THE MOTH: BRINGING A COMMUNITY TOGETHER,
ONE STORY AT A TIME

A READING REVIEW – CREATIVE NONFICTION

BY: GILLIAN REIMANN, R. AWWAL, AND RYAN JONES

On October 30, 2017, the doors of Freight and Salvage opened to a crowd of artists, teachers,
families, and community members, all eager for The Moth to begin. The Moth’s mission
statement is “to promote the art and craft of storytelling and to honor and celebrate the diversity
and commonality of human experience.” The room was filled with several hundred who shared
this vision, the environment bubbling with creativity and positivity. It was a community brought
together — friends and strangers alike — to converse and share stories, whether they were first
timers or seasoned veterans. The audience collected strips of paper that featured the theme for
the night: “a time when money brought you true happiness.” These little anecdotes were read
between acts, allowing the audience to participate. When the lights dimmed, host Corey Rosen
welcomed the crowd.

For newcomers, Rosen introduced the story slam format and the open mic style where anyone
can com
e and participate. Two sets of five storytellers split the show with a 15-minute break in
the middle for food and drinks. Each person got five minutes to tell their tale and show their
craft, a gong sounding at the end. Judges, chosen at random from the crowd, ranked the stories
on a scale from one to ten. The scores were revealed and written on the whiteboard next to the
storyteller’s name, and then it began again. Rosen warmed up the audience with his own
humorous personal anecdotes about money. Then the judges picked names from those who
volunteered, and the show went on.

Although stories differed from participant to participant and ranged from comedic to more
serious topics, a common theme of family was woven into most pieces. The competition began
with an endearing piece about sibling rivalry, eliciting feelings of nostalgia. Another storyteller
took a comedic angle on the same topic to show how money changes both those who have it and
those who do not. Other participants told stories about giving, not having enough money, and
coming into unexpected fortune through a traumatic experience with fraudulent health care
providers. A young man dazzled the audience with a spitfire spoken-word performance about
systematic racism and police brutality. Finally, the last competitor detailed her hilarious journey
of trying to buy water on a hot day, winning the contest with her exaggerated delivery. The room
was a bullet train of emotions, stopping between raucous laughter, gasps of surprise, and tears of
sympathy, sometimes within moments of each other.

When the winner of the night, Eva Schlesinger, was asked what the Moth meant to her, she said,
“I love the Moth because of the great community and the fact that anyone and everyone can be
seen and heard.” This was a community where the performances captivated the audience and
feelings of camaraderie spread throughout the auditorium.

It was that feeling of companionship that reminded us why people attend live storytelling events.
In a society governed by the internet and the newest model of smartphones, storytelling is a
unique method of establishing an intimate exchange. The spoken word is one soul interacting
with another. When asked what storytelling at the Moth means to him, Corey Rosen, the host of
the night, said, “It’s a community-oriented event that wants people to connect as neighbors and
citizens.” This is what makes storytelling such an art form, its capacity to bind people together
through their commonalities. Although the themes and stories may change, the atmosphere of
community remains the same, preserving the tradition and power of the spoken form.

 


 

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© MARY: A Journal of New Writing, 2017