by Mel Wells

The Moth , an “acclaimed not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling” came to Portland this December for a sold-out show at the Schnitz, and we had them bring 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 staff to spend a week in residence at a local high school, where they coached a group of students to refine their own stories and then perform them for an audience of their peers in a High School StorySlam. This year, The MothSHOP went to Grant High School.

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Even for experienced public speakers, telling a story for The Moth can be a daunting prospect. After all, The Moth has strict rules:

1. Stories must be true

2. Stories must be about the storyteller

3. Storytellers cannot use props or notes or music

On Friday, December 19, eight daring Grant students became storytellers. They performed on a stage in the library, just them and a microphone, before an audience 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. Thanks to all the tellers, to The Moth staff, and to the teachers and administrators–especially Grant librarian Paige Battle–who helped coordinate this great event!

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MothSHOP at Grant High School