by Mel Wells
When The Moth came to Portland this December, they not only sold out the Schnitz with their Mainstage show, but they brought a smaller, quieter program that is a force in its own right: The MothSHOP. As part of The Moth’s community education programs, MothSHOP brings Moth professionals to spend a week at a local high school, working with a group of students who refine their own stories and then perform them for an audience of their peers in a High School StorySlam. This year, The MothSHOP came to Gresham High School.
Moth stories have a few important rules. A storyteller must tell a story that is 1. true, 2. about the storyteller (not their mom or brother or best friend’s dog’s squeaky toy) 3. has stakes, and they must do so within the five-minute time limit and without any props or notes. Even for experienced public speakers, telling a story for The Moth can be a daunting prospect.
Seven daring students from Gresham participated as storytellers. They stood on the bare stage, just them and a microphone, before an auditorium of their peers. Each one eyed the audience, took a deep breath, and told their story. These tales were diverse in content and emotion, from humorous to heartbreaking, but all were authentic and brave. Each student managed to transcend the confessional nature of telling a true, personal story, and got to the heart of storytelling: to share what it means to be alive. Listeners learned about overcoming struggles, losing loved ones, and many variations on the theme Don’t Look Back. Thanks to all the tellers, to The Moth staff, and to the teachers and administrators who helped coordinate this great event!