Jon Cohn
Jon Cohn
Mar 13 · 5 min read
“Unheard LA” participant Johanna Middleton. Photo: Louis Felix/KPCC

Calling all Angelenos! Everyone has a story, and we’d love to hear yours.

KPCC In Person is looking for submissions for the third season of our live, community-centered storytelling series “Unheard LA.”

The concept is pretty straightforward: We bring the mic, the stage, and the audience, you bring a story about an experience or moment in time that helped shape you. Use whatever format that works best for you: spoken word, music, poetry, magic — whatever feels right.

Some of our previous participants have been practiced storytellers. Some have never been onstage before. Some have never done any kind of public speaking. So no experience, some experience, lots of experience — it all works for us. We just ask that the story be genuine, based on your lived experience, and in the five- or six-minute range.

The shows are a celebration of storytelling, community, and connection in this complicated and nuanced place we call home. If you want to get involved, share your idea here. Keep reading for a step-by-step guide to the submission process.

“Unheard LA” participant Cheryl Farrel. Photo: Louis Felix/KPCC

“My advice … come as you are. Whether it’s a germ of an idea or a published piece, your story will be in good hands with KPCC producers, the show host, and staff. Be heard at ‘Unheard LA!’” — Cheryl Farrell

1. The Pitch: Some Tips

Although the series is called, “Unheard LA”, your story doesn’t have to be about L.A. and we don’t need it to be the protagonist in your piece. But we do appreciate a sense of place in what you share. Here are some examples from previous shows.

Don’t underestimate the power of unexpected relatable moments in your piece. Your story doesn’t need to be an epic comedy or tragedy to be memorable.

Drafts are OK; no one is expecting a polished finished product. Don’t let a strive for perfection hold you back from sharing something with us. Again, aim for five to six minutes. (Just as a note: We do ask that it be nonpartisan, non-advocacy, and refrain from calls to action.)

Once you submit, you’ll get an email from “Unheard LA” team member Caitlin Biljan. She provides feedback on every submission we receive.

2. Meeting in Person

If your submission feels like it might be a good fit for a show, we’ll invite you to our Crawford Family Forum for an informal, in-person reading with show producers. This is an opportunity to get feedback directly from “Unheard LA” coproducer Ashley Alvarado and me.

We’ll often ask questions like “What is the number one thing you want audiences to take away from your story?” and “How open are you to an editing process?” These allow us to get a better sense of the possible path moving forward. We’ll also talk about your comfort level being onstage and if there are other elements you’d like to include. After the in-person reading, we’ll follow up with next steps, which may include potential revisions to your story (or pursuing a different focus).

At the time of the in-person reading, we ask for availability in the coming months. That allows us to better understand which show, if any, potential participants are available for and make sense with the rest of the cast for that show.

“Be open to reshaping the form of your story…there’s no need to change who you are or what you want to say, but trust Ashley and Jon, who had such great feedback for refining the actual storytelling in my piece. I felt like the heart and intention of the story came through so much clearer and in such a fun way thanks to their suggestions. And also remember what this is all about — community, storytelling, sharing, connecting — nerves will move right out of the way for those very important things to happen ❤” — Jenny Jacobs

3. An Invitation

A lot of planning goes into deciding not only the community members (and stories) to include in “Unheard LA” shows but also which combination of folks goes into each show. Since “Unheard LA” shows aren’t organized by themes, we do our best to showcase a range of diverse experiences. That means, it may be a little while — and several email exchanges — before a formal invitation goes out to invite you to participate. At that time, we request a high-resolution photo so that we can create a personalized promotional image for you to share with friends and family, as well as 100-word bio to include in a printed program that we give out at the show.

Backstage fun post-rehearsal.

4. Rehearsal

Throughout the process, we’ll work with you to fine-tune your piece. Every person and every story is different. We never want to edit a story so that it is not reflective of the person sharing it, but we do spend time working to ensure pieces are easy to follow and will resonate with audience members.

In the week leading up to the show, either on a Monday or Tuesday, we have one rehearsal at our Crawford Family Forum. It’s a opportunity to meet your fellow participants (the cast) and “Unheard LA” host Bruce Lemon as well as practice your piece so that the rest of the “Unheard LA” team can begin working on production elements. Then, on the day of show, we have a full technical rehearsal onstage starting at about 2 p.m. This will give you the chance to become familiar with the stage, lights, music, and any other technical elements that will accompany your piece. Simultaneously, we’ll capture video and images to incorporate later. (All shows are live video streamed and distributed later.)

5. Showtime

“Unheard LA” shows kick off at 5:30 p.m., either on a Saturday or Sunday. They run 70–90 minutes (without intermission) and are followed by a fun reception, where everybody (participants, friends, family, fellow community members, etc) is invited to enjoy refreshments, conversations, and time in the “Unheard LA” photo booth.

6. But, wait, there’s more

Many friendships have sprung from the series, and, so too, has a network that stays in touch via social media and in person. We invite participants to stay in touch and help us improve the experience for future storytellers.

“Once you’re in, you’re in forever. There is no looking back and you won’t want to. That’s the ‘Unheard LA’ experience.” — Sheldon Wright

Please join us.

Want to learn more about “Unheard LA”? Visit us at www.kpcc.org/unheardla.

Engagement at KPCC

Dispatches from the community engagement team at Southern California Public Radio (KPCC + LAist)—what we’ve learned and what we’re up to.

Jon Cohn

Written by

Jon Cohn

Managing Producer, Forum Programs & Live Events (KPCC In Person), Southern California Public Radio (KPCC + LAist)

Engagement at KPCC

Dispatches from the community engagement team at Southern California Public Radio (KPCC + LAist)—what we’ve learned and what we’re up to.

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