Meet “Jump Off A Cliff” Storyteller Emma Vrabel

High school is hard enough, but for 14-year-old Emma Vrabel, who has albinism, moving cross-country and starting at a new school meant self-advocating all over again. On Friday, November 3, Emma will step onto the Oral Fixation stage and bring us along with her on her odyssey of discovery.

Emma Vrabel is an avid reader, writer, listener, and performer. She first heard spoken word live about a year ago. Since then, performing and hearing spoken word stories and poetry has become one of the biggest elements of her life. Emma is a martial artist with two black belts. She lives in Keller and is a freshman in high school.

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Meet “Jump Off A Cliff” Storyteller Anjelica Ruiz

Searching for meaning and spiritual guidance, Anjelica Ruiz found a home in Judaism, which meant going against her mother’s wishes and abandoning the faith of her childhood. Undergoing an ancient Jewish ritual, however, she finds new strength. On November 3, Anjelica steps onto the Oral Fixation stage in “Jump Off A Cliff,” and takes us along on her spiritual quest.

A native Dallasite, Anjelica N. Ruiz jumps at any opportunity to leave the state and travel. She can often be found at Temple Emanu-El, where she works full-time and teaches on Sundays. In her free time, she is usually reading, daydreaming, or writing for her blog, The Wondering Jew.

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Meet “Jump Off A Cliff” Storyteller Dawynn Edwards

After a childhood of body shaming that included awkward P.E. and a girdle, Dawynn Edwards embraced herself and stayed active. Having already conquered tap dancing and hula hooping, she decided to raise the stakes. On November 3, she’ll take the Oral Fixation stage in “Jump Off A Cliff” and share some momentous moments from Rock Climbing 101.

Dawynn Edwards sporadically writes poetry and short stories when not maintaining the facade of a gainfully employed adult. She hopes to share her musings with a larger audience while traveling the world. Dawynn lives with her partner in Bedford, Texas, where they enjoy planning adventures and exploring local entertainment.

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Meet “Jump Off A Cliff” Storyteller Amy Pengra Button

Dashing through an airport, Amy Pengra Button received the worst news imaginable: the untimely death of her brother, Moss. Missing his presence, she makes a bold choice in dealing with her grief. On Friday, November 3, in “Jump Off A Cliff,” Amy takes the Oral Fixation audience on that journey with her.

Amy Pengra Button’s stories have appeared in Marie Claire and the Los Angeles Times among others. After nine years with Warner Bros. in LA, she returned to Texas to be closer to family and queso. She writes for Freeman, an event experience company, and holds degrees from USC and TCU.

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Introducing Shiloh Venable, “Out From Under The Rug” storyteller

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Shiloh’s life has changed immensely since she was a college student. She came out of the closet to her family and friends, and now she is sharing her abortion story live, when the Austin “Out From Under The Rug” cast takes the Zach Theatre stage.

Shiloh Venable is a native Texan, a feminist, an Aggie, and an amateur healthy eater. She loves her finacée and her pups, and can’t get enough of improv comedy or road trips. If you can’t find her in her kitchen, look for your nearest soapbox, and there she’ll be.

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Introducing Mayela Gutknecht, “Out From Under The Rug” storyteller

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After having two abortions, each at a different stage of her life, Mayela reflects on her life and her choices. Hear her brave story in “Out From Under The Rug.”

Mayela Gutknect has a Master’s degree in Advanced Public Health Nursing from the University of California, San Francisco and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Beloit College, Wisconsin. As a Public Health Nurse in San Francisco, she home visits with pregnant women and mothers with newborns to promote safety, bonding, and breastfeeding.

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Introducing Elise Bilodeau, “Out From Under The Rug” storyteller

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When she was 16, Elise Bilodeau had no idea what her future would look like. Later this month, she’ll take the Oral Fixation stage in “Out From Under The Rug” to share her story of how an experience she had as a teenager changed her life.

Elise Bilodeau is a transient liberal, who mistakenly made Dallas home. She works at an abortion clinic and volunteers with TEA Fund and DARCC. Her favorite acquisitions while living in the South include an affliction for cheese fries, a dog named Boo, tattoos, and an appreciation for “family” near and far.

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Introducing Valerie R. Peterson, “Out From Under The Rug” storyteller

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After learning that the baby she is carrying has a condition that is 100% incompatible with life, Valerie R. Peterson chooses abortion. Her experience was complicated by Texas’s HB2 legislation, which led her to become an advocate for women’s reproductive rights. Hear her story in “Out From Under The Rug.”

Dr. Valerie R. Peterson was born and raised in Chicago. New to Texas, Valerie has personally experienced the effects of House Bill 2, which limited women’s access to abortion services. Valerie’s mantras are “just watch me” and “I Believe, I Trust, I Let Go.” She currently resides in Austin.

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Introducing Scott Ross, “Out From Under The Rug” storyteller

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Scott Ross and his wife, Jeni, experienced the tragedy of a medically induced abortion due to fetal anomaly. Hear how this experience forever changed his life in “Out From Under The Rug.”

Scott Ross is a tech professional and father of three young daughters. He has lived in Austin for seven years with his wife, Jeni. He grew up in New Jersey, went to school at Boston University, and has lived in New York and San Francisco. He spends too much time on sports and making jokes.

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Introducing Sherry Merfish, “Out From Under The Rug” storyteller

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In 1972, before the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, Sherry Merfish had an abortion at a clinic in New Mexico–the only state to offer an exception to U.S. anti-abortion laws. Hear her personal story in “Out From Under The Rug.”

Sherry Merfish has had a long career in advocacy and fundraising. Sherry holds a B.A. from the University of Texas, a M.A. in American Studies from USC, and a J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center. Sherry lives in Houston despite an extreme dislike of both mosquitoes and heat. She and her husband, Gerald, are the proud parents of two daughters, Brett and Beth. 

Fixated Facts:

What would you title the autobiography of your life? Champion of Women and Girls.

What inspired you to participate in Oral Fixation? I am committed to social change in a variety of ways. I wholeheartedly believe in advocating for women to emerge from the shadows to reclaim their reproductive history and the choices they have made. It’s harder to hate up close, once people identify an abortion story with a person they know, respect, and love.

What is your favorite smell? Simmering chicken soup with matzo balls, because it evokes memories of my maternal grandmother, Yetta, who modeled boundless love.

Who is your favorite cartoon character? Growing up in the 1950s, Brenda Starr stood out, because she actually had adventures and an occupation as a reporter!

Sneak peak: “The momentous, landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which would make abortion legal and which was argued courageously by Sarah Weddington, was mere months away. But as far as my situation was concerned, the decades of statutes criminalizing abortion were very much in effect.”

Don’t miss Sherry perform on the Oral Fixation stage in the “Out From Under The Rug” Austin show on Monday, October 10th.

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