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Meet the storytellers of The Moth

Mainstage show comes to Mount Baker Theatre on Feb. 28

The Moth's live programs include StorySLAMS, GrandSLAMS and a flagship Mainstage show. The Moth Mainstage comes to Mount Baker Theatre on Wednesday, Feb. 28. (Photo courtesy of Henry Cromett)
By Margaret Bikman CDN Contributor

When told with intention, stories connect us to universal human experiences — from the amusing to the absurd, painful, triumphant and every emotion in between. As storyteller Bryan Kett puts it, effective storytelling “[lets] us see a reflection of ourselves — that’s the craft of the whole thing.”

This is the ethos behind The Moth, a New York City-based nonprofit focused on “[promoting] the art and craft of storytelling.” The organization’s Mainstage storytelling show is coming to Mount Baker Theatre on Wednesday, Feb. 28 (though tickets are now sold out). Each show has a theme, and Bellingham’s is “The Heart of the Matter.”

The Moth was founded in 1997 and is perhaps best known for its weekly storytelling podcast and touring events. In addition to the flagship Mainstage show, The Moth hosts storytelling competitions known as StorySLAMS and GrandSLAMS. There’s also The Moth Community Engagement Program, which works with underrepresented communities, and The Moth Education Program.

Stories at The Moth Mainstage shows run the gamut from heartfelt to hilarious. (Photo courtesy of Rhajaé Carroll)

Storyteller previews

Bellingham educator Jackie Brown said that when she was young, her father told stories around the dinner table fairly often. It’s only fitting that she’ll share her own tales when The Moth hits the Mount Baker Theatre stage.

“My siblings and I still talk about [my father’s] stories,” she said. “They are the source for many of the stories I tell today.”

Brown became involved with The Moth through their education program; this semester, she’s offering a Moth-style storytelling class for middle school students through Bellingham Family Partnership Program. She was asked to share a version of this story with the other students in the online Moth class she participated in, and she’s also shared it with friends. But when The Moth contacted her to be a storyteller in the show, they requested she double its length.

“There’s something extremely special about being able to share this story in a community of people where I have lived and worked for 36 years,” Brown said. “Sharing this onstage feels like it is giving me permission to take off my professional hat and be seen with all my flaws, struggles and insecurities. And for that I am grateful.”

But while Brown is a Bellingham local, other storytellers at the Feb. 28 show hail from around the country. Jon Goode, 52, is an Emmy-nominated author, poet, playwright and host of the Mount Baker Theatre event. He recalled how as a child, his father frequently invited friends over to sit in the living room and recount stories from their own lives, which Goode described as “often hilarious romps with unexpected twists.”

“When I got older,” he added, “I realized that not only was this storytelling, this was probably the oldest form of storytelling known to humankind — sitting around a fire, a foxhold, a breakroom table or a living room telling your story.”

Goode got involved with the Moth after being invited to one of the first StorySLAMS in Atlanta. The story he plans to tell in Bellingham “considers how your dreams can come true when you least expect it, and in the most unlikely of ways.”

His feelings about this story run the gamut: “There are moments when I feel timid, brave, angry, accomplished, proud and free during the telling of this story. But that’s life isn’t it? It’s not one thing. It’s all things.”

Katharine Strange, 39, first performed at a Moth StorySLAM in Seattle in 2017. After winning that StorySLAM, she was invited to perform in a GrandSLAM in 2019. Her mother’s side of the family is Southern, and she said storytelling is a major part of the region’s culture. For her family, “The facts were less important than a good story — especially a good punchline.”

“My story is about the triumphs and traumas of growing up in a family of Christian puppeteers,” she continued. “I used to find the whole experience deeply embarrassing, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that everybody has a weird little story like this. Being able to own my story, and make people laugh when I tell it, feels like a superpower.”

But Strange also admitted how she gets nervous before going onstage: “My story is in large part about how hard it is to be a kid, how confusing the world is. Sharing it feels very vulnerable, so I really lean into the humor as a way of relieving that tension.”

Unlike most of the others who’ll be onstage, Devan Anderson Sandiford, 38, didn’t grow up with storytelling as a child. Instead, he thought that “staying silent was what it meant to love and be loved.”

“The thing I would want everyone to hear,” he said, “especially right now as the world is swimming in chaos and confronting frequent global calamities, is that we have the power to come together and make change.” 

Finally, Kett started telling stories at The Moth in the spring of 2015. He recounted a shortened version of his Mount Baker Theatre story at a 2016 Moth GrandSLAM.

“I had just moved to Los Angeles,” he said, “and I had scripts that no one cared to read. I needed some sort of outlet, and the idea of both a captive audience and a supportive community was too enticing to pass up. I had never really done anything on stage before, but honing the craft has been invaluable to my writing in every form.”

The 37-year-old said his story centers around a specific moment for which he has a great deal of gratitude. At the end of the day, Kett believes in the power of storytelling to foster understanding, empathy and compassion.

“This show is transformative for everyone, both tellers and audience members,” he said. “It distills down the human experience to its core, and I can’t wait for everyone in Bellingham to get to experience it.”

The Moth Mainstage takes place at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28 at Mount Baker Theatre. Tickets are currently sold out. Info:

Margaret Bikman has been covering arts and entertainment in the Pacific Northwest for more than 30 years and is a librarian at Whatcom Community College.

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