Month: October 2008

First of all, Happy Halloween!  I hope you’re having a spooktacular day.  We totally are.

The Howard School visited today, and brought a hearty amount of awesomeness in the form of 21 second graders (we think).  They were a hoot.

Howard School students in their Protect the Nest shirts

Nannie and Jeri gave them a tour of the Wren’s Nest, Donald gave them a performance of the Brer Rabbit stories, and I provided them with a mess of Brer Lion t-shirts.  Lain sat around and put his feet up.

In return, the kids performed their own versions of the Brer Rabbit stories on our stage.

The Howard School show goes on!

The children had crafted papier-mâché masks of various characters and “acted along” as their teachers read from The Classic Tales of Brer Rabbit.

Here’s one of the masks, up close and personal.

Howard School Papier Mache mask of Brer Rabbit

Below is Brer Rabbit (and family–you can understand the need for poetic license when you have 21 fidgety players) stumbling upon the tar baby.

Brer Rabbit (and family) stumble across the tar baby

Pretty convincing, if I do say so.

My favorite part of the performances were when the students, instructed to repeat after their teacher, would boisterously yell stage directions.  For example:

TEACHER: (with repeat-after-me emphasis) And then Brer Fox said, puffing up his chest, “I’m–”

2-3 CHILDREN: (with passion) PUFFING UP HIS CHEST!

TEACHER: (chuckling) I’m going to cook you in a stew!

1 CHILD: (timidly) I’m going to cook you in a stew?

I loved it.  Thanks for a great day, Howard School!

One of our esteemed storytellers, Donald Griffin, has been chosen for a totally prestigious fellowship.  Not to brag or anything.

Donald was chosen amongst actors from all over the country to be part of the Ten-Chimney Foundation’s Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program.  In order to be considered, you must be nominated, which Donald was by the Alliance Theatre.

Here’s his blurb:

Donald Griffin Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship Program

Well said, Susan Booth.  Here’s Donald doing his Wren’s Nest thing–

The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story

He’s not just Susan’s secret weapon!

Help us congratulate Donald on his achievement.  He gets to go to Wisconsin with a stipend, for goodness sake!

Remember that time that the Wren’s Nest received mail for the one and only Mr. Steve Harvey, care of Grown Folks Radio?

We do.  Because IT JUST HAPPENED!

Steve Harvey's Mail Arrives at the Wren's Nest

You’ll note that the address is ours, but neither Steve Harvey nor Grown Folks Radio reside here.  Well, at least not today.

To our knowledge, Mr. Harvey has not requested that all of his mail be sent here.  Which is not to say that we’re not up for it, by the way.  I bet he gets all sorts of promotional mugs.

In the meantime, to our undoubtedly huge readership at 102.5fm: want to come pick this up?

Rudy Ray Moore–comedian, actor, singer, and the “godfather of rap”–passed away last week.  He was 81.

Remember Dolemite?

Dolemite Starring Rudy Ray Moore the Godfather of Rap

That’s Rudy Ray Moore.

On Friday, the New York Times published his obituary.  After chronicling some of his more foul-mouthed and explicit exploits, the obit points out–

Mr. Moore could be said to represent a profound strand of African-American folk art. One of his standard stories concerns a monkey who uses his wiles and an accommodating elephant to fool a lion. The tale, which originated in West Africa, became a basis for an influential study by the Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., “The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism.”

In one of his few brushes with a national audience, Mr. Moore, in a startlingly cleaned-up version, told the story on “The Arsenio Hall Show” in the early 1990s. Other characters he described were new, almost always dirtier renderings in the tradition of trickster stories represented by Brer Rabbit and the cunning slave John, who outwitted his master to win freedom. (emphasis mine)

If we ever become museum with a curator and extra space, maybe we could develop an exhibit that explores Brer Rabbit’s influence in blaxploitation films and hip hop.

There’s quite a bit, really.  From Brer Rabbit of Coonskin to B-Rabbit of 8 Mile, the influence of the trickster using his wits and his words is hard to underestimate in hip hop and its forbears.

And though Rudy Ray Moore may have been a little more vulgar than the folktales he updated, let’s not forget that Brer Rabbit himself was no saint.
For example, consider Brer Rabbit’s frequent visits to the house of “Miss Meadows and de gals.”

Miss Meadows and de Gals

Miss Meadows and the gals live together in one house, have no visible means of support, and are often courted by Brer Rabbit, despite the Misses and Little Rabs at home. Smoking cigars and playing piano weren’t the only things they were doing, I’m sure.

When my mom asked me to help my sister drive to Salt Lake City in November, I took it as an opportunity to geek out like whoa.

While I’m happy to help Susie and her dog Hazel get to Salt Lake City, I’m mostly excited to see as many house museums as possible along the way.  I even mapped some out.

House Museums from Atlanta to Salt Lake City

You can find the full map here with descriptions and pictures of each museum.

The basic plan is to visit house museums in and around Nashville, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Denver.

If I can find cool house museums in Topeka, Lawrence, and Manhattan, Kansas, we’ll cut across that way.  Otherwise, I have not been to Iowa or Nebraska, so we’ll stop in Omaha and Lincoln.

Here are the burning questions at this point–

  1. Which are the best house museums along the way?  The worst?
  2. How can we best document our story–blogging, podcasting, twittering, video recording, what?
  3. Will this be the single lamest road trip ever undertaken?
  4. What do we do with the dog when visiting house museums?

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