thanks to our blogger Stephanie Kilen!
An Ex Fabula audience is not easily fooled or deterred. We know the difference between rain and snow, so even winter horror stories from Minnesota could not keep the faithful away from Turner Hall on Saturday, December 11. After all, we were promised “gifts” – the theme for the storytelling spectacular.
While some audience members went home with Ex Fabula buttons, or stickers, or a buzz from the famous Turner Hall Tall Boys, only one lucky audience member went home with the memory of kicking off the show by sharing her story on stage. Molly McGrath’s name was pulled from the dapper, white top hat. She told of the year her 10-year old self wanted only “peace and quiet” from her three older brothers and received a jar filled with green water from one of them that was supposed to do the trick.
Amie Losi began the scheduled program with a story of a teacher who gave both Amie and her son, Alex a gift by appreciating, liking and encouraging the “cynical and jaded 5-year-old” that was Alex. Before the first break of the evening, Grant Hagen gave us the inside scoop on what it’s like to be a mall Santa based on his stint as the big guy at Capital Court in the 1970s. While there was plenty to be not-so-jolly about, Grant had a twinkle in his eyes when he assured us that, “It’s not all Billy Bob Thornton when you’re Santa Claus.”
In between stories, host Leah Delaney read UltraShorts. Lest you think that UltraShorts are hot pants a la The Rockettes, UltraShorts are the one-to-two line stories submitted by audience members and read by the hosts – Megan McGee and Leah Delaney. There was no shortage of UltraShorts Saturday as there is obviously no shortage of odd and touching gift memories this time of year.
Back for Round 2, nurse Cindy Grover held the audience in touched silence as she told about the Christmas she had to give a badly burned, 5-year old boy a painful treatment. The pain the boy endured and the pain it brought Cindy to have to do it turned into a gift for both of them when weeks after being discharged, the boy returned, perfectly and beautifully healed, to thank Cindy for her care.
Frequent Ex Fabula contributor Dan Niederloh literally “looked a gift horse in the mouth” and indeed, ended up with a beloved old horse for him and his family. The horse got the gift of grass –instead of glue factory- and Dan got one of those great “’Dad is a hero’ moments to be savored because they come along so seldomly.”
The audience was then treated to a story that couldn’t be touched by any Hallmark Christmas Special movie. Deaduri Gales told of her first Christmas after losing her mother and father within a year of each other. A then 10-year old Deaduri went to live with her aunt and uncle and a cousin who became her “instant sister.” After some months of initial disagreements, Deaduri and her cousin bonded over finding the hidden presents and a visit from a “bilingual, tipsy” and not-so-well-disguised Santa. While the girls knew it was their uncle, they, along with the rest of the family and even the elderly neighbors were “caught up in the magic” of Christmas and believed, right there on the front yard.
Having quickly returned to their seats, the audience was ready for the last two stories. Emmett Gross’ stories were not about gifts, but were offered up as gifts to the audience for use as their own, should they ever want to use them. A generous man, Emmett handed out three glowing tales of his own personal embarrassment: getting stuck in the baby swing at a park at 12-years old; randomly vomiting all over himself as a Junior in high school; and not-so-brilliant idea of giving the finger when featured on the hockey game Jumbotron.
Lisa Gatewood wrapped up the evening with the tale of her tangle with the Girl Scouts of America and a real desperate housewife. An under-privileged girl living in White Fish Bay, Lisa’s grandparents gave her the gift of Brownie handbook, Brownie sash and the fees to join. Thrilled to be aboard the “mother ship” of grade school social activities, she eventually realized that the troop leader was deliberately delaying her badge acquisitions thus preventing her from continuing on in the organization. Her one and only “Math Fun” badge, however, could not begin to serve her the way the life lessons she learned from the experience have.
It’s hard when you’re having fun on Christmas Eve to be told that you must go to bed in order for Santa to come. At the end of the night, all the stories were told but the audience lingered just a while, hoping to catch a little something more. Luckily, we need only wait a month for more gifts. See you January 11 at Stonefly Brewing Co.!