If you’re a fan of This American Life, radio, or personal essays, you’ll want to know about The Moth, a live, non-profit storytelling event held in New York City. The Moth was founded in 1997 by George Dawes Green, a writer from Georgia who had relocated to New York. He and a group of friends at home used to gather together on his friend Wanda’s porch to share stories, and he wanted to recreate that close sense of connection in his new life. So, he invited friends to his New York living room to recreate story hour, and the event gradually grew into larger and larger venues. Currently, The Moth holds eight ongoing programs and has told over 3,000 stories to over 100,000 people.
Famous participants include Jonathan Ames, Lewis Black, Margaret Cho, Simon Doonan, Candace Bushnell, Spalding Gray, John Cameron Mitchell, Susan Orlean, Dan Savage, Suzanne Vega, and many others. The Moth Outreach Program “offers storytelling workshops to students and marginalized adults living in New York City,” and works “with high school-age teens from underserved communities and with adults in rehabilitation and training programs, including homeless men and women, recently released prisoners, and people recovering from substance abuse.” Other events include “StorySLAMS” that take place in Chicago, LA, and Detroit, and offer the public a chance to tell their stories in front of an audience, guided by a host.
You can listen to stories on their website here, which is both a wonderful alternative to watching TV this evening and a pleasurable way to pass the time while cooking or folding laundry. I’m a big reader of personal essays (like David Rakoff, Sloane Crossley, and Jill Soloway, to name a handful), so this is right up my alley. It’s also a chance to appreciate a narrative form I enjoy in a different medium, and a reminder of the importance of oral tradition and the community aspects of storytelling. It exposes unexpected layers to hear the emotional voice of the storyteller and the participatory reaction of the audience members, and how each story is alternatively touching, raw, and usually very funny.
I’ve only just started to explore the stories available on the website myself, but if you have the opportunity to listen to a few and recommend your favorites, I am all ears.