LOGAN – “The Moth Mainstage” performance at the Ellen Eccles Theatre on Thursday conclusively proved that storytelling is not a lost art.
In theory, “The Moth” is a nationwide non-profit group dedicated to preserving that traditional performing art by encouraging ordinary, everyday people to become storytellers. In reality, there was nothing ordinary about the five speakers who performed here or the individual who introduced them.
The host of the show jointly staged by the Cache Valley Center for the Arts and Utah Public Radio was Jon Goode, an Emmy nominated author, poet and playwright hailing from Atlanta, GA. Goode demonstrated an incredible gift for gab, even managing to incorporate witty local-color asides about Angie’s and Herm’s restaurants into his shtick.
Goode’s primary purpose, however, was to introduce the five storytellers selected to perform here in Logan.
They were Alistair Bane, a member for the Shawnee tribe from Denver; Justin Hawkins, a native of Massachusetts who recently transplanted himself to Los Angeles; Carolyn Meyer, an author from Albuquerque; Tatenda Shumirai Ngwaru, a intersexual refugee from Zimbabwe; and George Sumner, a native of Cache Valley now residing in Salt Lake City.
As a veteran of the Vietnam War, Sumner drew a standing ovation from the Eccles audience for his heartfelt tale of a long, emotional journey to accept pride in his service during that controversial conflict.
After two tours as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam in the 1960s, Sumner joined the Salt Lake City Fire Department in 1971 and rose through the ranks to become deputy chief. He retired in 1999 to become the Fire Chief in Bountiful until 2006.
Hawkins led off the show with a hilarious recollection of his trials and tribulations while attempting to learn to swim at the ripe, old age of 33.
After a decade working the television industry in New York, Hawkins describes himself as possibly the only person ever to move to Los Angeles to get out of show business. He enjoys visiting Utah to recreate with his sister and stargaze in our national parks.
Age also figured in the story told by Ms. Meyer, who as a recent widow launched herself – somewhat less than successfully – into the online dating scene shortly after she turned 80.
Ms. Meyer is no stranger to the stage. She has written and performed two one-person shows entitled Don’t Call Me Young Lady! and The Old White Lady Tells It.
Bane’s tale was a somber story about how a ghost helped him come to terms with his homosexuality and estrangement from his family.
In addition to storytelling, Bane is a visual artist. In 2016, he served as a resident artist for the Native American Arts Program at the Denver Art Museum.
Finally, Ms. Ngwaru explained the cultural issues regarding intersexuality that forced her to seek asylum here in the United States.
She has written for the Huffington Post and Vogue Magazine and was the subject of a documentary that debuted at the Boston LBGT Film Festival.
Local fiddle artist Anna Watkins Anawalt of Mendon also performed during “The Moth Mainstage.”
“The Moth” was founded in the late 1990s by poet and novelist George D. Green.
He and like-minded storytellers called themselves “The Moths” because their original small summer gatherings were held on Green’s porch in Georgia, where moths flocked to the outdoor lights.
Now based in New York City, “The Moth” hosts hundreds of storytelling programs in more than 25 U.S. cities throughout the year. Since 2009, “The Moth Radio Hour” has also been a popular weekly syndicated offering on National Public Radio affiliates, including Utah Public Radio.
UPR listeners who are fans of “The Moth” broadcasts turned out in force for Thursday’s performance. Despite restrictive COVID-19 protocols for entrance to the show, “The Moth Mainstage” attracted a near-capacity audience to the Ellen Eccles Theatre.