REVIEW: The Moth GrandSLAM Championship

We all experience pain in our lives, and The Moth GrandSLAM transformed The Ark into an incredible stage where ten StorySLAM champions were able to tell the true stories of their Growing Pains live.

As host Amir Baghdadchi put it, The Moth GrandSLAM is the closest public radio gets to American Ninja Warrior. The Moth is magical. It creates a temple for regular human beings and the tales they have to tell. And, on September 26, 2018, The Ark became that temple.

Amir started us off with some amusing stories of his adventures through 5th grade and the wisdom of plagiarizing in someone’s authentic voice, passing on the message that the most important moral pains have to deal with one’s moral character. As we got ready for a night of storytelling, Violinist Natalie Frakes was the timekeeper, providing a friendly reminder with a graceful violin note when the five minute mark came around.

Growing pains deal with people; as a result, there were many stories about relationships, and specifically, with fathers. Jill Chenault told a heartwarming story about her will to be strong and independent and how her changing relationship with her father, who now has Alzheimer’s, has given her the opportunity to now support him. Jim Pinion also talked about his father, and how they built their relationship through building his first car together.

We also heard from the perspective of fathers. Maxie Jones provided a new take on fatherhood as he shared his struggles in leaving bachelorhood behind, but confirmed that he wouldn’t trade fatherhood for anything. Eddie Hejka, who has been the father of 18 kids through adoption and foster care, shared the time his black son was ticketed for curfew violation in Detroit. He noted that many people were caught in the court system, questioning whether the court was truly a system for justice and pointing out that it was time for the courts to go through some growing pains.

Romantic relationships are also a classic example of growing pains, whether that is internally or externally. Matthew Mansour charmingly details his struggle in accepting his sexuality and the threats he faced when he came out. Susan Ciotti bared her soul about her abusive and cheating husband and her ability to fight for herself and feel complete.

There were also personal stories told. Joanna Courteau narrated an amusing story about how she never grew up. With the existence of false cognates (which is kind of like fake news, Joanna says), she amused the audience with her take on the growing pains that never go away. Stephanie Holloway talked about the of financial freedom and the all-too-relatable pains of financial responsibility. Paul Walters recounted the time he wanted to save the day when cycling, as nothing is more characteristic of growing pains than being a Sufferlandrian. And Rob Osterman explained why the first song in Frozen makes him cry — it’s a blatant reminder of mortality.

In between storytellers, Amir read the stories of the audience through prompts on papers they filled out. From little tales of when people had to make headway the hard way, or when they took a rivalry too far, it was a night filled with personal anecdotes from everyone that connected everyone in the room through these stories.

Three teams of judges scored the storytellers. Susan left the night as a Moth GrandSLAM champion, but all ten storytellers were champions in their vulnerability and excellent storytelling. There was pure laughter and heartfelt silence and emotional tears as these stories were told.

Our stories are the “honest truths that make up who we are,” and at The Ark that night, we got to hear those honest truths in their full glory.

PREVIEW: The Moth GrandSLAM Championship

One of the most original forms of art, storytelling is a tradition that never dies. The spoken word can express sorrow, hardships, humor, and triumph. There is nothing more raw than an individual standing on a stage, crafting words in a way that transforms their past into the present. The Moth Podcasts never fail to entertain me and touch my soul, and now, I finally get to experience these performances live.

The Moth GrandSLAM is taking place on September 26 at 8pm. It is the final culmination of the best of the best stories in Ann Arbor as stories come alive at The Ark. Join me at the intimate local venue where we will be taken on many different and wonderful journeys in one single night.