December 7, 2012

The Moth on The Road

Quick! Grab a seat! The Moth is returning!

After performing to an enthusiastic Austin crowd during last year's season, The Moth is back on the road and swooping into the theatre again this year for another round. For those of you who don't know, I'm not talking about bugs. You can put away that fly swatter and bag of moth balls; your wool sweater is safe at The Paramount.

So then, what exactly is The Moth?

In a nutshell, they are storytellers. The Moth is a non-profit group dedicated to the craft of the narrative. Since its creation fifteen years ago, the organization has developed many avenues for their brand of storytelling, including: open mic competitions, podcasts and a radio show. The flagship program, "The Moth Mainstage," is a pillar of the New York literary scene and tours around the country as "The Moth on The Road."

So what happens?

During a Moth show, a few different raconteurs will take the stage and tell stories revolving around a particular theme All are true stories told live to the audience with no notes, but the way they're crafted and shaped actually makes the tales become alive. As you listen, you find yourself becoming more immersed and you feel the connection to something greater the just the words. it's more than just oration on stage, it's a communal work of art that engages you like few other things can.

To me, it brings to mind Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales,"where a collection of stories can ultimately be about something greater than the sum of its parts. On stage, The Moth is, in essence, the very core of storytelling itself. It's just an anecdotalist and the audience. No notes, no teleprompter, just a voice and the power of the story.

But don't just take my word for it. If you have a moment, partake of these words...

According to The Moth's website, the evening's theme will be "Nine Lives." I'm certain it will not just be stories about cats. What I am uncertain about is how these stories will break down the barriers we have built around us. I'm intensely curious to see an audience engaged with the orator and then stripped down to a bare sense of humanity.

And afterwards, what anecdotes will it conjure in your own mind? How will you react? With shock? With awe? With reverence? Or all of the above?

And so it was that later
As the Miller told his tale,
That her face at first just ghostly
Turned a whiter shade of pale.

Small shout out to Chaucer aside, these Procol Harem song lyrics (from 1967) always remind me that the power of a story can elicit strong reactions regardless of the audience and its preconceived notions. To some it may be non-sensical, but to others will comprehend, unlocking a trove of treasures within ourselves.

Inside each and every one of us is a storyteller. The Moth reminds us that we all have our tales, lessons and fables accumulated inside of us. As a society, we also are greater than the sum of our parts. One of the most basic of humanities is the art of storytelling, and one of the most precious gifts we can give is sharing those stories with one another. These narratives can make us laugh, cry, gasp or recoil, but every one has the ability to bind us all. You never know what story will have the ability to make you pause or even alter your world view.

Great stories also will always take on a life of their own. What tales from this night will you take into your possession? When you retell it to friends, colleagues and family, what stamp will you put upon it? Once the baton is passed orally, a story is like a ball of modeling clay; shaped by all hands that touch it and grasp onto it. And when they hear you, they may very well grasp onto it and share it as well. The stories are rich and organic from the people it touches and inspires. When a fascinating story begins we are apt to stop and pay attention. No matter the stories' content, we can all be captivated and drawn in. Dare I say it? You know, like... well, a moth to a flame.

The Moth flies into The Paramount Theatre on Friday, December 14th. Doors open at 7:00 p.m., and the stories start at 8:00.