New York stories
The art of storytelling has been around since the beginning of time, from the Lascaux Paleolithic cavepaintings through Homer and Shakespeare. Many eras also proclaimed storytelling's demise: the advent of theprinting press, radio, television, the Internet. But audiences are always clamouring for a good true story, asevidenced by live comedy, the memoir glut and so-called reality television.In New York City , the savviest of visitors make a beeline for The Moth, the storytelling competition where tenaudience members volunteer to tell true tales (under five minutes long), which are often broadcast on itspopular podcast. But in the 14 years since George Dawes Green created the event, the audience line to getinto the weekly New York events - unlike in Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles incarnations - can start a coupleof hours in advance. More than 100 people are often turned away for space limitations on any given night.But while The Moth has become a victim of its own success, it also spawned a bevy of other storytellingevents around Manhattan and Brooklyn. Some even feature the same Moth winners, as well as authors,comedians, one-person-show stars and non-professionals who just want to share a good yarn. While the MothStorySlam is the only show that draws all its performers from a lottery and judges it as a competition, othershows in the city feature unique components, such as adhering to a specific theme or mixing in improvisation,music, fiction and audience participation.The Liar Show features four writers and comics who tell 10-minute personal stories. But only three of them aretrue. The audience must interrogate the performers to determine who is lying. "I started 'the Lie' ideaspecifically because at other shows there was always the post-show 'How much of that was true?' or 'Youmust be exaggerating, no?' - that kind of thing," said Andy Christie, the host who founded the show nearly fiveyears ago. "I thought if the doubt is already there, why not have fun with it?" Recent stories included a manwhose stomach staples opened up, a preschool trip to the butterfly museum gone awry, being attacked by apit bull and a surprise party whose guest never showed.Many storytelling shows like Ask Me Stories, Stories at Perch and N.Y. Confidential: Stories Exposed explorechanging themes like "tripping" and "secret identity". But at The Story Collider the theme is always science. "Idiscovered I was more interested in talking about how science affects people, about the emotional side", than"becoming an expert in something maybe 10 people cared about", said Ben Lillie, who was a high-energyparticle theorist before he founded The Story Collider.For a more risqué evening, try Stripped Stories, about people's private lives. This is Awkward: Stories AboutLove, Lust and Lubrication and RISK! "a fun-house mirror version of This American Life", said founder KevinAllison, referring to the popular US public radio program, currently based in New York, featuring manypersonal stories, including some told in The Moth. Allison tries to feature people like comedians SarahSilverman, Janeane Garofalo and Kevin Nealon, as well as actors like Lili Taylor of Six Feet Under, to exposelesser-known sides of themselves. Recent themes included "son of strange eex" and "in the flesh".Under St. Marks, a performance space under a church in the East Village, features the poignant StorySlamwinner and host Peter Aguero, whose BTK Band improvises a chorus to accompany four raconteurs' truetales. "It's as if Tom Waits and The Moth delivered a baby from the gaping maw of Chaos," Aguero said. [Thevenue also features Told, which is hosted by This American Life production manager Seth Lind.Lind said the podcasts from The Moth and This American Life have made storytelling popular. "Now shows arepopping up everywhere because it is accessible - everyone has had something happen that is worth sharing,and you don't have to have insane performance chops to pull it off. I think there will be a storytelling TV showpretty soon, then we can all say it was cooler way back when," said Linde, who recently filmed a TV pilot ofTold.Unlike comedy clubs, storytelling is not always funny. "The first story I ever told at The Moth was about takingmy father off of life support," said Daisy Rosario, who works as a producer of the live Moth shows and hostsher own storytelling show called Sunday Stories. "Afterward a few people came up to me and told me they hadbeen through taking someone off life support, but that they rarely, if ever, talked about it."