On Wednesday I performed at The Moth, in a main stage production. If you don’t know what The Moth is, you are missing out and I recommend you go check it out. In short it is a storytelling program, where all the stories are true and told without notes. There are story slams where you can show-up, put your name in a hat and if picked, tell a short story and compete with everyone else chosen. If you’re lucky you win and go to a Grand Slam to compete against other stories. These are held all over the country. You can call their pitch line and give a 2 minute story pitch, and if it’s good enough you get on stage, maybe even do a Main Stage show. The other way is being asked to participate, as many noteworthy people have been. If you go to the big main stage show you get a producer assigned to you and they help curate your tale and get it ready for the show, a 300 person audience in an amazing venue, where people pay to hear you!
I called the pitch line and got to be in a Main Stage show at The Players club in NYC. IT WAS FUCKING AWESOME! I was assigned a producer, Jenifer Hixson and she partnered with me over the last couple weeks getting my tale ready for the show. Jen was/is amazing. I feel so blessed to have worked with her. She has the ability to turn the lowbrow to refined genius. She is brilliant and so funny. I kinda have a gigantic (platonic) crush on her, but that’s how I make friends, I fall in love with them.
I got an email that they were interested in my tale, and then a call to see what the story was in full. I was told it might be a few months, up to a year before they found a show that would work with my story but they liked it and wanted to use it. Within two weeks they contacted me again, would I like to do the July 11th show they were putting together? YES YES YES, of course I would do the July 11th show (that was, three weeks away at the time)! I thought I had months to be anxious about this whole idea but luckily I could compress all my anxiety and self-doubt into a much shorter amount of time.
I was afraid to tell everyone , since it all seemed surreal, like it would just be some elaborate hoax or they would simply realize I was a nobody and/or find someone who would fill more seats. It wasn’t a hoax and that meant I had to call The Hive in Maine, my sons family, because the story was about them and I needed to get permission. I think some small part of me was waiting for them to say “No, we’d rather not have our story put out in front of the world” , but that was a delusional thought. This was a whole family of performers and storytellers, whether it be through dance, theater or art. OF COURSE they knew what The MOTH was and they were so excited and supportive of me! Bleh….that out was quickly smashed.
I had pitched the story all about my journey between my first-born child and my second. I gave my first child up in an open adoption and the tale of how I got there and back was what gave me this opportunity. During my daughters 4th birthday I had, had one of those moments where you experience a paradigm shift, my whole perspective changed and I saw what was going on at a new angle, yet again. On one hand I drive my whole life towards those moments when just a little turn this way or that makes you reevaluate everything you have thought or felt on the subject at hand. Moments like these mark growth, they are what makes life worth living, at least for me. On the other side, these moments mark how everything I thought might have been completely wrong. Sometimes this requires some apologies…..
I watched my 13 yr old son holding my 4 yr old daughter and realized, the whole thing had made a full circle. There was nothing to forgive, I had made the right choice despite all of my self-recriminations to the contrary over the last 14 years. My son by birth was a brilliant smart-ass kid (genetics, apologies to his moms) and he was going to help provide what I didn’t have for him, an amazing support system and family for his sister. On top of all of that super squishy goodness, his family was part of my family to, they taught me the only lessons I had to build from and they did a pretty damn good job across the board, which is why I picked them. In the middle of this goofy smile realization, I decided I finally had a story worth telling, so I pitched it. More accurately I blurted it in a panic and then hung-up..shockingly they called me anyway.
The story started at 25 minutes, it had to get down to 10. Many “darlings” were killed, and it was so much fun! I got to work with this amazing woman, Jenifer Hixson, who created The Moth Story Slam.
I realize not everyone may be as excited as me, but I am a super NPR geek, I’ve been listening to since I was 16 and I have the members tote bag to prove it. I would not want to be on a screen, but the thought of being on NPR, on WNYC? That is fucking awesome. It’s a nerdgasm.
Three weeks, a trip to Asbury Park and many many calls later, my time on the Sunday before the show was at 9min 31 sec. Monday was rehearsal In NYC with the other story tellers minus one who had to be elsewhere. My time bloated to 14 minutes, damn it. Everyone got one more simultaneous ego boost/critique, and doors opened at 6:30 Wednesday July 11th.
The venue made me dearly wish I had hours of time to research and wander around inspecting plaques and the huge oil paintings that decorated the walls. Just the building itself was worth extensive inspection.
We did a sound check where we confirmed I might be part dwarf. I had to bring the mike down about a foot to adjust it and we would have to do it ourselves when it was our turn.
I had heard everyone’s story minus one at rehearsal, but we were all still a little rough, still missing beats. On Wednesday, we all seemed to pull it together. It was amazing. All the other storytellers are authors and storytellers, except me. I felt so honored to share this stage with these people.
April Salazar told a story of her unconventional upbringing and how her nudist mom might of not been a member of the PTA but showed her love in so many other ways.
Kemp Powers spoke about the trauma of accidentally shooting his best friend when he was 14 yrs old and the journey from there to the amazing man he has become.
Damien Echols shared his story of his murder conviction, years spent in prison and eventual exoneration through the Innocence Project. He was the one person I hadn’t met. He received a standing ovation.
I was the 4th story, I went up right after the intermission. It was the clearest I had told the story. I was more at ease in this telling than any prior. It was so much fun.
Sebastain Junger was the last story. He told of why he went into war journalism and why he left that behind after the loss of his friend and partner.
All of these people have impressive bios and are worth looking up. I feel ecstatic and blessed to have met them and to have shared this moment with them.
Afterwards there was a lot of strangers thanking me and all of us I’m sure. My story elicited many empathetic tales of children lost, found and adopted. Many teary smiles and grateful hugs. I did this for my own children, it’s their story from me, a love letter to the two people who will never stop being a part of me. I hadn’t anticipated this out pouring of gratitude for sharing a part of so many other people’s stories as well. Perhaps I should have, but it’s hard to see outside of our own little boxes of narcissism, self-doubt and internal dialog. I was overwhelmed by this, but to see my words, my little tale touch all of these people, I might never know the names of? It felt like my own personal evolution, my paradigm was shifting. I can not thank the universe enough for this gift.