The Moth storytelling series takes over Headliners each month, giving a spotlight to anyone brave enough to tell a story in five minutes or less. A winner is crowned each time, and once a year those winners are pitted against each other in The Moth GrandSLAM, which will be held Thursday, Jan. 12, at the Kentucky Center’s Bomhard Theater.
Think of it as the Super Bowl of storytelling.
There are 10 finalists, and each has five minutes to tell a new story on the theme of “breaking ground.” The only difference with the GrandSLAM compared to the monthly events, according to producer Tara Anderson, is the contestants have an opportunity to run their stories by national Moth director Jenifer Hixson for some coaching.
Anderson believes the competition this time is going to be tough, and anything can happen.
“We have a lot of different people taking part this year,” she says. “Some of them are regulars who have won more than once, and others were first-time storytellers who came in and won right off the bat.”
While the judges already have been selected, the structure will remain the same — three teams of judges give a score from 1 to 10 after each performance, and points are subtracted if the contestant goes over six minutes.
Anderson cherishes The Moth’s home at Headliners, but taking it once a year to the Bomhard Theater is fun for everyone involved, she says. “On a regular night, none of the storytellers know if they’ll actually get on stage, but at a GrandSLAM, they all know they’ll be telling a story, and they usually have a bunch of friends and family in the audience to cheer them on.”
So what’s the secret to a savory story? Anderson believes the best ones are personal and reflect a change from the beginning of the story to the end. And the gory details are often the best parts.
The Moth has been gaining popularity around the country since its inception in 1997. The Louisville Moth recently celebrated its fifth birthday, and events normally draw a substantial crowd each month. Anderson credits the charm of old-fashioned storytelling for the program’s success.
“I think there is an appetite for analog entertainment in our digital world. I live so much of my life online, like many of us do, and it’s not a bad thing in itself — but spending an evening away from a screen, sharing a common experience with other human beings in a room, is so important,” she says. “And as a Southern city, Louisville appreciates a good yarn.”
The Moth GrandSLAM starts at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 12, at the Kentucky Center. It’ll be hosted by Ashlee Clark Thompson and Graham Shelby, and there will be musical performances by Zach Longoria and Gina C. Tickets are $28.