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MothOUT - new name for popular St. Louis story slam coming June 30

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 17, 2011 - MothUp is currently going through a MothOut. The popular local storytelling group has decided to part ways with The Moth and re-name itself. This decision has been made to keep the program running and avoid new restrictions and guidelines from The Moth, a nonprofit based in New York City.

Since the beginning, MothUp has been open to the public, free of charge and hosted at such places as Foam, Blueberry Hill's Duck Room and Bridge bringing in 150-250 people each month to hear stories from members of the St. Louis community. There is always a theme to the Story Slam and a big audience.

"We were one of the initial guinea pigs of the program. We had general guidelines to follow from The Moth," MothUp co-founder Stacey Wehe said. "As time has gone on more groups have signed up to be associated with The Moth and they have added a lot restrictions and regulations. We just want to continue to do exactly what we are doing. It seemed the only way we could do that was to dis-affiliate from The Moth."

One of the new restrictions includes limiting the size. The organizers of MothUp (Wehe and Amanda Clark) were asked by The Moth to limit the group to 50 people. "We are in a limbo position at the moment, it is like they are not sure what to do with us," Wehe said.

The size at which they are now makes them eligible for The Moth's Story Slam program, which charges money to enter and turns the event into a paid story slam that requires a Moth staff member to be present. "Even if we did want a story slam, The Moth said they do not have the resources to allocate for it,"  Wehe said.. "They said it would cost $100,000 to put on the event here but we would remain on the short list as a city that would be able to host one in the future."

Another conflict was the rights to the videos of the storytellers. "We want to make the stories told in St. Louis open to the public, if we stayed connected with The Moth, they would have full control over the video recordings of the stories," Wehe said. "If they decided we needed to take all the stories off youtube, we would be obligated to. We want St. Louis to have control of the stories."

Wehe and Clark started this St. Louis storytelling gathering and hope St. Louis is unfazed by the name change. "We are not too worried. Stacey and I think it is a really positive change, we are going to have a lot more freedom in what we do. We are going to make it more St. Louis," Clark said. "It is a leap of faith, but we are looking forward to the room we will have to partner and grow."

To let fans know about the changes, MothUp posted a note on its Facebook page explaining the change,

"While we continue to adore The Moth, the simple fact is that the MothUP program began as a small storytelling series and if you've ever been to one of our events, it's clear that we are not, and every month continues to be more fantastic than the last. We're honored that St. Louis was one of the pioneers in the now international MothUP movement, and we continue to be amazed by the support St. Louis has shown us. Which is why we want to continue doing exactly what we're doing.

"What does that mean? Our name is changing. Just our name, nothing else.

"We've had the 'it's not you, it's me' conversation with The Moth and will remain good friends, but we're venturing out on our own! We will continue to do exactly what we've been doing, just no longer under contract with The Moth. We believe that our events are a wonderful addition to the cultural landscape in

St. Louis; they offer a unique place for creative expression while bringing people together to bond over shared experiences and fostering an expanded sense of community. We're devoted to keeping our monthly Story Slams free to the public and we don't want to ever limit the number of people who can attend. And now, we will have the freedom to do just that!

"So from here on out, our event belongs to you, St. Louis. That being said, there's just one last item to cover: the name.

"Now that we're authentically St. Louis, we want our new name to be a reflection of this amazing city and our supporters. So ... we're asking for your help.

"Post, email, tweet, or smoke signal your suggestions to us. Like, retweet or generally shout the praises of any ideas that tickle your fancy. And just as we learned to do in high school - pass this note around for an all-out guerilla brainstorming session. Should the name be abstract like MothUP was or literal? In true St. Louis fashion, should we pick a French name but lovingly mispronounce it? The fate of this urban story slam, soon-to-be-formerly-known-as-MothUP-St. Louis, is in your hands!"

The note worked and there has been enormous response with suggestions for the new names including, "The Word, Storyaoke, Local Vocal, The Yarn, Slamlouis and others.

Mark your calendar for MothOUT - Thursday, June 30, 8 p.m. at FOAM (3959 Jefferson) where the new name will be unveiled and the story telling theme of the evening will be "Big."

Rosa Dudman Mayer is a freelance writer.

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