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Unexpected discoveries from The Moth at 88Nine

Words by Micah Colin Hall

The theme for stories at The Moth StorySLAM event was FOUND.  The stories had to be non-fiction, about five minutes long, personal, and relevant to the theme.  Some things that were found in the stories: a dead mouse in a cigar box, an 8 inch tape worm, the new technology of an iPod.  Some truths that were found: cool isn't dictated by what class you're in, but how classy you are; the truth isn't always desirable; the feeling of belonging can be stronger on-stage than at home.

“Listening to other people tell their stories builds a magical connection,” said Christy Hall Watson, the host of the evening.  “We can kill each other on the freeway later,” she added, deadpan, vigorously fanning herself with a make-shift piece of paper which the volunteers of 88nine had crafted for her.  Christy's comedy helped pull out nervous laughter from the crowd of listeners who were inundated by a flurry of emotions from the storytellers, ranging from sorrow and remorse to joy and accomplishment.

The storytellers varied in their tranquility in front of a live, breathing audience whose faces were unintelligible due to the bright spotlight shone into the speakers' eyes.  One bearded storyteller unflinchingly gripped the microphone with his right hand, white-knuckled and vascular, as if he was holding on to the memory of his grandfather who had been murdered by his mistress.  His quivering voice and extended silences exemplified the story's importance to his life—in that manner, every speaker had something at stake—they were revealing a part of themselves, the events that formed them.  Another storyteller, the winner of the competition with an average score of 9.2, systematically and slowly revolved his body, peering out from under his baseball cap to make extended eye contact with anyone who would dare.  He took meaningful sips of water from a plastic cup, providing time for his lines to sink in to the audience.

The audience were encouraged to write an unexpected discovery on provided slips of paper, which Christy then pulled from a bag and read anonymously to the crowd.  “Love is like baseball: three strikes and you're out,” was met by a murmured sadness from the audience.  Storytelling and listening are acts which require empathy and courage, both of which could be felt like an electrical current passing through every body in attendance.  Everyone has a story that is worthy of being heard, and truly being heard can lead to the unexpected mystery that “I can be happier than I expected.”   

Photography by Kristen Donat:

Director of Digital Content | Radio Milwaukee