December’s VOICEBOX theme was MIRACLE. Surely I am not the only person that has struggled with the concept of Miracles. I was raised Roman Catholic and yet rejected the concept of virgin births and water turning into wine. But based on the phenomenal stories told last night, I need to reconsider my resistance to the idea of divinely influenced events. As the great philosopher Jon Bon Jovi said, “Miracles happen every day, change your perception of what a miracle is and you will see them all around you.” Perhaps Mr. Bon Jovi is right.
I opened the night by reading an original poem called MARVELS IN OUR MIDST. The poem arose from my recent thoughts on the topic of Miracles and was consistent with Mr. Bon Jovi’s approach. Maybe there are more Miracles out there then I had believed. I implored the audience to be open-minded and perhaps find some MARVELS IN THEIR MIDST. While on stage I took the time to introduce everybody’s favorite Rock Goddess, Cathy Richardson, The gist of my introductory words centered around how fortunate the audience is to have CR as our very own musical host. I never want us to take her talents for granted. Cathy followed my comments with her song, MIRACLE, which first appeared on her Grammy-nominated album ROAD TO BLISS, and set the bar high for a great evening of entertainment.
Maureen Muldoon followed Cathy and make some introductory comments and thanked the audience for participating in the children’s toy drive; an awesome display of outreach from the wonderful VOICEBOX crowd. The support for this program was impressive. I failed to get details on where the toys would be sent but I believe it was to a deserving group in Oak Park. Maureen also mentioned an exciting VOICEBOX project called OUT OF THE BOX which is a published compilation of 12 stories originating at VB. Copies should be available by February/March. More details to follow.
Jane Matthie relayed a story called A MUSICAL MIRAGE – AND A MIRACLE. Jane tells her tales in a bold, unabashed fashion. I don’t believe that she delivers her edgy tales with the premeditated intention of shocking the audience, but sometimes that is the effect. Matthie’s story, was complex and difficult to adequately summarize without missing nuance and detail. In essence, she told of a time, early in her marriage, that she considered moving on. She believed that she had the opportunity and that the time was right. And then on the fateful night that she was about to end of the relationship, after years of fruitless attempts to get pregnant, and so many details it is impossible to relay, she feels sick, she gets sick… she determines that she is pregnant… and the events of the night conspire in such a way that she realizes that her and her husband were not done. Call it fate, call it coincidence, call it a MIRACLE. But something happened to save a marriage and to bring a child into this world at precisely the right moment… Matthie told a nutty but heartwarming tale of Christmas joy to a spellbound audience. The songs of Barry Manilow were referenced in the story and Cathy Richardson followed with a campy version of Manilow’s hit MANDY… Good stuff all around.
Emily Culella next presented THE DIVINE COMEDY. Not as interminable as Dante’s original, I found her tale equally as rich and considerably more entertaining In addition to being a regular VOICEBOX contributor, Emily is a writing professor. Her stories reveal her training and education but mostly make clear her abundant talent as a writer and storyteller. She told of a Christmas miracle that saved a family from “too much of too many ugly things”; a miracle that prevented her Mother from succumbing to the many pressures of the Holiday season, including an untimely death, a fire in the family home, vomiting dogs, and hordes of out of town guests….and from tumbling down her private tunnel. The miracle was that her mother, on the edge of despair, found relief in laughter. She just laughed and the waterfall of laughter cascaded through the family. Emily believes some divine hand interfered in the normal human affairs and salvaged the Holiday with humor. A rush of Holiday warmth accompanied Culella’s fine, tender tale of a crazy Christmas seen through a child’s eyes. Cathy Richardson added to the yuletide vibe with her sweet take on the classic HOLY NIGHT. This was a beautiful sequence of story and song.
Kimberly Duncan ( aka the “TRIPLE THREAT” ) disclosed the thoughts that occurred to her during her mother’s last moments. While her mother lay dying in a beige hospital room, shortly after her father’s death, she contemplated and made choices. She recalled that Einstein said, “ There are two ways to live: You can live as if nothing were a miracle or you can live as if everything were a miracle…” Kimberly choose to live as if everything were a Miracle. The instant of her Mother’s passing she heard the cry of a new born baby, and a series of miracles flashed before her, events that had transpired that led to this moment, good fortune to her Belgian family through the horrors of World War II, of how her parents met, how she was born and raised, went to college and fell in love: a litany of miracles occurred to her. She CHOSE to view her life as a series of miracles. In closing, she challenged the audience to decide whether their stories, their journeys, their lives, were truly miraculous or just a string of connected events….. Duncan’s powerful last words were: “YOU DECIDE” Duncan’s confident style and direct delivery is always a treat to witness and tonight, she made us think…. Her story included references to the love of her parents, and inspired Cathy Richardson to recall the love of her own grandparents for each other so she followed with her original country hoe down of a song possibly entitled “GINNY & CORD”.
The next speaker was the defiantly bold Maureen Muldoon. Muldoon zoomed in on the theme of MIRACLE like a hawk on a field mouse. She told of how her youthful questions were often met with the response, “Maureen, don’t be so bold.” by nuns and other authority figures; in time she curbed her questioning. She told of how she wanted to be a priest when she grew up; not a nun, mind you, but a priest. And how she longed to visit the holy site of MEDJUGORIE, YUGOSLAVIA, improbable as that was…fast forward some years and through some miraculous circumstances she finds her self in Medjugorie, though she is without funds, she gets there, and given the chance to ask a question of the host, she disregards years of censure and asks, “Does Mary ever laugh and if so, what makes here happy?” Uncertain of whether this was a reasonable question or a silly one, another pilgrim turns to her and bolsters her spirit by saying, “Good Question, honey.” Oh the joy… and on the story goes on to include some unimaginably strange coincidences and happenings that could be described as miraculous. Which led Muldoon to certain books in unexpected places. Books and teachings that became her breath…. Muldoon told a stirring tale of how she traversed deep and wild terrain, how she went passed F*#king BOLD , to priesthood … and beyond. Richardson celebrated Muldoon’s courageous independence with her anthem WHAT I AM… a tribute to the spirit of self-satisfaction.
In a special treat Cathy Richardson put aside her guitar for awhile and displayed her considerable storytelling chops as she described a convoluted scenario involving a wedding ring, a wedding, a Hawaiian vacation, the loss and unbelievable recovery of the wedding ring. The facts of this story made me recall the old saying that “TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION”. You could not make up the series of bizarre events outlined in Richardson’s story. After finally finding THE perfect ring to honor her wife Rachel and celebrate their impending nuptials, the ring is lost in the shifting sands of Maui. But some things are just meant to happen, sometimes magic happens, MIRACLES happen, and through the intervention of the divine, dedicated angels and some really fine people… and against all odds……..the ring is recovered! This is also a story about love and persistence.. maybe the persistence of love…..and the fact that the ring was finally returned to Rachel and Cathy on VALENTINE’s DAY… well that’s just an added touch to this lovely story. This was a feel good story that lifted the spirits of the audience.
In celebration of the Christmas Season, the house joined together in a raucous sing-along…Maureen, Cathy, Kimberley “the Imperial” Duncan aka The Triple Threat, Mitch Mayer, Nora Tangora and several others hopped on stage to lead the audience in song. The highlight was a somewhat dysfunctional take on THE FIVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS that left everyone happily exhausted. The regular format of ending the show with FIVE SENTENCES will return in January when the theme will be “Happy Days Are Here Again”.
The night was another hit. A strong lineup of familiar contributors felt warm and cozy during this Holiday season.
When the doors open at Fitzgerald’s on VOICEBOX TUESDAY, artistry takes over and imagination becomes the Universe …… and sometimes MIRACLES happen… Join us next time. You’ll be glad that you did.
Peace, TERRY FALOON
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
If you were fortunate enough to attend VOICEBOX on October 13, 2015… well, hopefully, the words to follow spark a special memory and bring you back to a moment you enjoyed. While September’s Voicebox showcased many first-time story tellers, October’s show featured familiar faces and voices. If you could not attend, and I understand if you were out celebrating a Cubs Victory…here’s a taste of what you missed. Whether you made it or not, we hope to see you next time. Here’s where I echo the good vibrations from THE BEST NIGHT OF THE MONTH.
The night began with the lovely Char Vickery introducing the pride of Burr Ridge, Illinois, the amazing Cathy Richardson, citing more awards and accolades than you could shake a stick at.. If you had a stick to shake, and were so inclined.
Cathy then helped us all get our HAUNT-ON with a chilling version of Screaming Jay Hawkins I PUT A SPELL ON YOU….Cathy is the perfect blues blaster and this song is securely in her vocal sweet spot…Dang! The Rock Goddess nailed this one…. Hope someone captured it and posts on Youtube… Did I say DANG!!! DOUBLE DANG!!!
Maureen Muldoon walked on the stage next and.. can I just say…Maureen lights up a room…she sparkles and glistens and is effervescent like a funny glass of champagne… the best damn New Jersey champagne money can buy… Maureen cracked wise for a bit and then introduced the evening’s first storyteller.
Kimberly Duncan is Belgian and her stories often focus on growing up in a Belgian family. Last night she weaved a web of tastiness as she detailed her mother’s amazing culinary talents, which seemed to mostly involve pounds and pounds of butter and incredible french fries… “The Mudda wid da Butta” was a sorceress of savory and cast a spell of food on her family. Kim delivered a wonderful tale whose ingredients included humor, poignancy and lots of love and the audience ate it up. Cathy Richardson, who never seems to miss a beat, took the stage and sang a few bars of Arlo Guthrie’s ALICE’s RESTAURANT. But in this case it was MADELINE’S RESTAURANT in honor of Kim’s mom.
Ron Estrada then served up a sterling example of his versatility as a writer. Ron consistently crafts provocative works, leaning toward the contemplative, often darker side of life. Last night he told a hilarious story called “CAN YOU USE IT IN A SENTENCE?” The ever imaginative Estrada put a twist on the night’s theme and told of his struggles, or rather his RELUCTANCE to adopt the conventional rules of spelling. Ron relayed his trials and tribulations as a young man competing in school mandated spelling bees, comparing the often painful experience to a firing squad. Cathy Richardson kept the audience howlings when she followed with Tammy Wynette’s classic D-I-V-O-R-C-E, providing a clever musical follow-up
to Ron’s story.
The hostess with the mostess came next. Maureen Muldoon is the creatrix of Voicebox and can tell a story any damn time that she pleases. And she never disappoints. The spiritual vixen with an Irish gypsy background slowed down the heartbeat of the night with a loving tribute to her father, detailing her curious search for signs from him following his passing and her attempts to get a message through to him. Maureen described her faith in serendipity and her faith in “FAITH” itself as she pursued a magical path of dolphins through the winter streets of Chicago in search of answers. She was led to a woman in need and Maureen offered the only words that made sense at the time. “nothing has happened to your body that has any effect upon your spirit.” Somehow, someway, these words provided solace for Maureen and the unknown woman. This story was all about the wondrous, the unknown… the mystery of life. Cathy Richardson found the essence of Maureen’s tale and followed with The Black Crowes, “SHE TALKS TO ANGELS” and the audience help provide the lyrics…
The dynamic Jane Mathie next delivered a story called LOONEY TUNES – A TALE OF PHYSICAL NEED in which she describes her collegiate dating career as a series of FOOD DATES… Poor Jane was often hungry in college and lacked sufficient funds to support her high gustatory standards. (Jane confessed that although despite her frequent hunger she would NOT eat hot dogs) so she often accepted the dinner invitations of gentlemen in hopes of filling her tummy. I believe the technical term for this condition is FOOD WHORE. (Jane’s term, not my own) This approach apparently worked for awhile until she met the crazy guy who fell hard for her, singing Operatic arias in her honor and inundating her with an endless supply of mylar balloon hearts, neither of which Jane appreciated. This delightful piece had the audience rolling in the aisles. Cathy Richardson brought down the house when she followed Jane’s story with an anthem in tribute to Miss Mathie… Of course, I’m talking about the classic STARSHIP song JANE! It was powerful and perfect and the audience roared in appreciation.
I provided the final story of the night, something I call THE JESUS OF COOL (I lifted the name from a Nick Lowe album) Mine was a confessional of how I fell under the spell of a charismatic high school friend, how I became an Apostle of the JESUS OF COOL before awakening to the fact that I was destined for trouble unless I made a break from my old pal Butch. My story relayed how easy it is for young people to blindly follow the cool ones and how important it is to stand up and be yourself. As is typical of my tales… TJOC details some of my many foibles but comes ‘round to show that I learned a little something about life for my troubles. The Rock Goddess closed the musical portion of the night with a rousing version of Heart’s MAGIC MAN. My old friend Butch would’ve been proud. If you haven’t seen Cathy perform a Heart song, you need to; She channels the Wilson sisters like no other.
Several audience members followed with a few FIVE SENTENCES, short snippets that are always a special part of the night.
As usual, the night was a gas… Heavy on veteran story tellers. Maureen keeps the night flowing and Cathy rocks the house with spot on improvisational interpretations of the stories… I’ve been doing the Voicebox thing for over 2 years now and a few things are clear…. It is ALWAYS entertaining, often hilarious and provocative and generally it is THE BEST NIGHT OF THE MONTH… Come tell your story….
Peace, TERRY FALOON