The NPR personal storytelling program, The Moth, made its Miami debut in January. Hailing from New York, the radio hour dates back to 1997, the creation of poet and novelist, George Dawes Green. He wanted to recreate the feeling of his childhood, of summer nights in spent in Georgia, where he and his friends told stories surrounded by fluttering moths attracted to the light. Now, there's a weekly podcast, a national public radio show, The Moth Radio Hour, and a 2013 anthology, The Moth: 50 True Stories.
For years, WLRN has broadcast The Moth Radio Hour and they noticed that there was a demand for the StorySLAMs here. The Moth joined forces with WLRN in a media partnership to make it a reality.
“I became involved in The Moth because, as a devout public radio listener and a former WLRN journalist, I was connected with the folks there,” says Trina Sargalski, Miami’s producer. “It was a perfect opportunity for someone who loves both great stories and meeting new people — kind of like hosting a monthly party with sparkling conversation each month, with tons of support from The Moth headquarters crew in NYC.”
The events have been held once monthly since January at The Stage and have included such topics as Firsts, Love Hurts, Scars, and Fool. But since The Stage is closing its Design District location next month, The Moth will likely announce a new home.
In the past, the event usually begins at 7 p.m. and runs, at most, two hours. Guests who wish to speak sign up at registration. Ten names are then chosen out of a bag, at random. Speakers have five minutes to tell their story. Three groups of judges are also chosen at random for scoring, which is based on a simple 1-10 numerical scale. In between, the host keeps the mood lively. Every month’s winner will return for the city’s GrandSLAM competition in early 2016.
Sargalski tapped local bar manager and performer Jaren Rivas for our host. “Two days before the first Moth event, Trina sent me a text inquiring if I wanted to come in and tell a story. I did and it turned out to be an impromptu trial,” says Rivas. Organizers from New York were in the audience and they gave the final green light.
A devoted follower of the radio show from a young age, Rivas thoroughly understands the organization’s mission. “Really, the point of me being there is to let others tell their story, provide a comfortable environment, maintain order, and raise enthusiasm. The most surprising bit of it is that I’ve been so inspired by everyone on stage,” says Rivas. “Getting people to speak in Miami is hard and The Moth is trying to change that.”
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But, this isn’t Miami’s first rodeo with the spoken word. Stone Groove and Words and Wine Poetry were early pioneers of the local movement. The scene is changing, however, especially with initiatives and organizations like O, Miami, Miami Light Project, and Lip Service.
First timers: don't be scared of the judges and scoring system. It dates back to the beginnings of poetry slam at the Get Me High Lounge in Chicago. “Art is a struggle and this is more mainstream. We don’t have trouble getting people, but we have trouble getting speakers,” says Rivas. The only time there have been low score has to do with not being on topic. “You have to remember this is a compassionate bubble.”
Okay, Miami let’s get you talking.
The Moth Miami is open to the public, but requires prior online registration and purchase of a ticket ($8). The next event, Adventure, is tentatively scheduled for May 13 at 7 p.m. You can buy tickets for this event at themoth.org/events/event/adventure-14.