The Moth is one of my very favorite NPR shows. Every Saturday when it’s on I try to be in my car or near a radio so I can listen to people tell their stories. Some of them are moving, some of them are funny, and some of them stay with me for much longer than I care to admit.
As taken from The Moth website: The Moth was started by the poet George Dawes Green. He wanted to recreate, in New York, the feeling of sultry summer evenings in his native Georgia, where he and his friends would gather on a friend’s porch to share spellbinding tales. There was a hole in the screen which let in moths that were attracted to the light, and the group started calling themselves The Moths. Now there are Moth events all over and audiences are drawn to the stories, like moths to a flame.
There are a number of Moth events: Mainstages feature speakers that develop and shape their stories with Moth directors. One of my favorite Mainstage speakers was Darryl “DMC” McDaniels (of Run-DMC fame) telling the story of how singer Sarah McLachlan saved his life. You can listen to the performance here.
But the Moth StorySLAMS are my absolute favorite. I look forward to these on both the Moth Radio Hour and the Podcast because these are shows that are held at bars/restaurants/coffee shops around the world. Regular people show up, drop their name in a hat and, if chosen, stand up to tell their story. They are open to absolutely anyone with a five-minute story to share on the night’s theme. Oh, and it has to be done BY MEMORY!
Side bar: can you imagine walking into a bar and getting up on stage to tell a story by heart in front of complete strangers? Of course, it doesn’t have to be a deep, personal story, but it does have to be true. And the deep, personal ones are the better ones anyway.
Back to StorySlams. 10 people are chosen at each Slam to tell their story and those stories are then scored by Moth judges (the next time I go, I’m aiming to be a judge). The winners of the Slams will be asked to attend a GrandSLAM and one person will be crowned winner of storytelling in Chicago (or wherever your Slams might be located).
A few weeks ago I was catching up on some podcasts and I heard an advertisement for a GrandSLAM happening in Chicago. I immediately looked it up, realized that I had no plans, purchased 2 tickets and called my mom (another Moth fanatic) to tell her we were going (happy Mother’s Day mom!). Last Monday, we headed to Las Tablas for a delicious Columbian dinner and then went to the Athenaeum Theatre to see the show.
The show was hosted by Don Hall, Director of WBEZ events, and Tyler Greene, Chicago StorySLAM producer and the theme was “Now or Never”. The show started with a beautiful solo by violinist Alida Lacosse, and then the stories began. Obviously with a theme like Now or Never, the stories are going to vary greatly – from a woman who realized the need to let go of her controlling tendencies while hanging upside down on the side of a cliff to a man who had to stop letting the negative things he had been told determine the outcome of his life. Some of the stories were heartbreaking (one woman told the story of her family being torn apart after her father’s death because she was the only family member left out of his will), some of the stories were hilarious (a man told the story about the time he thought his mother was going to send him to jail at 7-years-old because he stole a boot for his Superman action figure). My favorite story, and the storyteller that won, was about a woman’s struggle to accept her mother’s recent death while learning that (1) her dad had a new girlfriend, (2) this girlfriend wasn’t actually so new and they had been having an affair for 15 years, and (3) this girlfriend had been her mother’s best friend. She was funny, raw, and so captivating that you could have heard a pin drop in that theater.
As a notoriously bad storyteller, I find the art of storytelling fascinating. I hope to attend more Moth events thoughout Chicago. And who knows…maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to actually get on stage (but let’s not count on it).