Smile Politely

Reliving the “Intrepid” installment of The Moth

The Moth, a show whose tagline is “true stories told live,” came to C-U last weekend and performed for a sold-out crowd at the Virginia Theater. The line outside of the theater was backed up around the block and people were very excited for this National Public Radio sensation to entertain them for the evening. 

Wine and beer were available as well as a few soft drinks. The Virginia offered customers the ability to buy drinks prior to, and have them ready and waiting at intermission. 

The Moth quickly sold out of their trendy t-shirts.

Niala Boodhoo from WILL’s The 21st radio show welcomed the crowd, introducing the MC for the night. She also encouraged the audience to support WILL by donating to the station so that our area can continue to hear great programming like The Moth radio show.  

A violinist came to the stage and played a delightful tune. He stayed on stage for the entire show and if any of the speakers talked too long, he was to play increasingly panicky music until they stopped their story. That, however, did not happen.

Hosting the show was Kate Tellers —  writer, performer, and teacher on the East Coast. The show’s theme was Intrepid and story-tellers were prompted to tell a tale about when they were afraid. I’ll do my best here to provide quotes, though fair warning, some of this is paraphrasing.

Micaela Blei — Oregon Trail

“I was teaching the Oregon Trail to 9-year-olds and I wanted them to know what it felt like to take a very long walk. So we went on a 40 block walk around New York City.”

“One of the children asked if they could die during the game, I said yes and a shiver of excitement went through the classroom!”

“Everyday, a student would come up to me and ask, ‘is someone going to die today?'”

“I thought I’d give them a little brush of death so the prompt that day was that we were traveling along and our wagon tipped over, Kate, a student who had a voice like she had been smoking for 30 years, was trapped under the wagon. We rolled the dice to see if she survived or not.”

“I thought to myself, do we have a funeral on the Oregon Trail? What kind of phone call am I going to get from these parents?”

“She survived but then her leg got infected, dark I know.”

“From the back of the classroom, another student yelled, ‘I’m a doctor, I can help,’ and she came to the front and saved Kate.”

Ali Al Abdullatif — Wrongly Accused

“I’m on a train in Boston and I see a screw loose in the seat in front of me so I reach down and screw it back in. This guy looks at me and yells, ‘you just planted a bomb on the train,’ and runs to get the conductor”

“I’m scared. I’m not from America. I’m thinking, ‘am I going to get deported?'”


“I had to go stand next to the conductor and he had to hold my arm while he drove the train with the other hand. When we got to the station another guard was there. Me, the guy, and the guard stood there and waited for police to arrive.”

“The guy turns to me and says, ‘I’m sorry to have to do this,’ and I say, ‘I understand you did what you thought was right, but this time, you are wrong,’ and he just explodes on me, yelling, and we have to be separated again.”

“The police never came and the guard told us to go home and wait for a call from the station. The call never came. I still live in fear that the call will come someday.”




David Montgomery — Living in a Spiceworld

“There is a special place in heaven for people who grow up gay in rural areas.”

“My sister brought home a Melissa Ethridge CD and my mom said, ‘don’t bring that music in my home, shes a dike and better off dead.”

“I started to hate myself which made it easier for other people to hate me too.”

“One night on T.V. I saw the Spice Girls and I realized that is what I wanted to do with my life…metaphorically.”

“Years later I was working at my job and saw online that the Spice Girls were coming to the US for a reunion tour and my savings account, I’ve always joked, that it is actually a Spice Girl reunion tour account.”

“I asked my boss off for the dates of 4 shows to which she told me no. I went back to my computer and bought tickets to 22 shows and asked her again to which she gave me a harder no. I walked out of my job that day.”

“I started video blogging my experience at the shows on YouTube and people started to recognize me.”

“I met a boy after a show, who was obviously gay, who told me that his mom wouldn’t drive him to the show because she thought it would make him gay. I wanted to tell him, ‘it gets better,’ but it doesn’t.”

Jill Morganthaler — A woman in the military

“My father said, ‘the military is conducting an experiment where they train the women along with of the men,’ so I joined up.”

“The men would say, ‘go home bitch.'”

“Everyday it was so hard to fit in—to be one of the guys—If they told dirty jokes so did I, if they belched, I would belch the alphabet. It was exhausting.

“But I made it through. And you have to rate you fellow soldiers whether or not you would follow them into battle. I got a 100% rating

“My commander in charge came to our troupe and said, ‘we’re going to have a beauty pageant here and you’re going to be in it, and that’s an order.” I was so embarrassed, I didn’t want to do it. A fellow soldier stood up and volunteered to be in the pageant, trying to protect me, to which my commander said, ‘great, you and Morganthaler.”

“I was backstage with my fellow soldier and they called my name. I went out in front of the crowd of men who began to grab my legs and yell obscenities. I was pissed. I stepped back, and gave them all the finger and walked out.”

“I went on to serve over 30 years in the military and eventually oversaw the trail of Saddam Hussein.”




Victor Levenstein — in KGB custody

“When I was 21, I was taken into custody by the KGB for terrorism… for plotting to kill Stalin.”

“A first I was charged with being an anti-Soviet.”

“They put me in a cell that was like a box and then took me a room for interrogation. I told them I was not plotting to kill anyone. They took me back to the box.”

“The interrogation did not stop. It went on for days until I gave up and did want they wanted, confessed to being an anti-Soviet.”

“But it didn’t stop there. They wanted me to confess to plotting to kill Stalin himself. The guards would grab my head and show me, saying, ‘this is where the bullet will enter, and this is where it will exit your skull.”

“Something in me wouldn’t let me confess to plotting to kill Stahlin. I believe it was my subconscious. I knew if I confessed to that crime, they would kill me.”

“I was sentenced to a work camp. I stayed for three years and was released but also banished to Siberia, exiled from my country.”

“A few years later, Stalin died and I was able to return home to my family. I survived the interrogation and the camp, but of the 13 of us taken into custody, 3 of us did not. I am the last living survivor.”

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