The Neon attracts 'The Moth' to Las Vegas

Updated: Aug 11, 2019

Since its launch in 1997 in New York, The Moth has presented thousands of stories, told live and without notes, to standing-room-only crowds worldwide. Now, in partnership with The Beverly Rogers, Carol C Harter Black Mountain Institute and media sponsor KNPR/Nevada Public Radio, their first Moth Mainstage event -- an experience merging entertainment and enlightenment -- is coming to Las Vegas next Wednesday, November 14th, 2018, at Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall on the UNLV campus.

The live show is making its Las Vegas valley premiere, its popular Peabody Award-winning public radio series debuted in 2009 and is now airing on more than 470 stations nationwide. Join the Black Mountain Institute as they host five storytellers sharing true and authentic experiences before a live audience.

What is The Moth Mainstage?

“The Moth is true stories, told live and without notes. The Moth celebrates the ability of stories to honor both the diversity and commonality of human experience, and to satisfy a vital human need for connection. It seeks to present recognized storytellers among established and emerging writers, performers and artists and to encourage storytelling among communities whose stories often go unheard.”

What is The Moth History? The Moth began on a back porch in small-town Georgia, where founder -- poet and best-selling novelist George Dawes Green -- would spend sultry summer evenings swapping spellbinding tales with a small circle of friends. There was a hole in the screen, which let in moths that were attracted to the light, and the group started calling themselves “The Moths.”

The Moth events soon moved to cafes and clubs throughout the city -- and soon to popular venues throughout the country and beyond. The Moth Mainstage is a curated event featuring five tellers who develop and shape their stories with our directors. Beyond theater, The Moth Mainstage is a community where entertainment and enlightenment merge.

The line-up for The Moth’s live show at UNLV includes the world’s most famous silent magician, the host of a forward-looking historical podcast, and a Las Vegas novelist, professor, and editor.

Teller (illusionist, writer, and painter) will headline the show along with Chenjerai Kumanyika {Peabody winning co-host of the podcast “Uncivil”) and local hero, writer Erica Vital-Lazare. Other storytellers include Vikram Krishnasamy (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta), and Ruby Cooper (mother, grandmother, teacher, writer based in Los Angeles). The show will be hosted by the comic author and longtime host of The Moth podcast, Dan Kennedy.

Black Mountain Institute’s (BMI) Executive Director, Josh Shenk, speaks about The Moth as more than a good time -- though it is that, raucously -- but it’s an embodiment of community and artistry based on the values of compassion and openness and warmth. The Moth has been central to Josh’s life for twenty years, and it means so much to him to be able to share this experience of a live show with his friends and colleagues in Las Vegas.

“What’s special about a Moth show? It’s really like nothing else you’ve experienced in a theater. Storytellers are not reciting a text, or running through bits. They speak from their lives, in a way that's artful, warm, and vulnerable. They are not playing for the audience but talking to us. There’s one person at a time at the mike, but everyone else in the room is a full factor in the experience. If the room isn’t full of compassion, humor, imagination -- the thing doesn’t go.”

“The Moth shaped my view of what the arts can do to elicit human connection through live experiences, and that work animates me and the BMI staff every day.”

I also spoke with Jenifer Hixson senior producer/director with The Moth, and co-host of their Radio Hour, from her NYC office about this upcoming premiere event. Jenifer started out as a volunteer in 1999, when it was just a two-person live show operation. She has always loved theatre and documentaries.

Each year Jenifer, along with other Moth staff directors and producers, asks hundreds of people to identify the turning points of their lives, each searching to find their own unique storytellers who are willing to share a personal story.

“I help them shape those experiences into a story, and fall a little bit in love with each storyteller (and hopes we will too). Ultimately it is the believability and electricity in these dramatic, personal moments that is critical to the presenters and their reward is the joy of sharing.”

“Each presentation is only 10-12 minutes long. Unlike roles in other performing arts events, storytelling doesn’t require perfect pitch, costumes, sets, music, film star looks, etc. The “Story Coach”/director rehearses a few hours with the storytellers (over days, weeks, months…), depending on “The Story. There is actually a live “rehearsal” at the venue a few days in advance of the public event.”

There are even Storytelling Tips & Tricks on “How to tell a successful story” on The Moth website.

I got to wondering: “What if The Moth was conducted back in 1621, as part of "The First Thanksgiving”?

The claim that the original thanksgiving meal was attended by both pilgrims and Native Americans provides modern multiracial America with a convenient founding legend of a friendly cross-cultural encounter.

Imagine the stories that those five storytellers would tell!?!

Photos: Dare Kumolu-Johnson, Sarah Stacke, Flash Rosenberg

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