December 26, 2012

Out of the Box

Over 100 people crammed into the second floor space at The Globe for a grown-up version of story time on a Wednesday evening in early October 2012. It was my first Rabbit Box event, the sixth overall.

Eight storytellers each had eight minutes to tell true stories from memory, centering on a predetermined theme. One story had me sitting rigid for its duration, blinking back tears, flooded with empathy. Another had me laughing in disbelief. Yet another held me in suspense. Each individual approached the topic from his or her own distinct perspective, conjuring an array of emotions from the diverse gathering of rapt listeners. The emcee facilitated a certain unity between the storytellers and audience members, creating a feeling that we were all in this together, that we all have experiences worth sharing. I walked home that night feeling fortunate to live in Athens, in a place where such collective exploration of the human condition is celebrated. Inspired, I committed to being a storyteller the following month.

I had never before released a personal story into the world for consumption by an audience of (mostly) strangers, and as the date for Rabbit Box 7 drew near, I grew more and more terrified. The event was to be moving from the intimate setting of The Globe to the seemingly more intimidating Melting Point. I do quite a bit of public speaking for work, but here there was a stage, and a cover, and I was going to have to be entertaining! Thankfully, Rabbit Box storytellers have the option of working with volunteer “coaches” with writing and performance experience. These wonderful people read my several drafts, met to discuss my story in person and provided much needed guidance and encouragement. 

On the night of the November show, I sat in the green room and chatted with other storytellers and Rabbit Box coordinators, trying hard to sip, not gulp, my paper cup of red wine. When we all made our way to the seating area, I snagged a chair close to the stage. I was seventh in the lineup, and as the sixth storyteller finished, my heart raced; its beat becoming audible in its intensity. I began my story at approximately 8:40 p.m., and my eight minutes flew by in a blur; I’m almost certain I was afforded leeway by the sympathetic timekeeper, a storyteller himself at Rabbit Box 5. When it was over, I found myself embracing a whole mess of people who had been completely unknown to me just weeks, days, hours before. I was abuzz for the rest of the night and into the following day, high on performance adrenaline and warmed by an overwhelming sense of community.