On Thursday night, I performed alongside four other storytellers at The Wilbur Theater in Boston as part of a Moth Mainstage. We told stories to a sold out audience of 1,200.
It was an amazing night.
Last night I hosted a story slam at Word Up, a small, community bookstore in Washington Heights run by volunteers and stocked primarily with used books. Nine brave storytellers were courageous enough to stand on a makeshift stage of pallets and plywood to share their stories to an audience about about 40 people. Almost all were first-time storytellers.
It was also an amazing night.
The two events could not have been more different.
In Boston, five storytellers underwent weeks of revision and an evening of rehearsal with experienced and skilled producers in preparation for the event. We arrived at the theater early for a sound check and publicity photos. We enjoyed food and drink in a well-appointed green room, which was adjacent to the green room of Saturday Night Live star and future host of the Tonight Show Seth Meyers, who was taking the stage immediately after us.
Last night’s storytellers did not revise and rehearse their stories with talented producers. They did not have a mic check prior to the show, and as a result, they fought with the microphone stand all evening long. There was no green room. There was no Seth Meyers.
Two completely different shows in terms of scale and sophistication, yet I’m not sure which was better.
Yes, the stories in Boston were more polished, and the storytellers were better prepared and more poised onstage. The audience was enormous and enthusiastic. The laughter and tears were more plentiful.
But the storytellers in Washington Heights were incredible, too, despite their overall inexperience. They were honest. Compelling. Revealing. Amusing. Diverse. Surprising. At least two of their stories were more than capable of winning a Moth StorySLAM.
If given the choice, I’d always choose the audience of 1,200 over the audience of 40, but in the grand scheme of things, the size your audience or the opulence of your venue are irrelevant. In the end, it’s about the stories and the people willing to share them.
Everything else is window dressing.