The Moth

An evening of storytelling that will make you laugh, cry, and laugh until you cry.

Denver, CO

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Imagine it. A competition in storytelling. Ten contestants coming up onstage, each telling a story from their own lives, and being judged on their ability to bring their unique experiences to life. As a nonprofit that is dedicated to finding the diversity and the commonality in each of us through storytelling, The Moth has been a platform for incredible stories and storytellers since its inception in 1997 by novelist George Dawes Green in New York. Denver, Colorado is lucky enough to be one of the 29 cities where The Moth hosts live shows and I was lucky enough to experience it all.

At each show, the theme is given beforehand.  Then, anyone who buys a ticket to that show can put their name in a hat to be picked to tell their story related to the theme.  Only ten are chosen to perform their story, which must have a beginning, middle, and end and last less than 5 minutes. Then, three teams of judges are randomly selected to score each story on a 10-point scale.  The highest scoring storyteller of the night is able move through to the next round, showcasing the top storytellers from various shows.

The event I attended was held at Swallow Hill Music in Daniels Hall, an intimate theater inside one of the most notable music schools in Denver.  The house was packed long before I arrived, quite early I might add so if you get a chance to see one of these shows, COME SUPER EARLY.

With the theme of “lessons” for the night, I initially thought that each performer would be solemn; telling stories of anguish and hardship becoming teaching moments in life, but that was far from the case for most.  In one performance, a young woman spoke of being fired from her job because she went viral and having to take time off work because of all the media requests looking for her to do an interview.  Another performer talked about having arachnophobia (a deathly or irrational fear of spiders) while owning a tarantula.

Boisterous laughter was just as common as heavy sighs from the audience, empathizing with real people talking candidly and openly about things that affected them in ways I would have never expected.  Honestly, everyone that performed did an incredible job and I wish they all could have received high enough scores from the judges to move on to the other events hosted by The Moth. The stories I heard were each unique, inspiring, uplifting, heartfelt, and truly reminded me why life is sometimes the way it is.  It reminded me that there is always something to be learned from any experience. 

The best part of the show was the sheer variety in the stories told.  Between each performer, the host also read off experiences written down by the audience on sheets of paper that were handed out as we walked in about a time you failed the test.  This was a lighthearted way to transition from performer to performer.  It made the show much more intimate knowing that not only were these performers sharing stories of their own lives, but snapshots of people in the audience were being shared as well.  It was funny to hear quick snippets about everything from failing driving tests to accidentally ruining first dates.  It was a fun interactive way to find humor in tragedy. It was a light-hearted reminder that there are always lessons to be learned- even through failure.

If you want to attend an event that is like nothing you’ve ever been to, I’d highly recommend going to a show hosted by The Moth. You will leave it with a totally different perspective on life than when you entered.  Although the theme of the night will certainly be different, I’m sure that the stories will be just as thought-out and interesting to hear. Remember to get there early in order to grab a seat at the front, and don’t hesitate to raise your hand to judge the performances!

The Moth hosts regular events twice a month in Denver and hosts over 500 events every year in cities all over the world. Check out their website here to see upcoming events near you.  They also host a popular podcast called “The Moth” which is free to download wherever you get your podcasts. Check them out to see why storytelling is still so important (if not more important than ever) in today’s world.

Article: Cameron Bailey

Photography (in order): Laura Partain, Cameron Bailey, Rhajaé Carroll, and Flash Rosenberg- with special thanks to The Moth