The art of storytelling has been around for thousands of years. Through generation after generation, stories have been passed down from one person to the next.
The Moth is an organization that promotes the of art of storytelling through nationwide live shows, a successful podcast and a radio show on NPR. The Moth was founded in New York City by George Dawes Green in 1997. The name “The Moth” comes from summer nights when Green and friends would share stories around a porch in St. Simon’s, Ga.
The Moth started off with the program “The Moth Mainstage,” and from its success came “The Moth StorySLAM.” The shows began in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Detroit and has expanded to bring shows to more cities nationwide, including Milwaukee.
Apart from its live shows, The Moth also produces a weekly podcast that since its launch in 2008 has been downloaded more than a million times and has featured notable storytellers and artists like Margaret Cho, Ethan Hawke, Malcom Gladwell and Moby, among others.
It also produces “The Moth’s Radio Hour,” which launched in 2009 and currently airs on more than 200 stations across the U.S.
However, despite the digital success that the organization has had in digital programs, its most notable events are the live ones that bring the community together and give everyone a chance to participate and tell their stories.
The group produces a number of live events, including the “StorySLAM” events, which are story-telling competitions open to everyone in multiple cities, including Milwaukee. The next “StorySLAM” event will take place at the Miramar Theater in Milwaukee and is sponsored by the Wisconsin Public Radio.
“When you think of StorySLAMs, think poetry slams but for true stories,” said Brandon Etcher, a digital media producer for The Moth. “Anyone who comes to the show and has a story on the theme is welcome to ‘put their name in the hat,’ so to speak.”
The theme for the March 7 StorySLAM is “Detours” and anyone who has a story relating to “detours” is welcome onstage to tell their story which has to be five minutes without notes. The group encourages those wishing to participate to write out and practice the story before hand. Only 10 names from the hat are selected to participate per show.
If you’re not selected to participate, there’s a chance to try again since The Moth will be producing shows once a month from March until June at the Miramar Theater in Milwaukee. As long as you have a story prepared and are ready, there’s nothing that discourages audience members to get onstage from trying again.
Judging the stories are audience members who simply have to ask to be selected to judge. However, judges have a criteria to judge on including time, topic, story and whether it is a true story.
“Judges, also selected from the audience, score the stories Olympic-style on a variety of criteria – whether it was on time, an actual story with a beginning middle and end,” said Etcher.
The winners of each StorySLAM will then be asked to come back to perform at a biannual championship Grand Slam competition.
“At the end of the night, the person with the highest overall score is declared the winner and gets to compete against other Milwaukee SLAM winners in the GrandSLAM championship,” Etcher said.
The Moth sets out to prove that despite all of the modern-day digital storytelling techniques, the spoken word still has a place and will live on through the people who are brave enough to share them.