Of moths and raconteurs: this week on The Green Room

Mar 17, 2016

Imagine several raconteurs relaxing on a front porch swapping true tales on a warm summer night in Georgia. There's probably plenty of iced tea, maybe a few cans of beer, and the occasional fluttering of a moth's wings can be heard as it flies to the cozy glow of the porch light.

Those laid-back, informal gatherings eventually gave rise to The Moth storytelling events, which are now held around the world. The format remains simple — live stories told by everyday people without notes. The show stops in Traverse City on Friday night at the City Opera House.

Jay Allison is an award-winning independent broadcast journalist, and the producer of The Moth Radio Hour, a weekly show that features some of the best stories told at The Moth events. 

'The Moth Radio Hour' started in 2009, and won a Peabody Award a year later.
Credit prx.org

Allison says The Moth and it’s simple storytelling format resonates with people because anybody can do it. 

“You can consider your identity a kind of a collection of stories,” he says. “So as you listen to other people do it, you try to think about what it is in your life that have been the kind of key stories.”

Allison says both the audience and the storytellers are implicated in the exchange.

There comes a certain vulnerability with telling a story for The Moth. Some stories are painful, some about failure, and of course,  some are entertaining. But most storytellers find the vulnerability worth the risk. Allison says there is a bit of a catharsis for the storyteller to open up their lives in front of a group of people. In the same way, the audience has a similar reaction, and affirms the storyteller’s efforts to be so frank.

Jay Allison recognizes some people might not realize that they have an interesting story to tell. But, most everyone does. They just need to learn how to identify those unique events. 

“Sit and think about your life as a sequence of stories, and then figure out how they tie together,” Allison says. “Create the narrative that builds some kind of order out of chaos, which is what what storytelling fundamentally is.”

He says another key to this type of narrative storytelling is to speak from hard times, rather than the good times. Allison says no one is really interested in hearing about your triumphs. Instead, it’s the effort, failed attempts, and all the mistakes that draws an audience in. That’s something everybody can empathize with.

To hear the full Moth story featured in this episode, click here.