Month: May 2011

John Lemley, the famed voice of WABE’s City Cafe, stopped by the Wren’s Nest the other day to talk about memory in museums.

Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit Carved out of Wood

Because, as we surely all know by now, “memory” is the theme of this year’s International Museum Day. City Cafe is doing it up right — all this week they’ll interview plenty of other folks about memory in Atlanta’s museums.

John and I talked about my favorite artifact in the Wren’s Nest, pictured above and below. Brer Fox escorts Brer Rabbit to jail for stealing vegetables, and Brer Rabbit drops the evidence along the way. It’s an intricate Bavarian wood carving from the early 1880s. Plus, their heads pop off to better use as a humidor for tobacco.

The piece illustrates just how revolutionary these African American folktales really were. It was the first time animals walked, talked, dressed, and sassed like humans in American literature. Uncle Remus was like Aesop 2.0.

These stories were also the first serialized narrative in children’s fiction, where the animals exist in a kind of alternate universe. There’s no beginning, middle or end to the story. Brer Rabbit was like jumping from Turner and Hooch to The Wire overnight. It’s no wonder Harris had received this gift from Bavaria about 18 months after Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings debuted.

I’ll spare you more. That’s where City Cafe’s “A Visit to the Wren’s Nest” comes in.

Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox Headless

Today the Atlanta Opera announced its very first commissioned work—a children’s opera called Rabbit Tales. And wouldn’t you know, it’s based on the Uncle Remus stories.

The first ever commission by the Atlanta Opera
We’re stoked.

Amber and I have worked with with the Atlanta Opera staff over the past few months to develop the vision for the production.

Librettist and playwright Madeleine St. Romain will weave stories from Native American, African, and Cajun folklore. The score, written by composer Nicole Chamberlain, will reflect those traditions.

The premier of the show will kick off National Opera Week right here at the Wren’s Nest on October 29th.

Rabbit Tales will tour elementary schools throughout Georgia in October and November of 2011 and also in February and March of 2012. Schools will have the option of including a storytelling performance from one of the Wren’s Nest Ramblers to complement the four-person opera.

Want Rabbit Tales at your school? Contact opera genius and good person Emmalee Iden — 404-881-8883 or

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