Friday, October 7, 2016

the Moth - meh

I've been a fan of the Moth for at least ten years, have managed to catch two Moth events in New York and have bought the recently-published book of their best stories. Founded as a competitive storytelling event in the South, then in New York and L.A., it has grown to encompass the entire U.S., and now involves not just people telling stories without notes, but podcasts and high school storytelling workshops in more than 25 cities. It costs $10 or $15 to spend the evening listening to a bunch of people stand in front of you and tell you a true life story. It's wonderful - what I believe in and work for, the power of story and of telling the truth.

I've long hoped for something like it here in Toronto; there are similar events but nothing quite the same. So when the Moth announced a show in Toronto a few years ago, I was excited to think the format would be brought here - local Canadian storytellers, I assumed, following the Moth format. When I heard the price - $50 - I was outraged and didn't go. But this time, I decided I had to see how they did here, so I and a bunch of my longtime students went last night.

What floored me first was the reception - Massey Hall packed to the rafters with mostly thirty-somethings, rapturously receiving stories from five Americans flown in for the occasion, plus an M.C. The stories weren't bad, not at all; one of them in particular, the last, from a 94-year old survivor of a Russian labour camp, was moving and powerful. And one, from a woman who was David Bowie's hairdresser, was something I'd love to hear at a cocktail party but needed more work for this kind of event. The other three were interesting and entertaining. But from the best-known storytelling organization in the U.S., and for $50, I expected more than five 10-minute stories, a very long intermission that wasn't needed at all, and a lame host. Way more.

I was furious when I left, in fact, despite that brave saga at the end. Because once again, it seemed to me, we Canadians sell ourselves short. The Moth team flies in from the States and is greeted as heroes, the audience paying through the nose and shrieking approval, when here in Toronto we have fabulous storytellers of our own with nowhere to go.

Except - if I may say so, and I probably shouldn't - my class and So True. I think you get a much better deal at So True, which gives you nine or ten good stories for $10. The students who were there last night agreed. But then we're prejudiced.

We've been spoiled for fantastically moving true stories. I'm so used to hearing gripping personal testimonies and great writing that the storytelling bar is set very high for me. And last night the Moth, I'm sorry to say, didn't even come close.

P.S. But then, despite the absolutely stunning weather, I'm crabby today. Finally getting around to the season switch, I put my nine winter sweaters into the washing machine, and it broke. Could not get it to start again. The repairman who's coming tomorrow said, a Whirlpool Duet ten years old? Yes, breaking right on schedule. I spent an hour wringing out nine sopping wet sweaters and draping them about to dry. I'm still wringing. And then I learned my roof needs work. My invaluable handyman is still recovering from a hip replacement and out of service. It's time to move to a condo.


  1. Don't you dare move to a condo. I enjoy your garden vicariously. Interesting what you say about CDN authors vs. AMERICAN. It's true, we do sort of treat them like rock stars (undeserving or not.) Having said that, though, here in Europe and esp. in the U.K., the well-known, published Canadian authors are held in high regard and even enjoy celebrity status.

    Speaking of Canadian books, I've fallen in love with Stepping Stones (see my blog). I've just received a comment from the author.

    Juliet in Paris

  2. Juliet, how wonderful that the author saw your post and wrote to you. It's a beautiful book - I will find it for my boys. And no, I don't think I'll be moving anytime soon, despite my complaints. Just picked a bouquet of mint, lavender, oregano, roses and rudbekia for a friend's Thanksgiving dinner.