On The Avenue

Talented Tale Tellers at The Moth Ball

by Ben Diamond Photographed by Ben Gabbe/Getty for THE MOTH
Wednesday, June 7, 2017

“Anyone who doesn’t know what The Moth is, here’s what The Moth is: The Moth is true stories told live on stage without notes.”

So said host Tara Clancy at the annual Moth Ball at Capitale last night. But the gala was about more than one person’s true story. It was about all the of true stories that have been shared through the non-profit since founder George Dawes Green invited friends to his loft to do just that exactly 20 years earlier. Through its radio show and through live events, The Moth has let thousands of ordinary people speak their pieces. It seemed that nearly every laurel-crowned guest at the Arcadian-themed “A Moth Summer’s Night Dream” had tried at least once.

“I participated once. It’s really hard to do,” said John Turturro. “I have a lot of admiration for anyone who does it. Each person who does it is kind of naked.”

“I did a Moth about aerobics in the ‘80s, and one about working in the White House,” said Simon Doonan, who attended with his husband Jonathan Adler. “I couldn’t possibly tell you what my best and worst one was, though. That’s for my public to decide.”

Novelist Meg Wolitzer told a story about being at summer camp the summer that Richard Nixon resigned—a premise that would become the first chapter of her novel The Interestings.

But the event wasn’t really about any of the famous faces in the audience. Green called the Moth “an art expressly not for the royals,” and the majority of the evening was spent in the company of ordinary raconteurs from around the country. There was Tere Figueras Negrete, a Miami journalist who went on a ride along with a police officer in pursuit of a mango thief; Pam Burrell, who volunteered with prisoners throughout college; Juliette Holmes, a black woman who grew up in the Jim Crow South; and David Litt, a speechwriter for President Obama who accidentally caused an international incident. The stories that they told ranged from the quotidian to the incredible, from the side-splitting to the tear-jerking. They reflected the diversity of experiences and voices that make America great.

When Aziz Ansari was honored with the Moth Award, it felt like just another storyteller gracing the stage. “I won the award, but I still have to tell a story…that seems pretty fucked up,” he joked. Ansari told a story about his experiences eating pork in front of his observant Muslim parents. It was a touching, hilarious story, one that spotlighted that very same diversity of experiences and voices. The only difference between Ansari and the other speakers was that he’d also told it on Conan.

Other guests included Caitlin Fitzgerald, Julianna Margulies and Keith Lieberthal, Serena Altschul, Darren Aronofsky, Rachel Dratch, Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal, Suzanne Vega, Calvin Trillin, Molly Ringwald and Panio Gianopoulos, and Boykin Curry


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