October 16, 2019

McCarter and Public Library Partner on Storytelling Series

By Anne Levin

How many ways can a story be told? According to a series of programs taking place at Princeton Public Library and McCarter Theatre Center this fall, the list is long.

The Moth Mainstage, a popular storytelling event coming to McCarter November 22, was a key inspiration for the series that began early this month and continues with several programs that explore storytelling. Next on the agenda is The Story Lounge, taking place Tuesday, October 22 (and again November 12) at McCarter. These evenings of curated stories by community members are being held in anticipation of the Moth Mainstage event, the culmination of the series.

“We had already planned to do something about storytelling, but then with the Moth coming to McCarter, it was perfect,” said the library’s public programming director Janie Hermann. The Peabody Award-winning Moth Radio Hour, which is hosted by 500 National Public Radio (NPR) stations, has more than one million weekly listeners.

The Moth was founded in 1997 by poet and novelist George Dawes Green, who, after moving to New York City from Georgia, wanted to recreate the summer nights he and a circle of friends spent sharing stories on his back porch, where moths were attracted to the light. The first New York Moth event was held in Green’s living room, soon moving to larger venues in the city and beyond. NPR has presented the show since 2009.

Getting the Moth Mainstage to come to McCarter “is real gravitas,” said Hermann. “It is a big deal and a huge part of the series. But we’re also exploring the many other ways a story can be told, including books, music, food, graphic novels, and even a community quilting bee.”

A lecture at the library by Martin Koenig, “Sound Portraits from Bulgaria and the Balkans: Photographs and Recordings,” is Wednesday, October 23, at 6:30 p.m.

Ethnographer and cultural specialist Koenig discusses his half century of research into traditional music and dance of the Balkans. More than 50 years ago, Koenig embarked on a trip to Bulgaria armed with letters of introduction from anthropologist Margaret Mead and folklorist Alan Lomax. On this trip, as well as on numerous subsequent visits, he sought to research and document the traditional music and dance forms in their original settings. His historic recordings, photographs and films portray villagers, especially musicians and dancers, and a way of life that has been transformed by modernization, globalization, and emigration.

Food is the focus on October 29 at 7 p.m., when author Boris Fishman speaks at the library on “Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table.” Fishman’s new book is a personal story and family memoir told through meals and recipes. The book follows his family from 1945 Belarus to 2017 Brooklyn. Fishman is a lecturer in creative writing at the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University. 

Author/Illustrator Nora Krug’s topic is “Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home,” on Monday, October 28, at 7 p.m. The award-winning author and illustrator’s graphic novel is an illustrated and hand-lettered visual memoir on a German family’s memory of World War II.

Author Danny Gregory speaks on “Art Before Breakfast: A Zillion Ways to Be More Creative No Matter How Busy You Are,” on Sunday, November 3, at 3 p.m. Gregory’s book is an inspirational guide for aspiring artists who want to draw and paint but can’t find the time. With encouraging words and motivating illustrations, the book teaches readers how to develop a creative habit and lead a richer life through making art.

The quilting bee is Saturday, November 16, at 11 a.m. Anyone aged 8 and older is invited to drop in to help create a community quilt that tells a story. This four-hour workshop will be led by Marisa Simon.

On November 17 at 11 a.m., “A Poetry Brunch: No River Twice” is an improvisational poetry reading. By the end of the event, a new poem will be created that tells the story of the reading and those present. Coffee, tea, and pastries will be served at 11 a.m.; readings begin at 11:30 a.m.

Later, at 3 p.m., Alexander and Celeste Huang present an art talk. The son and daughter of Theresa Menders and Daniel Huang, whose photographs are on display on the second floor of the library, will talk about the photojournalism project that seeks to humanize the global refugee crisis. They have traveled with their parents to refugee camps around the world and are key members of the project. Their talk explores the perspective of a younger generation that is actively trying to address the refugee crisis as well as their engagement with younger refugees, including teenagers who have been deprived of school education for years.

Hermann co-created the series with the library’s humanities coordinator Hannah Schmidl. “Storytelling is an important part of our shared experience,” she said. “We have explored it with the Voices of Princeton project and oral history interviews that are ongoing. But this series takes it further, really to a new level.”