TEEN AMBASSADOR: ZANE COX | FEBRUARY 2, 2017
Since the human race first came into existence, storytelling has always been an art that can be appreciated by anyone. Any good story can often disconnect you with reality, and take you to far-off places whether they be folk tales or real-life adventures. Of course, the story itself is only half the equation – the other half is the person telling it. Some storytellers have the power to whisk listeners away simply with the power of a wide vocabulary, distinct facial expressions, and dynamic gestures. In recent years, storytelling has worked its way into modern media such as radio and podcasts, and The Moth is no exception. Founded in 1997, The Moth is now one of the most successful and well-known storytelling organizations in the country. Their outlets include a popular podcast, a live stage show that started at the organization’s creation (The Moth Mainstage), and radio show created in 2009 (The Moth Radio Hour).
The Moth Mainstage began coming to the Zeiterion in February of 2016, and has been sold out every time. Five storytellers were present during this year’s visit, each from vastly different places. One element of The Moth Mainstage is the presence of a different theme during every performance, and this time the theme was “Between Worlds”. A question is also asked to every storyteller before the show, with this show’s question being “When was a time you were caught between a rock and a hard place”? The responses were varied, ranging from choosing between desserts when not dieting to having the middle seat on an airplane.
After a brief violin piece by musician Tatiana Hargreaves, host Dan Kennedy introduced the first storyteller, Molly Kendall. Kendall told a humorous story about going to a restaurant in New York with her future husband – with no clothes on save for boots and a trench coat. The next storyteller was Dan Turpin, with a story about being held at gunpoint after bringing his mother home from the hospital. When the intruder left, Turpin decided to chase him down the highway, but the police had already resolved the situation. The next person up to the mic was New York-based Chris Herbert, who told a story about setting up living arrangements for the visit of the Libyan politician Muammar Gaddafi. The story was a Rube Goldberg-like chain of events, beginning with Gaddafi refusing to stay in a high-rise hotel, and culminating with Herbert and his assistant renting Gaddafi a house from soon-to-be President of the United States, Donald Trump.
Host Dan Kennedy got in on the action himself, telling of his own past experience – aiming to get a tan to impress his girlfriend, Kennedy took a nap on the beach for what he initially believed was only 45 minutes, and quickly found out was actually almost 13 hours. Oakland mother Meg Ferrill discussed her desire to have raise a child with her wife, and the strange journey she took to find a proper donor so that the baby could be conceived biologically. Finally, South Sudan refugee Abeny Kucha talked of her experiences when she first fled to the United States. These experiences included a new language, new food, and mistaking a doorbell for a fire alarm.
“Between Worlds” – one might ask themselves what this simple phrase truly means. I myself wondered at the beginning, but gradually I began to realize that the meaning of the phrase shares the same ideology that so many other story themes at The Moth have – there is no one correct answer. Asking five storytellers to tell of an experience in their life that relates in some way to a vague phrase will more often than not get you five different answers – that to me is one of the most beautiful parts of storytelling. Older folks will likely have more stories to tell, given that they’ve probably seen more, but the younger ones are never absent – just because you haven’t had as much experience as another person in life doesn’t mean you don’t have your fair share of stories, too. This is what I enjoy most about the art, and what I think The Moth’s underlying message is – storytelling knows no color, gender, age, or religion. No matter who you are, you too can be at one of The Moth’s many venues, and tell stories of your very own past. That to me is what true art is about.
Nevertheless, The Moth is still one of my favorite new shows at the Zeiterion. Every story I’ve heard – whether it be in the podcast, radio hour, or at The Moth Mainstage – has been a fantastic one. I hope The Moth will continue to inspire more people around the country and around the world to tell stories, and I certainly hope to see The Moth again at the Zeiterion next year.