizabeth Taddonio meets Chris.

Strangers on a hitchhiking trip keep asking Paul Guillebeau if he likes to do anything. This is a hilarious tale of the kindness and the random things you find along the road.

Our crackerjack storyteller of the night was Katie McDermott, who warned us about the dangers (and hijinks) of finding a roommate off of Craigslist.

While traveling through South America, Jesse Houle quickly learns that those strangers who have the least to give are the most generous. In a desperate time, he remembers how truly connected we are all and how that can change the context in which we interact.

Lee Pierce makes the ultimate sacrifice for a stranger in this tale of things gone so very wrong.

After her whole world crumbles, Angela Romero finds solace in the words of someone who understands exactly what she’s going through.

Getting lost in possibly hostile territory finds Lewis Earnest scrambling for someone to show him the way. A misunderstanding reminds him that kindness can come from anywhere on the street.

Rabbit Box will return on Wednesday, February 10th with Black Like Me, a collaboration with Life the Griot of Chess and Community

Rabbit Box Recap: War and Peace

By Melissa Harward

The history of humankind can seem like an endless litany of barbaric acts. Look around the world today and note the atrocities, the pain, and the tragic aftermath of violence. If there’s one truth in this reality, however, it is that in the debris of war there will be people helping other people. 

On Thursday, our Rabbit Box storytellers brought us their stories of war, of compassion, of standing for what they believe in and rising above violence. Some were funny; others had us on the edge of tears.

In her first appearance as Master of Ceremonies, Heather Broadwater welcomed each storyteller to the Foundry stage with wit and aplomb. One storyteller, we learned, was her mother: the also-witty Elaine Westfall.

Reverend A.R. Killian kicked off the night with a tale set on a wintery night at a German airbase during the Korean War era. A revelation by his roommate, disliked by others on the base, makes the story all the more poignant.

As Heather explained when she introduced him, Javier Romero-Heesacker now has more public speaking experience than most of us, and he’s only 14. Javier’s story of joining the ROTC program at Clarke Central High School leaves us thinking about whether it’s necessary to strip away a person’s individuality to foster allegiance to one’s company.

Jennifer Bray thought joining the Army would be a great way to pay for her education. When she finds herself aiming a rifle at a local man in Somalia and waiting to be told whether to shoot or hold her fire, she reconsiders her choice to enlist.

After getting in the wrong line at a military recruitment event packed with thousands of others, Earnest Thompson learns that new recruits don’t necessarily receive a hero’s welcome.

Our crackerjack storyteller of the night was Joerg Mayer. Drafted into the German Army at the end of the Cold War, he — like Jennifer Bray — found himself carefully aiming when someone came too close to the base.

Former Chief Elected Officer of Athens-Clarke County Gwen O’Looney described her work for the Red Cross in Vietnam and the power of just listening to soldiers at war-ravaged outposts — and, later, talking talking talking to save her life.

There are always casualties in war, as Sean Polite reminded us in his sobering tale about serving in the Navy during the second Gulf War. But he also enjoyed setting out to see the sights, though he often stood out as a tall African-American based in Japan.

Elaine Westfall talks about her overseas exchange as a teenager with a soldier who responded in 1970 to the first of her letters addressed to “Any Soldier” in Vietnam. 

Our final storyteller of the evening was John Mincemoyer, who served aboard a submarine in the Atlantic Ocean. Night after night at the sub’s helm in 1998 he helped others working alongside him pass the long hours in a surprising, touching way.

Rabbit Box will return on Wednesday nights starting January 13th with The Kindness of Strangers. Thank you to the Rabbit Box team for a wonderful year of stories — and an even bigger thanks to each of our storytellers who illuminated the stage with their memorable and meaningful stories.