On Tuesday night The Moth turned twenty years old not far from where it all started. At the non-profit's annual Moth Ball, held at Capitale on Bowery, founder George Dawes Green told his own story, bringing the audience back to the beginning: June 6th, 1997, a loft on the Lower East Side, an assembled group telling stories that ended up being far too long. Today, the storytelling spirit that was sparked in that loft is the same, but The Moth has grown and become more organized, with themes, time limits, events in cities all over the world, education programs, radio hours, workshops, and a wonderful podcast to round it all out. If you want to hear or to tell a good, raw, passionate, funny, heartbreaking, difficult, inspiring or awkward story, you go to The Moth.

This year's Moth Ball—which had a Midsummer Night's theme—brought 500 people to the Bowery, including John Turturro, Molly Ringwald, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Julianna Margulies, Rosanne Cash, Suzanne Vega, and honoree Aziz Ansari, among others. You can watch Ansari's story below:

Before the proceedings, we asked longtime executive director Sarah Haberman, and artistic director Catherine Burns about the Moth's past, present, and ongoing journey.

The Moth has now been around for 20 years. What was the main goal when it all started?

Sarah Haberman, Executive Director: The goal was—and always has been—about good old-fashioned storytelling, the kind of stories you told around the dinner table when you were growing up or in The Moth’s case, the kind that George Dawes Green, our founder, and his friends told on his porch front in Georgia during those long summer nights. Years later, George wanted to bring that spirit of storytelling to NYC and hosted the very first Moth in his loft as a way to encourage people to tell well-crafted, authentic, true and personal story. The date was 20 years ago, on June 6, 1997.

How has it grown since?

Catherine Burns, Artistic Director: We now have regular events in 28 cities, producing nearly 600 shows a year. There were about 100 people in the audience that first night, but now with our radio show and podcast each story is heard more than two million times. People pour their hearts out on the Moth stage, and we love that there are now more people to hear and appreciate these gorgeous stories.

What else are you hoping to achieve in the coming years?

S.H.: We always want more people to listen and tell their stories. Our purpose is to do whatever we can encourage people from all backgrounds to share and listen to one another’s stories. After 20 years and 25,000 stories told on our stages, we know from first-hand experience how personal stories have the power to connect people and change lives. They also teach us to listen and remind us that we are more alike and we are different. Given that, I’d say stories are very important right now.

When Lena Dunham's character on Girls did a Moth reading, did you work with her on that or was it a surprise? Did Moth events get a bump from that appearance?

S.H.: Hannah Horvath’s story was 100% hers! We were pleasantly surprised by how Moth-y her story was and we loved the way it was filmed. And yes, The Moth’s appearance on the HBO series definitely gave us a boost of notoriety and we can’t thank Lena and her crew enough. We hope someday Lena Dunham will take the stage herself. (Are you reading this Lena?)

C.B.: Lena and her team could not have been more respectful and kind to the Moth in the process of shooting that episode. We adore them. We DID get a bump in attendance—we keep meeting people who tell us they discovered us after seeing the show on Girls.

I challenged myself about five years ago or so to do a Moth open mic "by next year," and still have not done one. Unlike Hannah Horvath, I have crippling stage fright—any advice to combat that?

S.H.: Remember that telling a true personal story is not asking you for perfection - part of stage fright, in my view, is trying too hard to be perfect. Just be yourself. The fact that you’re being vulnerable and real with them will help them connect to you. So you do you! And let us know when you’re ready to get on stage — we’ll be there!

C.B.: I feel you—one of the dark secrets of the Moth is that our own Artistic Director (ahem, me) suffers from terrible stage fright. But I know this to be true: Moth audiences are the greatest audience in the world—all they ask of you is for you to be yourself. True, the first moment you walk out on stage will probably be terrifying. But within 30 seconds you will feel the love of that crowd holding you up, and you'll have a blast. Most people walk offstage wanting to get right back up and tell another story because the environment is so supportive.

If YOU want to test your storytelling skills, check out The Moth's website for events and workshops near you. Of note: The Moth just released a new book, All These Wonders: True Stories about Facing the Unknown, with a foreward by master storyteller Neil Gaiman.