Between the Lions: Stories from NYPL

Celebrate the Centennial of NYPL’s landmark building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street with the storytelling group The Moth, and raise a proverbial glass to the 100 years of service!
On May 21, 2011, intrepid celebrities, scholars, and citizens took the stage to tell their favorite stories about NYPL in "Reading Between the Lions: Stories from The New York Public Library," presented by LIVE from the NYPL and The Moth.
“This is our seventh appearance at the Library,” says Jenifer Hixon of The Moth, the event’s producer, “but it’s the first time we’ve done a program that focuses on the Library. The lineup is a state secret until everyone has confirmed, but let’s just say that some pretty amazing people are dedicated to the Library.”
So what’s up with storytelling in the age of text messages and Twitter? The idea was the brainchild of novelist George Dawes Green. Back in the day, Green and a small circle of friends gathered on a friend’s porch on St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, to tell tales of love, loss, towering ambition, and (always a favorite) searing humiliation.
Drawn to the light, moths fluttered in through the holes in the screen — so the storytellers began calling themselves “The Moths.” When Green moved to New York in 1997, he missed those sultry, summer nights. He invited friends to gather in his living room, and The Moth was born.
Fourteen years later, headliners for The Moth’s mainstage events have included Margaret Cho, Ethan Hawke, Malcolm Gladwell, Garrison Keillor, and Rosie O’Donnell, among others, and storytellers have landed sweet book and movie deals. But it’s the good, old-fashioned yarn, entertainingly told, that The Moth is after, along with that intimate back-porch feeling that first inspired the group.
“The stories have to be personal and true, though what’s a story without a little embellishment,” says Hixon, “and they are delivered without notes.” The Moth’s curators work with storytellers to help them craft 10-minute tales. Professional actors, comedians, and writers take to the stage, but so has a New York City cop, a car salesman, a former pickpocket, a voodoo princess, and an astronaut.
Today, The Moth produces 1,500 new stories annually. Their podcasts have gone platinum at more than 1.3 million downloads, and the Moth Radio Hour broadcasts out of 226 public radio stations nationally. Aspiring storytellers flutter en mass to The Moth’s monthly open-mic “Slams” in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit. Their storytelling workshops in underserved schools teach creative self-empowerment.
Almost an institution at the Library, The Moth last appeared at NYPL this year in its sold-out “OMG: Stories of the Sacred” program, held in connection with the Library’s exhibition Three Faiths: Christianity, Judaism, Islam. “We love the Library,” says Hixon. “There’s something about the space that brings out some of our best stories and storytellers. It’s particularly awesome to be part of the Centennial.”