USA Network and The Moth brought a unique blend of storytelling, stand-up comedy and social commentary to the Newseum last week. The event was brought to Washington, DC, because it is a place where, according to Chris McCumber, co-president, USA Network, “there are many characters but not a lot of union.”
The USA Network and the Moth, a nonprofit storytelling organization, have teamed together to bring the Characters Unite national tour to Washington, DC. All of the autobiographical stories revealed a tale of prejudice enlivened by humor, pathos and the sense of intimate sharing that brought listeners close to the storytellers in compassionate and empathetic sharing. These stories featured storytellers telling true, personal experiences of facing bigotry or discrimination. They recounted their experiences in front of a live audience without notes. Each tales highlighted a time when the storyteller discovered his/her own identity and voice.
The Moth project which brings the old-fashioned craft of storytelling to a variety of programs it has formed including The MothSHOP Community education program brings story-telling workshops free-of-charge to underserved populations, and the MothStory SLAM Program which brings open-mic story competitions around the country.
Celebrity storytellers included Academy-award winner Forrest Whitaker, author and pundit Meghan McCain, and star of Covert Affairs, Christopher Gorham. Other storytellers included Jeffrey Rudell, Kevin Jacobsen and Greg Walloch.
During the pre-event reception Meghan McCain said the opportunity to talk about her experiences being publicly criticized for her weight and blondness, “liberating.” She chatted about her forthcoming book, “America, You Sexy Bitch,” which she called a “love letter to our country.”
Forest Whitaker’s story was about his first experience with prejudice in the south when he was a boy. He stated that the evening represented an opportunity to look at “the potential for tolerance within ourselves. “It is empowering to tell these stories because they help us understand the roots of prejudice in ourselves and others,” he said.
Other observations included the one made by storyteller Jeffrey Rudell, who shared a story about how his parents reacted when he told them he was gay. “Hope is cumulative,” said Rudell, “It builds up in the system and becomes toxic. There is a thing as too much patience, but no such thing as too much forgiveness.”
Greg Walloch, one of the other storytellers who shared story of prejudice he faced against his disability, “Pick three things you can do well everyday…and let the rest go.”
The tour which has stopped in New Orleans, New York, Seattle, Denver and Chicago will benefit the Characters Unit nonprofit partners and the Moth’s community workshops