In many cultures, the moments where communities band together to tell stories, or more importantly to listen to them, are held in the highest regard. In America, reading fairy tales to children and telling ghost stories around a campfire are considered rites of passage, but where are these moments for adults?
Since 1997, “The Moth” has invited people from varying societal, economical and geographical backgrounds to share their stories and learn from one another’s experiences. Created by writer George Dawes Green, “The Moth” aims to create community and inspire audiences through the exchange of important, transformative or compelling moments.
Looking back on his youth, Green wanted to recreate the summer nights in Georgia when his neighbors, family and friends would gather on front porches to drink and tell stories. The podcast gets its name from the moths that would dance around the porch light as they talked.
“The Moth” didn’t start out as a podcast. Green began by hosting live storytelling competitions in his living room, which quickly grew into internationally hosted events. StorySLAMs are open-mic events where anyone is invited to tell five-minute stories inspired by the evening’s theme. The winners continue on to GrandSLAMs, which “The Moth” describes as “the ultimate battle of wits and words.”
In addition to these events, “The Moth” hosts a Mainstage where five storytellers have workshopped their personal narratives with the event’s directors to create longer and more developed stories. They also conduct workshops in high schools, and invite the students to present their stories at live performances.
Over the years, the event has become what Catherine Burns, artistic director for “The Moth” calls “a modern storytelling movement” that has inspired “tens of thousands of shows worldwide in places as diverse as Tajikistan, Antarctica and Birmingham, Alabama.”
“The Moth” has hosted people of differing backgrounds such as police officers, doctors, musicians, ministers and professional gamblers, as well as many famous voices such as Dan Savage, Neil Gaiman and Martin Scorsese.
In 2009, “The Moth” decided to record these stories and share them over the airwaves. This resulted in “The Moth Radio Hour,” a Peabody Award-winning radio show that has aired on over 450 stations around the world.
As its popularity rose, the founder and creative team decided to make the “The Moth Radio Hour” available in podcast form, as well as curated episodes of their favorite stories told over the past two decades. Every Tuesday new episodes are released.
Last year, in celebration of its 20th anniversary, “The Moth” compiled many of their favorite stories and transcribed them to be published in a book titled “All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown.”
The book contains 45 stories, which Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times summarized beautifully. “Some are heartbreakingly sad; some laugh-out-loud funny; some momentous and tragic; almost all of them resonant or surprising. They are stories that attest to the startling varieties and travails of human experience, and the shared threads of love, loss, fear and kindness that connect us.”
Every story gives listeners a new perspective on the world around them, and new insight into the experiences of others. There are so many ways to consume these stories, it’s completely up to the audience’s preference. Consider downloading this week’s episode on your favorite podcast app, going to a live show or reading some of the stories in their books. As they say at the end of almost every episode, “have a story-worthy week.”