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The Moth Celebrates 25th Anniversary With Gala Honoring David Byrne

The Moth, a legendary storytelling non-profit, will hold their 25th Anniversary Gala, The Moth Ball, on May 26th at Spring Studios in New York City. The event will honor multi-disciplinary artist David Byrne. It celebrates not only the silver anniversary of The Moth but the launch of a new book, How to Tell a Story.

Since their launch in 1997, The Moth has allowed more than 40k true personal stories to be shared from their various stages around the world to foster connection and empathy. Some of those stories go on to air on The Moth Radio Hour and their podcast, which receives 90 million downloads a year.

Forbes spoke with Catherine Burns, who has spent 20 years as Artistic Director at The Moth. Burns is a producer, author, director and frequent host of the Peabody-award winning, The Moth Radio Hour. We spoke about the storytelling that The Moth Gala will offer, and what most excites Burns about this year’s celebration. We also discussed the launch of The Moth’s newest book, which teaches the art of storytelling.

Risa Sarachan: Why is the work The Moth does important in the current moment?

Catherine Burns: Over the past thirty years, humans have been interacting in person less, and connecting more and more through our devices. This was exacerbated by the isolation of the pandemic. We need to return to the intimacy of human connection that is afforded by sharing and listening to one another’s personal stories. Listening to stories encourages you to slow down, breathe, and think about life for a minute and truly see the person who is telling it. Plus, in an increasingly divided world, stories allow you to remember that behind every media event are real people whose lives are affected.

Sarachan: Will the gala include any storytelling?

Burns: Yes! We’ll be doing a full Moth show, featuring two hosts (the brilliant Jon Goode and Angelica Lindsey-Ali), four in-person stories and a handful of short videos. The storytellers represent The Moth’s programs: we’ll have one person from our flagship mainstage series, one each from our community, education and global programs, and one-minute story videos from winners of our open mic StorySLAM competitions.

Sarachan: Can you please tell me about your recent Broadway Premiere and how André De Shields got involved?

Burns: André had been at the top of our wish list for years, and we’d asked him to tell a story a number of times, but the timing was never right. We were thrilled to be doing the show on the set up Hadestown, and the stars finally aligned! It was also exciting to celebrate the publication of our book, How to Tell a Story, on the occasion of our first Broadway show!

Sarachan: What is most exciting to you about this year’s Moth Ball?

Burns: I love that the show is highlighting voices from across the Moth universe. Our mainstage and slam programs are in the public eye a lot, but we’re deeply proud of our workshop programs, which have grown tremendously over the past ten years. And, of course, we’re over the moon about honoring David Byrne, a man who has for years told brilliant stories across a variety of media, but who also uses his own power and platform to constantly elevate the voices of others.

Sarachan: Can you tell me more about The Moth’s newest book?

Burns: Our new book, How to Tell a Story, came out in April. It’s meant not just for people interested in telling a Moth story, but for anyone who wants help uncovering their own stories and telling them better, whether on a job interview, making a toast, or just connecting in a deeper way with friends and family. It’s been a huge thrill finally having this book out in the world. My favorite readers are people who pick up the book thinking they don’t have a story, and finish it realizing they have a multitude of stories to share!

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Tickets to The Moth’s 25th Anniversary Gala can be purchased here.

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