If you listen to NPR or are a fan of stories told out loud, then you've probably heard of The Moth. Created by poet and novelist George Dawes Green, the storytelling program has been around for more than a decade. “I started The Moth in New York in 1997 and when I did, I just remembered my youth in St. Simons Island, Georgia,” says Green. “I remembered that porch and [my friend] Wanda, and that sort of provided me with inspiration.”
Green wanted to recreate the feeling of nights spent spinning yarns talking with friends. “We were born liars, so I suspect that a lot of the stories were somewhat fictional, but they were always meant to be true,” Green says. “We always told everybody they were true. But in the end, if they weren’t persuasive, they wouldn’t work.”
Since the early days, The Moth has come a long way. Now, there’s a weekly podcast, Moth StorySlam’s, programs with high schoolers, and perhaps the most anticipated of all, the Moth Mainstage, which features “stories by luminaries in the arts and sciences, newsmakers and news breakers, and everyday heroes (and even a few reformed villains).” On Thursday night, Green will be part of the group performing under the theme of “Bait and Switch.”
“Usually there is a connection between the theme and the place that we’re going to and when we’re on tour we’ll try to choose a more general theme,” said Green. “Miami wouldn’t be the right place to do a night of Vietnam stories for example. Sometimes we do very specific themes and those are amazing in the way they inspire everyone in the crowd.”
And while the event in Miami is set to take place in the Olympia Theater, venues can vary from schools to boats and perhaps most memorably, at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. “You had to walk in, past the tombs for about twenty minutes and then everyone gathered around in the shadow of all these graves,” Green said. “It was a beautiful venue for stories. They weren’t about dying so much as they were about living.”
In terms of who tells the stories, they’ve experimented with many different ages and groups. “We found that high school students can be amazing,” said Green. “I just love the way that whatever heartbreaking thing they’re doing or experiencing, they seem to adjust to it so comfortably and when they pull back to tell the stories they’re amazed at themselves as well.”
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With such a wide range of voices and locales under their belt, the question remains: What next?
“We’re experimenting; I’m personally working with shorter stories, going around the country and recording ones that are only a minute-and-a-half long and using them as portraits of these people," said Green. "We also use these stories sometimes in our shows and that’s been fun. We’re also expanding and going overseas and we’ve been talking with a group about going into areas of conflict and letting different sides have representatives tell their stories as a way to bring people together. So that may be our next big project.”
Bait and Switch: The Moth MainStage
Thursday, October 22, at 7:30 p.m. at the Olympia Theater, 174 E Flagler St., Miami. All net proceeds from this event go to support WLRN Public Media. Tickets range from $35-$150. Call 305-374-2444 or visit olympiatheater.org.
Follow Dana De Greff on Twitter.