“Telling a story is an act of courage, listening is an act of compassion.”
If, like me, this organization has been in your peripheral vision, if you’ve heard about it or spoken with an audience member, if you’re attracted to the tradition of personal storytelling/oral history, I recommend attending one of these presentations sooner than later. Even in the sweeping expanse of Rose Hall rather than one of its usually modest venues, this is one of the most intimate, authentic evenings of theater you’re likely to experience.
The first Moth event was held in 1997 by novelist/founder George Dawes Green with the intention of recreating “…the feeling of sultry summer evenings in his native Georgia, when moths were attracted to the light on the porch, where he and his friends would gather to spin spellbinding tales.” Evocative, isn’t it? That inspired tribal spirit has blossomed into 30,000 participants, 27 city Story Slams, The Moth Radio Hour heard on 450 international stations, two books, and community workshops reaching as far as Tanzania.
“The Moth’s mission is to promote the art and craft of storytelling and to honor and celebrate the diversity and commonality of human experience.”
Every event has a theme. Tonight’s is “Blinded By the Light-a time you felt left out in the dark.” No notes are used. A timekeeper regulates each racontir’s allotted parenthesis. On this occasion musician Mazz Swift is asked to subtly play should someone overflow. “Hey there, delicate flower,” her notes will say, “You doin’ a really good job, but you should maybe try to find the ending,” Host Peter Aguero tells us.
Under ordinary circumstances, names are drawn from a hat. Each singular soul stands in front of a microphone and – shares. A winner is chosen. Neither of these last two currently applies. Aguero tells us about his own first time…and quite a bit more. The affable host speaks about himself for so long between guests you’d think he was headlining. Someone should have curbed this.
Adam Linn and Mazz Swift
When author and essayist, Adam Linn met his Brazilian spouse, he was a single father. And blind. Juliana built HIV Clinics in third world countries. “She was beautiful, spoke five languages and could samba like a dream.” The deft style of this thoroughly entertaining story reminds me of work by Calvin Trillin. It centers on Linn’s, plan-filled life and his wife’s quite opposite embrace of the unexpected. Intending to prepare an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner (he’s a fine chef) in hopes of impressing his new father-in-law- by Skype – Linn found himself instead pushing a stroller with his two young daughters sitting on a frozen pig, the main dish requested by Juliana. One has to learn to give in to change. Linn is open and well paced. He’s wry, sympathetic and perfectly natural.
Judge Sheila Calloway
Sheila Calloway tells us of her early days as a lawyer in two Nashville courtrooms, that of a frustrating judge whose rules were sacrosanct and that of a humane judge who considered the accused individuals. We hear about specific cases wherein clients were their own worst enemies testing the nature of both venues, of Calloway’s losing it for the best reasons, and of her path to becoming the city’s Chief Juvenile Court Judge, carrying on the high standards of a mentor. This one shows altruism and integrity have not, as often seems these days, died. Calloway is accustomed to public speaking. Though somewhat nervous, she’s clear, decisivey and looks out – proudly. The audience cheers.
When, at 15, Dylan Park brought his Korean mother a C-plus report card, she locked him out of the house. All night. Park ended up joining the army right out of high school. He was stationed in Iraq where a young boy, about his brother’s age, began following Park around. The kid’s hope was to become a translator which though remunerative, was also very dangerous. They grew close. The soldier was demobilized and, traumatized, moved to Arizona without a plan because of the weather. Shortly thereafter his beloved sibling was murdered in a car-jacking. Five years and 7500 miles after service, he gets into a local taxi and discovers his driver is the street child from Iraq. Something is taken, something is given. Park speaks looking down. He clutches at his bottle of water and determination. It’s moving.
Hope Boykin and Mazz Swift
Hope Boykin quit college, realized her dream to become a dancer, and spent 18 years at the Alvin Ailey Company. Each year, each season, increasingly experienced performers had to compete with younger, more nubile bodies for roles. Boykin speaks to us with energy and passion. Really, one expects her to lift off. She recounts a turning point, a moment she was able to change perceptions about herself, to go on with confidence and freshness despite immutable circumstance. This is an O. Henry-like story.
As a young actress in Los Angeles for pilot season, Caitlin Fitzgerald congenially stayed in a house with a married couple. One night the husband was pushed into her room by a man in a ski mask. The two were then handcuffed together. When her housemate’s wife returned, the intruder learned none of the three had anything worth taking. Flustered, he drove them to an ATM machine and waited in the car while one went to retrieve money. Can you imagine? Instead, the wife called police.
“You two are dead,” the driver said, taking off with two of them in the car. Surrounded, he eventually got out to run. Fitzgerald thought she’d never feel safe again. Subsequently moving to LA, she discovered her spacious, sunny, new apartment had been the site of a grisly murder. “I felt haunted.” How she dealt with this is brave, sensitive, original, and other worldly. The actress takes us on a journey.
Bravery comes in all kinds of packages.
Photos by Jason Falchook for The Moth
Opening- Peter Aguero and Mazz Swift
Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival presents
Blinded By the Light: The Moth Members’ Show
Host- Peter Aguero
Stories: Hope Boykin, Judge Sheila Calloway, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Adam Linn, Dylan Park
Music- Mazz Swift
Directors- Meg Bowles, Catherine Burns
Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall
November 8, 2017