In Donna Guthrie's favorite story, a woman decides to impress a new boyfriend by pretending she's never seen snow. But when the fellow takes her to a mountain, he discovers the white lie.
"She was from Utah of course she'd seen snow before," says Guthrie. "If you've ever seen snow, it's really hard to fake the reaction of someone seeing it for the first time."
Guthrie, a local author, playwright and organizer of the annual 6 Women Playwriting Festival, says she heard that story at the Aspen Comedy Festival seven years ago. Its teller belonged to a New York-based, nonprofit storytelling organization called the Moth.
A few years later, Guthrie attended a Moth show in Manhattan. Impressed by the stories' simplicity, she returned determined to create a space for storytelling locally. Eventually, she enlisted local thespian Jesse Wilson to emcee a monthly event they're calling Downtown Stories.
Through it, Guthrie hopes to give a voice to artists and non-artists alike.
"The storytellers at the Moth had obviously practiced," she says, "but they weren't always performers. The people telling the best stories were accountants and hairdressers."
Sample stories available at themoth.org range from the deeply magnificent to the simply humorous. In "Man and Beast," Alan Rabinowitz, who stutters as a child, speaks to the prime minister of Belize and convinces him to create a jaguar conservatory. In "Locked Out," a writer who calls herself Doreen B. tells of getting locked out of the house when she sneaks out to smoke a cigarette on a visit home from college.
Wilson and a slate of judges plan to score each story, and each month's winner will compete in a final story slam sometime later in the year. "New Beginnings" is the theme for the first event; each autobiographical story should be no longer than 5 minutes. Brave tellers and first-time raconteurs can sign up on site (and unlike the Moth, notes are allowed).
"Anyone can tell a story," says Wilson. "People do it all the time."
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