Updated Saturday, 7:55 am
The Moth is a storytelling performance that began in 1997 and is now a worldwide event where guests tell true tales without notes or props. The Moth returned to Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday night for its fifth year.
This year the storytelling theme was “Into the Wild.” Five stand up storytellers gave a rousing performance to an enthusiastic audience at the sold out Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Performing Arts Center.
It takes a little courage.
The first brave storyteller was Micaela Blei, a third grade teacher. In preparation for playing the board game Oregon Trail with her class of youngsters, she took them on a 40 block hike around New York City, imagining everything along the way was some wild element from the trail. The more vivid (and somewhat dark) her imagination became, the more excited the kids became. They were captivated, simply tingling, with the prospect of dying on the trail.
Ms. Blei’s story was magical and riveting — you swung between New York City, the classroom, and the Trail just like a kid. She brought you so deeply into their world, that in the end, you really wanted Ms. Blei to be your teacher.
Dan Larsen, owner of Edgartown Seafood is a native Islander and well-known Menemsha fisherman. He received an enthusiastic welcome from members of his large family and the Island community. He stood humbly at the microphone and told a heartfelt story about his grandfather from Norway, how he fell in love with Menemsha, then relocated his family to the Vineyard to begin a new life.
Mr. Larsen recounted his first trip to sea and how his uncle tied him to the mast. He reminisced about all he saw there, the fish, the harpoon, the nature and the wonder of it. His dry humor lit up the crowd with lines like: “but we gathered, to tell stories and lies, and stuff.”
His love for his grandfather shone throughout the story. His parting message was about the years it took to understand his grandfather’s love for family and place. Mr. Larsen’s story showed us he too has that love firmly in place.
Seasonal resident David Litt was just 24 when he became President Obama’s speech writer. Not his main man, not the man who wrote the State of the Union, but working in the White House nonetheless. The only problem was he had yet to meet Obama, much to his family’s disappointment.
Mr. Litt delivered a very funny story about how, when his time came to meet the man in charge, he was so star-struck he blacked out. He then set about on a mission to redeem himself in the eyes of his family and win over President Obama. Mr. Litt’s story was well polished, fluid, and funny. You wanted to cheer him on, and on.
Successful director-producer Doug Liman, shared the highs and lows of his career from his start as an eight-year-old movie-maker, to the anguish of his failed first movie in LA. When his friend Jon suggested they climb Matterhorn, Mr. Liman took the challenge, mentally, but didn’t prepare physically. When Mr. Liman got to the Alps, Jon told him honestly that he wasn’t ready to climb with the team. Mr. Liman’s self-professed rock bottom seemed complete. Then, he met a German math professor at lunch, and by 2 am they were off climbing, sans safety gear and faster than Jon. For Mr. Liman, it was an affirmation of what he could achieve. He saw a new confidence arise with his return to LA., which he translated into his first big hit with the movie “Swingers.”
Our hearts opened with Abeny Mathako Kucka as she stood proudly on stage, dressed in a traditional and colorful dress (toob), and beaded headband. She told a breathtaking and brutal story of her 11-year journey as a refugee from southern Sudan, in which she endured the death of her husband and her 4-year old son, walking thousands of miles from border to border. She eventually emigrated to the States and found her home in Maine, where she slept, to catch up on eight years of walking, running, and hiding from starvation and violence. She vowed never to run in fear again. She recapped the funny moments of adjusting to life here and the proudest when her daughter, Atong, graduated law school in May of 2012. Ms. Kucka’s book is called “Tears of a Mother: A Sudanese Survivor’s Story.”
Host Lynn Ferguson, a Scottish born comedian, writer, actress, and presenter, kept the night entertaining with her wit and quip on Vineyarders and community life, roasting the “poor people seats” at the back of the PAC and the “sophisticated people” up front near the stage.
The wonderful night was blended beautifully by the music of Mary Wolverton, whose fiddle playing can soothe one’s soul. Like storytelling, it binds and connects and can take you to far off shores. In the spaces of the words or notes we are reminded to breath, listen, and enjoy. And that, we did.
An earlier version of this story was entitled “Moth soared on Tuesday evening.” The Moth event was on Wednesday evening.