Much ado about ‘The Moth’: How Louisville’s light caught the attention of storytelling’s biggest slam [Theatre]

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For the original teaser article from Friday, click here.

As you may know by now, The Moth is coming to Louisville for a residency starting September 27—something Billy Hardison has been working on for a long time. Hardison, who was a marketing director at Louisville Public Media for eight years, initially approached the storytelling organization years ago, but its live performances were confined to more major metropolises. “They weren’t ready to add another market,” he says. “But when they did decide to pursue Louisville, I wasn’t at the station—but hey, I own a venue now.”

Hardison, of course, is a co-owner at Headliners, and he couldn’t be prouder of all the hard work he and his radio colleagues have done in bringing both major and under-the-radar acts to town. “This truly speaks to the power of public radio in the Louisville market,” he says. ”This wouldn’t be happening without the unique situation we benefit from here in Louisville. Having three stations under one roof has afforded WFPL the ability to stand as tall as its peers in major markets.”

It was exactly that stature that caught the attention of The Moth when it decided to expand its horizons. Senior producer Jenifer Hixson says a big part of Louisville’s appeal is that it is not New York or Los Angeles. “We wanted to add a southern city and get some different voices,” she says. “We want to represent so many different places and it seems like a very cosmopolitan city and one that would appreciate our stories. When we do the slam, we’ll have people of all different stripes and stories.”

She adds that Louisville was on board with The Moth Radio Hour from the start, with WFPL’s program director Todd Mundt giving essential feedback when it was tested in the pilot stage. “I’m so excited about this. The Moth itself is a phenomenon that has grown far beyond its modest beginnings and keeps alive the art of storytelling,” Mundt says, adding that The Moth Radio Hour and public radio are an ideal match “because we’re devoted to telling stories—from the stories that involve governments and millions of people, down to the stories that change individual lives. It’s powerful stuff.”

Local producer Tara Anderson can attest to that power. “It’s not theatre, it’s not stand-up comedy, it’s not group therapy,” she says, “but it has elements of all those things. When the vibe is right, the atmosphere can be absolutely electric. I know there are people in town with amazing stories to tell, and I hope the StorySLAM becomes the best place in town for telling stories—besides your own porch, of course.”

The inaugural Headliners StorySLAM will have a familiar flavor to regular listeners, with podcast host Dan Kennedy serving as master of ceremonies. “To be bringing the slam to Louisville is pretty amazing,” says Kennedy, who also wrote the music industry memoir Rock On. “To watch other people having their first night with The Moth is amazing. You go to the show and whether you’re telling a story or just listening, you walk out into the night feeling something I still can’t explain.”

And beyond that first night, Hixson has high hopes. “If all goes well, we’ll just keep going [beyond December],” she says. “We’ve never cancelled a show. In New York, it’s been 11 years now, and we have four a month.”

The audience may even extend beyond Headliners. “On every season of The Moth Radio Hour we have at least two slam stories,” Hixson says. “We’re hoping to get a couple of Louisville stories up on the podcast and on the radio show. We only put stuff up there that we really like.” Hixson is optimistic that a local “Mainstage” show will follow. With those shows, the stories are longer and, as with so many other Moth segments, involve people you wouldn’t ordinarily think of as storytellers. “We use regular people,” she says. “We help them along and coach them so they can tell a part of their life in a story.”

“The Moth is really kind of magical,” says host Kennedy. “My favorite thing about The Moth StorySLAM is that it’s not any one person’s thing, or a select clique. It’s everybody’s. Anyone who wants to be a part of it, it is yours to have.”

Tickets are on sale today at Headliners, 1386 Lexington Road, ear X-tacy, 2226 Bardstown Road, and www.headlinerslouisville.com for $8. Due to the potential adult nature of some of the stories, the show is adults only.

Contact the author at leecopywriting@gmail.com or www.leecopywriting.com.