Person of interest: David Harris-Gershon, writer and storyteller

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"I had never pretended to be a woman until the presidential election of 2008 ..."

With that opening line, David Harris-Gershon went on to wow the audience at Pittsburgh's first Moth GrandSLAM storytelling championship last month and won. His story related his unorthodox approach in canvassing for Barack Obama in adult romance chat rooms.

He was among 10 previous winners of the year-old monthly storytelling event who competed for the Big Kahuna on Jan. 17 at the New Hazlett Theater. Participants must recite true stories without notes and are limited to five minutes. "It's pure storytelling," he said.

A teacher at a private elementary and middle school, Mr. Harris-Gershon is also an active blogger for Tikkun magazine and Daily Kos and is a freelance writer on Israel, the Middle East and America's role in the region.

His memoir "What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?" will be published this fall by Oneworld Publications; an excerpt from the work in progress appeared in the Post-Gazette in June 2010.

David Harris-Gershon's story

Canvassing for Obama in Adult Romance Chat Rooms

He grew up in Atlanta and got his bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia. He earned a master's degree in education at Hebrew University in Israel and later received his MFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

In 2009, his family moved to Squirrel Hill, where his wife, Jamie, grew up.

Although his experience with the Moth has been his first foray into organized storytelling, "I'm a natural, but I practice this religiously," he said. "I viewed it as an amazing experience. ... I wanted to entertain. People were paying $20. I wanted to make people laugh and allow them to have a good time.

"I had a sense it was a good story."

The Moth, which debuted in New York in 1997 and has spread across the country, is dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. It began here in October 2011 and is typically held the second Tuesday of each month at the Rex on the South Side. (See the schedule at

Mr. Harris-Gershon, 38, hopes one day to participate in the Moth Mainstage, the flagship event that features local and traveling storytellers.

Meanwhile, his main audience these days is his 9- and 6-year-old daughters: They've been treated to his ongoing bedtime story every night for the past six months.

My favorite story as a child: Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are" -- this was, without doubt, my favorite narrative as a child. However, the children's book I was most drawn to was "Where's Waldo?" I could get endlessly lost while meditating on the countless intricate cityscapes, searching for a hint of that striped hat.

In my daydreams, I imagine myself ... trading barbs with Jon Stewart as he swoons over my memoir and charming wit.

I'm most nervous when I have to ... attempt a night's sleep during bouts of insomnia.

My favorite opening line of any book is ... "I am an invisible man." -- Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man."

Most mornings I get up ... at the crack of dawn, grind some coffee, chisel the crust from my eyes as it brews and my daughter -- already awake and reading at the dining room table -- attacks me with her tackle hugs.

My perfect weekend: Writing at a coffee shop in the early morning hours, hiking through Frick Park's meandering trails with my family, perhaps camping at Ohiopyle or catching a Pirates game if the weather agrees. Oh, and beer. Finely brewed beer.

I'm surprisingly good at ... performing before large audiences, given my somewhat introverted nature.

My emergency dinner consists of ... not eating.

Favorite spot in the 'Burgh: I'm supposed to choose just one? If so, it's a toss-up between D's Six Pax & Dogz, The Commonplace Coffeehouse or my front porch.

Pet peeve about Pittsburgh: The "Pittsburgh left" -- seriously, when did you guys decide jumping the gun and cutting off oncoming traffic when the light turns green should become normative?

My biggest surprise about Pittsburgh was ... coming to the conclusion, after living all over the country, that this is the place I never want to leave.

Someday I'd like to ... have a butler with a British accent who cooks my breakfast, takes my children to school, washes the dishes and polishes my shoes. Actually, first I'd need to purchase shoes worth polishing.

The best advice I've ever gotten: Shut up and listen.

theater - lifestyle


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