I knew that my night at The Moth was going to be an extra good one when the woman in the seat next to mine sternly warned me not to spill her scotch.
I assured her I did not condone such abuse of alcohol. She chuckled. We were fast friends.
The Moth is a not-for-profit group that supports storytelling. What is storytelling? It’s what we do everyday. Sharing true stories from our lives with others. However at The Moth, the amazing stories are told by these artisans, without notes and have a set time limit.
As I’ve mentioned before, my “new” thing is live lit. I was introduced to it in Chicago and quickly fell in love. Portland also has a vibrant storytelling community and I wanted to get a bit more acclimated to the Northwest before diving in it. Turns out this adjustment thing is going to take longer than I thought, so when the exceptionally talented storyteller Lily Be pointed out that Shannon Cason was going to be performing at The Moth here, I was stoked.
Someone in my beloved Chicago storytelling community was going to be in the PDX? Sign me up! Of course The Moth had been sold out ages ago, I would have been cool with connecting with him either before or after the show. However, he was able to get me a ticket.
I arrived at the 2,776-seat the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, showed an usher my ticket and she led me down the aisle. We walked, walked and walked, closer and closer to the stage. She stopped in the second row. I was about six feet from the stage.
“This is your seat,” she pointed toward the middle of the row. My eyes bulged with excitement. Sa-weeet!
Shortly after that is when I received my warning from Mrs. Scotch.
Then Gideon Freudmann began to work his magic on his cello. My words will never be able to do this man justice. He introduced me to a new way of playing, hearing, and feeling the cello.
The host was the affable Dan Kennedy, who is the host of the Moth Podcast. He’s also a crazy good storyteller and a critically acclaimed author. Each Moth has a theme and on this night, it was Don’t Look Back.
Our first story was from Emmy-winning Cole Kazdin. She told about a time when she had amnesia. Yes, just like the kind you see in the soap operas where the ingénue doesn’t remember anything, not even her own name. Kazdin’s tale was artful in how she showed us different viewpoints of her. Sometimes we were behind the driver’s seat, other times we were on the outside looking in at this stranger, which is how she was to herself during that time.
Then came James Braly, an award-winning comedic writer, performer and professor. There’s a bit of Richard Gere in him, and not just because he has Hollywood-esque salt and peppered wavy hair. It was also when he shared the highs and lows of his marriage and divorce, there were hints of the uncompromising part of Edward Lewis in Pretty Woman. But Braly’s story was a beautiful one of love and loss and the rhythm in which he told it makes me want to hear it again, and again, and again. I could learn a lot from him.
Next came my boy Shannon. Watching him take the stage I was beaming, kinda feeling like a little sister who was about to watch her brother shine. And boy did he. His story of being a good kid growing up on the tough streets of Detroit who had his own demons to battle stilled the theater.
When his story took a dark turn, much of the audience gasped in surprise. He kept talking and everyone grew quiet. We were captivated. There was another dark twist and one woman far behind did a loud: “Oh my God!” It felt like he was reliving those memories and we were there too.
Clearly, I was proud. During intermission it was great to watch people flock to Shannon. He looks like the rapper Common, is laid back, pensive and gentle. He stooped down to hug the old ladies who congratulated him, clapped the backs of the guys who came forward and was genuinely grateful for the well-earned praise.
After a short break, Kate Tellers took the stage with her perfectly red motorcycle boots. She walked us to through the journey of losing her mom to cancer. It was a heavy story, but what was impressive about Tellers is how she could make tears well up in your eyes from sadness, but by the time they spilled down your cheek you were laughing.
That story is not an easy story to tell, and I admire her strength to lay so bare in front of hundreds.
The last storyteller was Arthur Bradford. He’s a writer and an Emmy-nominated filmmaker. His story was about his friend Ron, who had cerebral palsy, and Ron’s unwavering dream to meet 1970s television star, Chad Everett. The adventures of Arthur and Ron was a fun roller coaster ride where we cringed, laughed, groaned and even fell a little bit in love with a man who never gave up.
That’s the beauty of storytelling, it’s so raw, so honest, so real. You recognize yourself in the pain, triumphs and goof-ups and it helps me appreciate being me.