The Moth Radio Hour should come with this warning: be prepared to experience all the feelings in just 60 minutes.
Regular listeners of the NPR staple know to expect at least a few laughs and, most likely, more than a tear or two. For those who have never listened, that warning might seem excessive—but spend your next Tuesday lunch hour tuning in to KIOS FM (at noon), and you will understand. The clouds will part, the snow will melt, and in your heart you will know that the world is not a terrible place after all. (Sorry, The Moth just brings these things out in me).
Last night at The Rose Theater, magic happened. Literally. The show was called Occasional Magic: The Moth in Omaha, and it was hosted by longtime host (and performer) Dan Kennedy. Honestly, there’s no doubt Kennedy could share his own stories for the entire hour and you would be entertained. But part of the appeal of the show is catching that fleeting, 10- to 12-minute glimpse into another person’s life and realizing we’re not all that different.
Hearing the show on the radio, with the audience clapping and shouting their appreciation in between each story session is one thing. Being a part of the audience, deciding when/if you should clap or shout (or whoo, which much more accurately describes what I do) is a whole different experience.
The evening started with a brief violin interlude from Lizzie Furuta, whose job also included playing the cutoff music if needed (it wasn’t). Kennedy came out onstage to do the requisite introduction and to warm the audience up. Figuratively.
The first speaker was Alistair Bane, a citizen of the Eastern Shawnee Nation of Oklahoma who currently resides in Denver, Colorado, where he rehabilitates feral rez dogs. (Yes, I am envious of this.) His story of how he ruined one mother’s Mother’s Day may sound tragic, but seriously, it really wasn’t his fault.
Trina Michelle Robinson
Trina Michelle Robinson, a writer, editor, filmmaker, and performer originally from Chicago, spoke next. She told the story of how she came to learn her family was directly descended from Kentucky slaves. Not just that, though. She dug in deep, uncovering physical pieces of her family’s history in slavery. While everyone clapped when she finishes speaking, I noticed there were not “whoos.” I can only assume that, like me, it just didn’t seem right to cheer after such a wrenching tale of our own history.
Monte Montepare was up after Robinson, and frankly, he kind of looked like his name sounded—meaning when my friend read his name aloud, the person I envisioned basically walked up onstage when that name was called. The lanky man who looked his part—a wilderness guide in Alaska— told his story of heartbreak that was broken by an encounter with a grizzly bear. While it was wildly funny, it was not the best cautionary tale about the recommended thing to do when encountering such a beast.
After a 15-minute intermission, and another cautionary tale from Kennedy regarding the hazards of dropping fireworks from tall buildings, it was time for the final two speakers.
Angela Dohrman is originally from the Midwest and lived in Los Angeles working as a writer and actor. Currently, she lives in New York where she works as an acting teacher and, I am speculating, has plenty of side hustles. Her story takes you from a Wendy’s dumpster in a small town to sunny L.A., with plenty to laugh at along the way.
Sarah Jane Johnson
Last one up was Sarah Jane Johnson, who is originally from Bennington, Nebraska, where she was a very talented cheerleader and not-so-talented basketball player in high school. This was another gut-punch, especially for those who have been sexually assaulted. But in classic Moth style, the chief of staff of the show brings it around to a good place—her son.
The Moth’s new book which is also entitled Occasional Magic hits bookstores on March 19 and is available for pre-order online here.
Visit themoth.org for more information about the radio program.