The Big Bang: The Moth
The Moth is a nonprofit organization that has presented over 3,000 stories, told live without notes, around the globe, and brought five presenters to Berkeley for "The Big Bang: The Moth at the Bay Area Science Festival" on Oct. 28.
Host and McSweeney’s contributor Dan Kennedy, looking a bit like Ed Helms wearing Elvis Costello glasses, wove his own tale of chasing a story about far-flung herpetologists and wading through thigh-high bat guano among the storytelling quintet and underutilized violinist Alisa Rose, who played a pair of melancholy Goat Rodeo-sounding snippets.
Kennedy found a clever way to make sure electronic devices were turned off. First, he had the audience hold up their smart phones so he could snap a social media post, then said "now turn off" the star scape of glowing screens.
As intros to this evening of "good, old-fashioned storytelling," Kennedy had asked each speaker to share a "big bang" event from their lives, asking "When was the last time something blew up for you?". This created a diverse, yet not quite science-related, way to fit into a week of hardcore scholarship (www.bayareascience.org).
In the first of the ten-minute tales, Congressional aide and theater practitioner Gil D. Reyes braided his coming out account with kidney failure in his early 20s. Needing a transplant helped him conquer his discomfort in accepting help, and he even held a baby shower to celebrate the arrival of his KIDney. Occasionally fighting back tears, Reyes remembered reflecting on life’s time verses time well spent.
"Seinfeld" character Doris Klompus, an engaging Annie Korzen, delivered a well-modulated story about motherhood, when to hold close and when to let go of her only son as he planned his over-the-top wedding. She also imparted sage secular Jewish advice on seeing theater on the cheap ("the easiest day to get Broadway tickets is on Yom Kippur") and explained the Hebrew triple play: eating out, shopping and climate control.
Before the intermission, polymath Christof Koch told of a Nietzschean crisis when his budding physics career clashed with his German Catholic upbringing while growing up around the globe (mostly Morocco). He then shared his the longstanding, father and son-type relationship with Francis Crick, who won the Nobel Prize for proposing the double-helical structure of DNA. They collaborated on papers and books about the brain, and Crick’s death from cancer helped inform Koch on how to live.
A 2010 Guggenheim Fellow, Holly Hughes moved to New York City in 1979 -- "when quiche was a health food and Travolta was young, thin and hot" -- first, as a painter, then as a monologist at the Women’s One World (WOW) Café. Her feminist lesbian work was impacted by the ’90s AIDS pandemic, so she used her art for treatment, and to mourn, yet social backlash cost her the government funding she was to receive.
She became one of the "NEA Four," along with Karen Finley, who took their case all the way to the Supreme Court. They won back their grant money, but the struggle caused Hughes to reflect on why she wanted to continue making work. She recalled the words of a professor from her college days in Michigan, where she teaches today, and did indeed want to "share with the difficult truth of art."
Mythbuster Adam Savage completed the evening by imaging he is writing computer code to imprint upon his twin sons as they discover sex via pornography. He was tickled to have learned his kids’ first porn search terms -- "nudies" and "big boobs" -- and finally shorthanded his take on the medium for them: "the Internet hates women."
"The Big Bang: The Moth at the Bay Area Science Festival" was held on Oct. 28 at 101 Zellerbach Hall #4800, Berkeley, CA. For information about upcoming shows, including their Mainstage Storytelling, StorySLAMS and community education programs, visit http://themoth.org/