Senior shares lessons of luck with over 200 eyes and ears

Against the odds, Ruthie Osagie ’21 performs at the Moth Eastern Virtual StorySLAM


Mary Randolph, Editor-in-Chief

Eating chicken wings and watching the Moth Eastern Virtual StorySLAM from home, Ruthie Osagie ’21, mid-bite, was shocked to hear event host Ophira Eisenberg call her name to perform a story, she said.

“I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ and I screamed,” Ruthie said. “I was panicking, but I was prepared. So I turned on my camera, and I said to myself, ‘OK, I guess we’re doing this.’”

Before a Zoom audience of 234 viewers logging in from Maine to North Carolina to hear tales relating to luck, the theme of the night, Ruthie revisited a moment of stage fright at a freshman year talent show when, against her teacher’s guidance, she had switched her song. As a result, she forgot the lyrics and fled the stage for the bathroom, where she spent a few minutes mortified.

“I had left my performance up to luck instead of practice,” Ruthie told the audience at the end of the story. “So I got up, wiped my tears, hunched my shoulders back, and put my chin up. I walked back to the room backstage, and I went up to [my teacher]. She looked at me and smiled, and I looked back at her and said, ‘Thank you.’ Because I realized she was looking out for me when I wasn’t looking out for myself.”

Though she worked hard on multiple rounds of revisions, Ruthie said, the story felt right for the occasion.

“This was the ideal story because, one, it was the most interesting story that had ever happened in my life, and, two, it was probably the story that I could put together most cohesively,” she said. “I used to replay it all the time in my head because it was so embarrassing.”

Ruthie originally created the story for English Teacher Allison Kornet’s Storytelling Workshop, a senior elective focused on crafting and delivering, rather than writing and reciting, true stories for live audiences. In lieu of class, students in the course attended the two-hour evening event run on March 1 by The Moth, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting stories and storytellers. For the Eastern Virtual StorySLAM, eight performers were drawn out of 64 entrants.

Though taking the spotlight before hundreds of strangers was nerve- wracking, Ruthie felt she had something to prove and saw the new performance setting as an opportunity to let go of embarrassment, she said.

“When I told my mom that I had submitted my name to tell this story at the event, she was like ‘You really want to tell that story?’ Knowing that people remember that story gets me kind of nervous, but I knew I needed to face this fear. I’ve transformed, and that’s exactly why I told this story: to finally prove to my family and to myself that I had overcome my fear of performing.”

Ruthie’s classmate, Quinn Liu ’21, said her performance was inspiring.

“After watching Ruthie go, I wanted to tell a story next time if the opportunity came,” he said.

Other members of the class rallied to tell stories within the broader school community over Zoom. Bea Scanlon and Dylan Wang (both ’21) shared stories of “last chances” with English Teacher Jean Klingler’s seniors as they prepared to undertake a similar writing prompt, and Jaden Young and Jackson Helie (both ’21) made appearances at a freshman and senior grade meeting, respectively.

“This has been a difficult year for community-building, and spending a few good winter months sharing and shaping stories together felt like a great thing to be doing,” Ms. Kornet said. “People were funny, and people were earnest—the same people who were funny one week were earnest the next— and we just got to connect over the whole range of experiences brought in with each teller.”

Bea, the only other student from the class to submit her name to tell a story, said it was satisfying to see the effect of Ruthie’s performance on someone who had no idea what was about to happen.

“When Ruthie finished telling her story, Ms. Eisenberg was just sitting there with her mouth open. She was so blown away by Ruthie’s performance and how well-crafted the story was.”

The storytelling class and the Moth event, Bea said, taught her just how important storytelling is.

“Every time you talk to someone, you’re telling a story, even if it’s not a crafted story. Using your words to communicate is so essential to everything you do, and being able to look at it through a crafting lens and examine how you speak and the techniques you can use to communicate better is so important in every aspect of your life, not just English class.”