Previous Post  |  Next Post

Dispatches from the Moth · Posted On: May 30, 2019

MOTHerview with Storyteller Edgar Oliver

by Suzanne Rust

Edgar Oliver

“A good sense of humor is a form of love, really.”

While in military school, a stroke of good luck helps Edgar save face—and some important documents.

What about you is most Southern?

When I was growing up Savannah, it languished in a beautiful sort of desolation and decay. It had a haunted quality, like a ghost town, a quality I found very beautiful.  Mother taught Helen and me to love all that was desolate, decayed and abandoned, and founded a society called the Society for the Preservation of Decay.  It had only three members, Mother, Helen and me.  That love influenced my whole life, and it's certainly had a huge influence on my writing.  I don't know if that's an especially Southern quality…but I think it might be.

You grew up in an unconventional environment with your mother and sister Helen. What was it like to suddenly find yourself in military school?

I feared that I was going to be teased mercilessly, but I began to realize that even though they teased me, those boys were inherently kind.

Benedictine was, thank heavens, not a boarding school.  It was a Catholic military day school, and we were only in uniform a couple of days out of the school week. And as far as military schools go, the discipline at Benedictine was not rigorous. It was like a kind of play acting, dressing up in a military costume and parading around on the drill field.

Of course, this was during the Vietnam War, so there was a real danger that I would be drafted when I turned 18, and sent to fight.  If this happened, Mother's plan was that we would all three flee to Canada. 

Who are your favorite storytellers and why?

My sister Helen is probably the greatest storyteller I have ever known. There is an innocence to all of Helen's perceptions that makes them a form of revelation; her honesty and simplicity are a revelation.  Also, Helen has the best sense of humor I have ever known.  Helen can see the humor in just about anything. There are stories from my childhood that I would not have realized even were stories if Helen had not perceived what was funny and loony in them.  A good sense of humor is a form of love really, and Helen's stories are full of love for what is loony and funny about people, and about life. 

What did it mean for you to be able to share your story on the Moth stage?

Telling a Moth story is probably the scariest kind of performance I've ever done, and I've performed a lot, under many circumstances.   I guess it's scary because it has to be completely factual, and it can't be memorized.  Both those things leave no veil to hide behind.  Telling a Moth story is scary, but it's also exhilarating

Are you working on any new projects?

I'm working on a new one-man show called Victor, which will have a four-week run in October at the Axis Theatre in New York.

Please finish this sentence: Storytelling is important because….

Storytelling is important because it makes us see our common humanity. That's what everyone says, and it's true.  Storytelling spans generations and links them together. Also, it helps us find the humor in things. 

For more on Edgar, go to

Previous Post Next Post

The Lost Bookbag

by Edgar Oliver

A young cadet is entrusted with vital records at a military academy. 

Listen Now Add to Playlist