Thursday night, I found myself standing in the lobby of the Byham Theater surrounded by couples young and old, groups of artsy friends, and entire families, as we waited to see The Moth mainstage event Voices Carry. The Moth is a non-profit organization dedicated to the art of storytelling. Unlike The Moth’s more commonly known StorySLAM events, which feature the stories of audience members, mainstage events host a set of practiced storytellers.
The Byham’s stage was bare except for a microphone standing in a single pool of light. The theater was filled with the kind of anticipation that comes from knowing you’re in for a good story. The lights dimmed, and the audience fell silent. Our host for the night, Kate Tellers, emerged, infectiously excited to introduce the night’s storytellers who would be responding to the prompt, “Tell us about a time you were truly speechless.”
Then, the storytellers took the stage. Each speaker had ten minutes to share their experience, but as the stories continued, I lost track of time. From filmmakers, to journalists, to slam poets, the night’s storytellers spun tales that were vulnerable, powerful, nostalgic, and, overall, beautiful.
Stories spanned broad experiences and tones, from Jason Trieu’s retelling of his childhood as an orphan in Vietnam trying to raise his younger brothers and escape to the United States, to journalist Sarah Shourd’s experience as a political prisoner in Iran, to the hilarious escapades of Adriana E. Ramírez and the trouble she’s gotten into due to her brutally honest personality. Despite these vastly different experiences, a few themes remained common. The first was appreciation for the city of Pittsburgh.
Many of the night’s storytellers were Pittsburgh natives and therefore Byham Theater was full of a considerable amount of Pittsburgh pride. Kate Teller shared tales of walking up Mount Washington with her dad and thoughts on how Pittsburgh still feels like home after years in New York, while producer and filmmaker Tony Buba recounted memories of growing up in Braddock and watching Pittsburgh emerge as a creative hub.
Another prevalent theme was that power comes from knowing yourself. Each of the storytellers ultimately came to the conclusion that their sense of self and fulfillment stems from the unshakeable truths they have come to learn about themselves, through lessons passed down by friends and family and through undergoing hardship.
Finally, the night’s stories were united by the idea that every one has a meaningful story to share. You just need to find the right way to tell it. Though the speakers had little in common with each other, and even less so with me, we were joined by shared experiences of grief, truth, love, and hope in our everyday lives.
The Moth’s event invited us to laugh hysterically, cry without embarrassment, and share moments of reflection. When the lights came on, everyone was reluctant to leave, but we left feeling connected and inspired.
Be sure to check out The Moth if you get the chance. If you’re feeling brave, check out a StorySLAM, or sit back and enjoy a Mainstage event. Either way, you’re sure to leave with an appreciation for the perspectives each of us carry, and the stories within yourself.