On Thursday evening in Los Angeles, a packed house eagerly anticipated performances from 11 high school students. The teens weren't acting in a school play; they were onstage, alone with a microphone, telling a story about a time they stood up for themselves or for someone else.
There were moments when you could hear a pin drop.
"Shut up, faggot" was something 16-year-old Ciara heard a bully tell another kid in class. "I'm not usually the type of person to stick up for myself," she said onstage. In this instance, however, she scolded the bully and told him how ignorant and disrespectful he was.
"At times, I couldn't get out of bed," another teen said. She told the story of finding it hard to go about daily tasks and struggling to go to school or be around others. Therapists, doctors, her parents, everyone tried to figure out what was wrong. She often would "try to forget who she was and to feel nothing," she said.
An inside joke between classmates triggered her to wonder what she was missing and helped propel her to move on. Today, she said, "I know I have choices. There are options, and I can move above this."
Set in Jackson, Mississippi, during the Civil Rights movement, The Help chronicles the relationship between three extraordinary women who build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project that breaks societal rules. Each of these women stands up for what she believes in, and The Moth's storytelling workshops gave kids the opportunity to do the same.
A student named Victoria closed the night with a story about how her mom is constantly telling her to read. "'Go read' was all I heard when I was younger," she said.
When she was eight years old, she said she was so excited to play a Barbie computer game, but when her sister wanted a turn, they got in a fight and Mom told Victoria to "go read."
Angry in her room, she took a step back and tried to understand why her mom wanted her to read so much. What she realized, she said, was that her mom grew up in China in the 1970s. All she was given to read was Chairman Mao's Little Red Book.
Victoria realized: "She wanted me to read because I can, and because she was never able to."
From DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance Entertainment, in association with Participant Media and Imagenation Abu Dhabi, comes the drama 'The Help.' Participant Media is TakePart's parent company.