by Ex Fabula bloggers Hanna Gichard and Kimberly M. Ousley

They came. They saw. They trusted.

Ex Fabula started Season 5 on Tuesday, October 15th at the Times Cinema with funny, bittersweet, and heartfelt tales on the theme of “Trust Me”. 

Amie Losi started us off with a heartwarming tale about the strange magic of a cat who was, well, “kind of an asshole.” Amie had always had an adversarial relationship with the family cat, Gus, whom she lovingly referred to as “walrus cat” when a urinary blockage leaves him unable to use his back legs. When Amie discovered her teenage son Alex was using Gus’s struggles as inspiration to get through his outpatient therapy, Amie made it her mission to smother walrus cat in love. Soon, Gus was cuddling with Alex every day…and Alex was getting better, eventually having the best year of his life. The pair’s bond was so strong that, when Gus eventually lost all 4 legs, Amie put her trust in Alex to make the call of when it was time to let Gus go. It was hard, but Alex eventually made that call, and Amie assured us that the family will love him forever.

Next, honest-faced Eryn Longstaff takes us to a city bus, where she is on the way back to her college dorms one night after work and notices that someone has left a giant camera on one of the seats! Well, this being the age where bigger does NOT equal better, Eryn figures it’s a piece of crap and promptly takes it to her dorm to return to security. Case closed, right? Well, a month later she is at Rocky Horror Picture Show with her friends when she hears a drag queen dressed like the mother from Married with Children shriek out her name in recognition. It turns out he was the owner of the camera from the bus! He was so grateful to have it back that he got Eryn’s information from the security officer and looked her up on Facebook! He extended his gratitude by giving Eryn and all her friends care packages for that night’s show. But Eryn learned that trustworthiness does have a price: that piece of crap camera she turned in was actually worth $2000!

Andrew Steeves delighted the audience with the tale of his journey into holy, trusting matrimony. Andrew loved his wife-to-be so much that he proposed after 4 months of dating. She accepted, and they decided to have a three-year engagement so that they could build the trust necessary for marriage. The first test of his fiancee’s trustworthiness came when Andrew’s grandpa was dying: not only did his fiancee come up to Michigan to be with him, but in a candid moment in the hospital parking lot she brought calm to the storm with her firm assurance that “it’s going to be okay.” Fast forward three months as Andrew, his fiancé, and her family are at the theater to see the movie Up. Not only is Andrew breaking down during the first ten minutes, but he squeezes his giant cup of Sprite so hard he puts a hole in the side! And as the waterworks of tears and soda gush, Andrew’s fiancé is once again there with the magic words: “it’s going to be okay.” And it was – Andrew knew she was a person he could trust, and they lived happily ever after.

Andrea Hoeschen was next, and she took our trust to a foreign land – specifically, China, where she was visiting the family of the Chinese teacher she had hosted here in the United States. The teacher’s husband didn’t drive so naturally, when he picked Andrea up at the airport she expected him to hail a taxi. Much to her surprise, he led her to a car – and got behind the wheel. As it turns out, he had gotten his license 5 months ago so he could drive them around Shanghai! It was worse than Andrea feared: as she recalls, it was just like riding with Grandma after her 2nd stroke. Things seem to be going as well as they can be in a sedan, in the truck lane, going 25 mph on the Shanghai expressway, until the car is sideswiped by a truck – and her driver keeps going! She eventually convinces him to pull over and call his wife and finally, they safely make it to their destination. On the agenda for the next day is a tour of the city. This time, they hired a driver.

Everyone should be able to trust their mothers, right? Well, unfortunately for our next storyteller, Tom Dillon, his mother’s credibility is a little spotty after the Great Thanksgiving Mint Pie Fiasco. Tom’s mother’s mint pie – mint chocolate chip ice cream in a rice krispie crust – was a reason to get excited about any family gathering. Things were going well that fateful Thanksgiving – everyone was stuffed and happy. Tom’s anticipation grew as family members brought out the desserts, one by one. But instead of a delicious mint pie, the last dessert to come out was….a pan of brownies?! Tom reluctantly trusted his mother that the brownies tasted just like mint pie, and what he got not only tasted nothing like mint pie, but “like the dirt that dirt has to clean up!” As if it couldn’t get any worse, when Tom asked his mom whether she made the brownies that he was trying not to hurt her feelings over, she said: “no, they’re from Weight Watchers!”

Mark Steidl’s story begins with him being made the executor of his father’s estate with power of attorney, and his father in the hospital. But dad had been in the hospital numerous times before, so no one was freaked out just yet. And then Mark got a call – this time it was different, and he needed to get to his father ASAP. Although the hospital staff was wonderful and consoling (when he told them he needed a punching bag, they offered up a staffer named Tim), Mark was consumed with fury that as a man, he was helpless in the face of his father’s failing health. His father had suffered a fall and needed surgery to remove a half-liter of blood from his brain. Mark vividly recalls how they popped the top off his skull, let his brain expand and shrink back in, and then put it back. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could get through 3 weeks of their father in hospice care, and Mark couldn’t have done it without his amazing sisters. As they spent a week together before their father passed, Mark knew he could put his trust in them.

Next, Dave Hendrickson takes us back to the circus. 14-year-old Dave and his buddy Butch are trying to make the most of the last week that the circus is in town by sneaking in. But their plans are thwarted by a mysterious man in a fedora who looked like a “seducer of women” and stopped them before they could get in. They follow him back to a trailer where, at a table with hypnotizing stacks of coins, he makes them an offer they can’t refuse: want to make money helping take down the circus? They could make two whole dollars – maybe even lots more! Dave and Butch daydream of being so good that they are offered jobs and get to travel with the circus. But as they work tirelessly through the night they realize: taking down a circus is hard. And exhausting. His dreams of running away with the circus fade with the setting sun and just as their energy runs out, they are finally done with their work. Their prize? One dollar. Dave learned a thing or two about poetic justice, and his trust lesson is this: if the guy looks like a con artist and a seducer of women, he probably is!

For Dana Lovrek and her sister, poverty was synonymous with reality. Their parents didn’t pursue higher education and got stuck in mediocre jobs. Her mother became weary of being the sole provider after her dad’s numerous get-rich-quick schemes never panned out. Dad eventually became a truck driver and developed a gambling addiction, while her mother turned down the dark road of alcoholism. And with the drinking came violence. Dana learned pretty quickly that she couldn’t trust either of her parents. She also knew, deep down, that she wasn’t the child her father wanted – she was a girl. Her sister, however, was a tomboy, and won over the attention and affection of their father. One memorable evening, Dana finally broke down when her Dad left with her sister. Her mom asked her what’s wrong and, when Dana resisted, assured her – you can trust me. When Dana relents and tells her mother how she feels forced to pretend she has a relationship with her father, her mother opens up and says “we’re soul sisters.” Dana is bursting with hope at finally connecting with her mother…until the next morning, when her mother doesn’t remember a thing. As heartbreaking as it was, however, Dana takes comfort in knowing she always has that moment with her mother.

Our final storyteller Mike Crowley’s mother always told him to believe in angels, but he was never really so sure. That is, until one night when he just misses going over a cliff in a motorcycle accident. In fact, as Mike gets older, his Mom tended to get smarter. When he got the call one Memorial Day that his mom was dying, he broke down. But then something miraculous happened – she started getting better. The story takes a turn when Mike finds pictures of his mother’s old boyfriend while going through her things. It turns out this old boyfriend still holds a torch for her after all these years, and even comes up to visit her. And while visiting, he suffers a heart attack! But that wasn’t enough to stop his mother from falling in love with him all over again. When they decide to get married again at age 79, Mike realizes his mother has found her own guardian angel.

While we waited in suspense for the votes to be tallied, our guest storytelling duo Andrew Anastasia and Evelyn Sempos regaled the group with their adorable and hilarious tale of trust being born in the midst of a fiasco. Evelyn spent a pretty penny to bring a group of performers to Milwaukee, hoping it would pay off by drawing the great crowd it deserved. To her dismay, the performers took the stage to a crowd of…8 people. One of those people was Andrew, fresh off a breakup and trying to impress a new date. When he happened upon Evelyn in a hallway taking out her agony on campus group fliers, one thing led to another, and the pair went from strangers pushed together by disaster to happily ever after (d’awww).
Nine unforgettable stories, but the audience had to pick one winner. In an extremely close contest, Dave Hendrickson’s sneaky circus follies won him the first spot to Season 5’s All Stars event. Congratulations, Dave! All of our storytellers did a fantastic job!

Congratulations are also in order for L. Delaney for the winning bid on our last auction item from last month’s kickoff fundraiser.

Major props to Megan McGee for her always delightful MC skills, and a big thank you to our sponsors for making Ex Fabula possible.

Last but certainly not least, we want to thank our storytellers, our audience, our volunteers, and the wonderful folks at the Times Cinema, for making “Trust Me” a night to remember. The bar has been set high for the rest of Season 5!

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