Benjamin Franklin famously quipped that the only things certain in life were death and taxes…. This old adage really needs to be updated to say “the only things certain in life are DEATH and TAXES….AND that VOICEBOX will be a rockin’ good time!!!! It shouldn’t surprise anyone but VOICEBOX on November 10, 2015 was indeed a rockin’ good time. The musical theme was PAUL McCARTNEY’S LET ‘EM IN….. you know… “Someone’s Knocking at the door… Do me a favor ..Let ‘Em In….” Here’s what went down on the BEST NIGHT OF THE MONTH.
Rachel Richardson stepped forward to offer a sweet introductory tribute to Cathy Richardson, who then jumped onto stage to play the evening’s theme song. But instead of whipping out her trusty guitar Cathy delivered a great version of the classic song accompanied by an electric piano/synthesizer. As far as I recall the use of the synthesizer on the Voicebox stage was a first. And it worked well, as the piano added that vibrophony, carousel feeling present in the original. The light hearted song name checks various people who presumably show up at Mc Cartney’s door… and he just Let’s ‘Em In…. The stories that followed were all variations of this theme.
The first storyteller was Nestor “the Boss” Gomez, a newcomer to the Voice Box stage but no stranger to storytelling as the Boss has received numerous accolades for his storytelling prowess, including victories in multiple MOTH RADIO HOUR story slams. Guatemalan born Gomez brought a warm, confident presence to the stage as he discussed the birth of his second child and his concerns whether his heart was big enough to provide love for his wife, his first child and now another child. With humor and poignancy Gomez told of how his child was born with asthma and struggled to survive those critical early months. In the end he “grew another heart” which provided all the love his growing family needed. Cathy Richardson seemlessly wove her original song entitled “The Heart of My Hearts” into the proceedings and I heard several in the audience comment how spot on this musical selection was as a compliment to Gomez’ touching tale. The evening was off to a terrific start.
Charlene Vickery followed with a story she calls GRAND CENTRAL STATION, recalling the chaos and commotion occurring first at her grandparents restaurant and then at their residence as she grew up. Seems her family had an open door policy for all manner of friends and neighbors resulting in an endless flow of visitors knocking on the door… And her grandparents and parents always “let ‘em in”. Her Big Fat Greek and Armenian Family of restauranteurs and former Army Cooks created a non stop cacophony and lived by a variation of the words of Matthew 18:20 in which they said, “whenever 2 or more of us shall meet… a party shall ensue…” Vickery’s casual delivery and assured approach warmed the crowd who thoroughly enjoyed hearing of the raucous exploits of her family and friends, which included Huey, Cyrus the Blues Singer and Jerry the Jew. Richardson followed with the 60’s classic song “Ya Ya” by Lee Dorsey. It helps to know that Vickery’s grandmother YA YA was prominently featured in her story to realize just how clever Richardson can be in her song selections. Bravo to both for this wonderful story/song combination.
The next speaker was Debra Hawkins, a long time Voicebox attendee who graced the stage for the first time. What took you so long Debra? Your story was wonderful. It would be easy for me to get silly here because the topic of Debra’s story was large, female breasts. Boobies, Melons.. Bazongas….And although Hawkins’ tale included humorous moments, the tone was a bit somber and centered around Hawkins struggles with her body image due to her having larger than average breasts as a teen age girl. Some stories make us howl and some stories make us cringe and some, Like Hawkins’ piece, generate warm, sincere empathy from the audience. Hawkins brought down the house as she told of her uncomfortable moments in Mrs. Fishbein’s apparel store on Devon Avenue, about how Mrs. Fishbein briefly knocked on the dressing room door before barging in to dive into Hawkins ample bosom like Jacques Cousteau entering a coral reef. Hilarious and poignant and just a well told story. Like Gomez before her, Hawkins thoroughly entertained the assembled ears with her candor and wit. Thanks for sharing Debra. Cathy Richardson cranked up the synthesizer again and took a train to crazytown as she speed rapped her way through the BLACK EYED PEAS number “MY HUMPS” She manically jawwed about her LADY LUMPS and ALL THAT JUNK…. and the audience roared in approval. Richardson’s performance proved to be the comedic highlight of the evening. Ridiculously awesome.
Megan Blythe Rishe, the original Voicebox sweetheart, followed. Rishe is an integral part of the Voicebox community and is admired by all for her soft demeanor and touching tales. In an imaginative and lyrical twist Megan constructed her story in the form of a “List Poem” in which she a revealed a catalogue of people appearing at her door over the years….. grandmother’s with pet squirrels, boyfriends, trick or treaters, animal control officers, Jehovah Witnesses, mother’s of her sons’ girlfriends, and the senile old man canine lover of her dreams…. a wonderful list of callers, some welcome and some not. Rishes’ creative tour de force pushed the boundaries of storytelling convention with tremendous results. Kudos, Megan, on a great, well crafted story.
So Cathy Richardson drops the Jefferson Starship song FAMILIAR STRANGER and I was again left in awe at her ability to spontaneously come up with a song that perfectly weds the just told story. Kudos to you as well CR.
The ever entertaining mistress of ceremonies came next. Maureen Muldoon opened her story by sharing this maxim: “here’s the world…. beautiful and terrible things will happen……….be not afraid…………” and proceeded to tell a heart warming story about her family’s love and interaction with her autistic son. Early on, in an attempt to remember various social norms, Muldoon’s son Liam created a game called “THINGS NOT TO DO” which includes such atrocities as swearing at weddings and pooping on people’s shoes…. the tale goes on to outline some of the wonders and struggles faced by the families of special needs children. With characteristic charm and humor Muldoon underscored the beauty and horror which we as humans face every day.. And recommends that we “BE NOT AFRAID…..” An inspiring tale……… Thanks MM.
The Rock Goddess followed with her interpretation of Madonna’s TAKE A BOW. So, just think for a minute… CR’s tunes tonight ranged from Lee Dorsey’s 60’s novelty rock, to her soulful original material, to Classic Rock by Starship, to Madonna…. and oh yeah, to a trippin’ ass version of MY HUMPS by the Black Eyed Peas… The diversity of the song selection inspired by the stories is amazing… the actual skill and energy delivered by CR is absolutely thrilling………
Jean Diedrich conveyed the final story of the night; a piece she entitled “KNOCK ON WOOD”. Diedrich’s story was short and direct and seems to have risen from the ashes of her 30 year marriage. It is a wistful reflection of a relationship that burned hot until it eventually burned itself out. Diedrich described her marriage in terms of the ebbing and flowing of good fortune, the consequences of many mistakes, and her realization that hope is not a successful strategy for living. I believe the story provoked considerable thought throughout the audience.
Several audience members followed with a few FIVE SENTENCES, short snippets that are always a special part of the night. It is interesting to see that the FIVE SENTENCES segment has developed some regular contributors, including Mitch Mayer and Patrick. I always look forward to their contributions, all of which could easily become full length stories
The night was another hit. A nice mix of new storytellers and a few seasoned vets offered a great variety of tales and touched on a wide array of human emotions. Come tell your story…. We know there’s a story bubbling up inside of you. Knocking on the door…. Let it out!!!!
Peace, TERRY FALOON