On the heels of a sold-out show at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on February 7, renowned New York-based storytelling group The Moth brought its MothShop workshop to Benson High School. Four Benson students met with The Moth producers to prepare their own stories for performance before an audience of their peers. For those who aren’t fans yet, the Moth trains professional and non-professional performers to tell a true story from their own experience without notes or props. (Tuesday night’s MainStage audience heard from, among others, a New York City police detective whose career-making drug bust was interrupted by the attacks of September 11, 2o01, and a young woman who watched her immigrant father create and lose two businesses, before she stepped in to help him save the third.) On a Friday afternoon, Benson students heard about how their peers responded to the death of a loved one, how they rose up to meet the challenge of a robotics scrimmage, and how one young girl took sweet revenge for her older brother’s prank.
One of many illuminating moments in rehearsal came when a student asked The Moth producers, “Why are you here?” This young man said that he was here so that his story of handling grief could be an inspiration to other people who find themselves in the same situation. So why, he wanted to know, had The Moth producers come? Their reply was simple: “To meet all of you. Who you are is great. And it should be out there for everyone to see, because each of you has an experience, whether it’s programming a robot or winning a prize at improv comedy camp, that nobody else in this room has had. Without this workshop, we would never have met you all. We would never know what it’s like to do those things. And when you tell your stories to the audience, who knows? Maybe nobody in that room has had the experience, either. And then you’ve all come a little bit closer to knowing each other.” The exchange epitomized how The MothShop builds community, and brings young people closer to one another, and adds to the value of their own experience.