Sarah Geraghty on ... sharing with strangers

Sat, Jul 26, 2014, 01:00

Share stories? We do it without even knowing it. It’s how we get to know people, discover we could love them, hate them or might end up in witness protection if we don’t get out fast. All those stories about knowing you’d met The One when you realised you could have talked all night? That’s a story as old as time. I’ve been to some of the weddings.

So we know that sharing with strangers can be life-changing. (Yep, we all know there’s such a thing as “over-share” too which can be mortifying . . . but that’s an other story).

The Irish are famous story-tellers and we’re pretty sure it’s nothing to do with liking the sound of our own voices.

Fadó fadó around the turf fire and the seanchaí spinning tales of Fionn and the Fianna and brown bulls from Louth – the image looms large in many tourists’ travel plans.

But what if you think you have a story in you but can’t quite recall how Setanta came to be called Cú Chulainn and haven’t a cúpla focal to your name?

Worry not. This ancient art is having a rebirth, taking its lead from the mothership of contemporary storytelling The Moth in New York. With groups such as Belfast-based Tenx9, Galway’s the Moth and the Butterfly and Dublin’s Milk and Cookies Stories in Dublin, story-telling is coming to a pub or cosy floor-space near you.

Created in 1997 by poet George Dawes Green, The Moth – named for the winged insects flittering around the porch light – was inspired by storytelling nights in Green’s native Georgia where strangers gathered to share true experiences from their lives.

Thousands of seasoned and novice raconteurs followed suit in packed bars and cafes across New York and beyond, resulting in a weekly podcast, a radio station and a best-selling story collection.

There are rules for these gatherings. Stories must be true. This is about you, not Fionn Mac Cumhaill. This is not about hogging the mic for a meandering tale about when you got drunk in college. And it’s not about flowery writing.

“Your eloquent musings are beautiful and look pretty on the page but unless you can make them gripping and set up stakes, they won’t work on stage,” say the Moth people.

You must stick to a given theme, perform live and without notes. “Watching you panic to think of the next memorised line is harrowing for the audience,” say the ruthless Moth people.

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