Daddy Issues: Moth storyteller Peter Aguero weaves tales with complicated expertise

By on November 15, 2017


At times, it can seem easiest to shove painful experiences as far back as possible into the recesses of our minds. But it is there that they can fester in the dark, growing larger and more menacing.

When they are brought forth into the open and the light, though, they begin to diminish in power, said Peter Aguero. And if anyone knows, it’s him.

For 10 years, Aguero has shared his experiences and thoughts that he digs up from the recesses of his mind on stage as a storyteller.

“I have a theory that once I started telling stories about these times in my life – things that hurt me when I was younger, how I dealt with things, mistakes I made, the vulnerability and the shame I felt—what ended up happening was, you shine a light on those things and you see them for that they really are,” he said. “Instead of those experiences and feelings owning me, I started to own them and they didn’t take over my life anymore.”

Four years ago, Aguero gathered material he’d shared on stage about his complicated relationship with his father and created the show “Daddy Issues.”

He’ll perform the show, which is comprised of a series of six short stories from different times in his life, at 7 p.m. Friday in the Black Box Theater at the Center for the Arts.

Aguero’s father grew up in an abusive household and served in the military in Vietnam, and trauma from his childhood and time in the military influenced how he acted as a parent, Aguero said.

Yet, while the show is inspired by his tenuous and tumultuous relationship with his father, it is really about himself, Aguero said. It’s about who he was at the time and how he was behaving.

Aguero didn’t try to get inside his dad’s head and figure out what he was thinking, or why he made certain choices. He knew he couldn’t try to tell his father’s story, but instead had to focus on his own.

“All I know is what I saw, how I felt about it and what I did about it,” he said. “I felt that it was an accurate representation of a son trying to figure out his own place in the world, with a father who wasn’t one you would pick and order from a catalogue.”

Telling his stories empowered him. It gave him more agency, and helped him find the voice he didn’t have as a child.

People often ask if the show is funny or sad, and Aguero said he never knows quite how to answer.

The best stories are true, and when something is true it might be both funny and sad, he said. He laughs at moments others think are heartbreaking, while other times people may find another moment hilarious that he thought was sad.  

“I think life is sometimes tragic and sometimes really funny and that reflects in art,” he said.

What he hopes is that people hear the stories and realize they aren’t alone, whether they went through something similar, or can relate via a totally different experience. He wants people to remember that even when life is hard, you can survive and grow.

Aguero’s first stint onstage wasn’t about his father, though. He was working with a touring improv comedy troupe when he realized he loved hosting segments because he could talk to the audience and share an anecdote from his life. Talking honestly to the audience – not necessarily performing – is what intrigued him.

“There was no artifice between the audience and the performer,” he said. “The story was there. That was the only thing.”

He attended his first Moth storytelling event, where people share true stories from their lives on stage, in 2007. He found sharing his stories was an immediate way to connect with people.

“It’s a quick dose of humanity, vulnerability and empathy,” he said. “It creates a connection I’ve never seen in any other performance form.”

He’s now a host of The Moth radio hour on National Public Radio and visited Jackson in 2016 as part of The Moth event at the Center for the Arts.

Jackson Hole Writers, Off Square Theatre Company and a grant from the Wyoming Humanities Council helped fund Aguero’s performance of “Daddy Issues” in Jackson. In addition to his storytelling, Aguero will teach a sold-out workshop on Saturday. More than half the participants who signed up are writers, said Connie Wieneke, assistant director with Jackson Hole Writers.

“So often writers write things down on paper, and forget a story has to work,” she said. “If you become a little more aware of how to tell a story verbally, you are probably going to write the story better, too. I love the cross-pollination and that we can learn from each other about other ways to tell stories.” PJH

Peter Aguero’s show “Daddy Issues” will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at Black Box Theater at the Center for the Arts. Tickets start at $20.  

About Kelsey Dayton

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