For audiences all over the country, the tear-inducing, awe-inspiring and intensely personal tales told on Stories from the Stage are the perfect antidote to the angst of current events.
That’s just what the executive producers of this GBH WORLD series, which features both first-time and accomplished storytellers, hoped for.
“When we launched Stories from the Stage in 2017, we wanted to balance out news coverage and documentaries that often report on all the ways in which we don't get along as fellow human beings,” said Liz Cheng, co-creator as well as general manager for GBH and WORLD television. “We were hoping that hearing from real people about true situations that matter would strike a chord and help all of us better understand people who don't look the same. Can we learn to celebrate our differences?”
The series is surging in popularity — “like a rocket taking off,” says Cheng — as it expands from its roots as a live event and television show to a radio program on GBH 89.7, a podcast and digitally on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. And starting July 21, GBH's acclaimed international daily radio news program, The World, produced with PRX, will feature Stories from the Stage, The World program where ordinary people share tales of the extraordinary events that happened in their lives. These tellers come from all over the world. They tell us of what they left back home, why they crossed oceans to get here, and what they found when they arrived.
“We are just amazed by the ripple effect as we expand platforms,” she said. “The series is like a living thing, leading us where it wants to go — and people are telling us where they need to see it. We just have to follow.”
That authentic, emotional connection to the audience is the heart and soul of the program, says Patricia Alvarado Núñez, co-executive producer of the series.
“We feel that we can change the world one story at a time,” she said. “Many of the stories that we feature are really hard to tell. They touch a nerve — James Griffin’s story about his brother’s death in Vietnam and his quest to honor his memory is an example of that. It has been viewed more than 800,000 times on Facebook.”
Cheng says Stories from the Stage is something of a “family event” for GBH. “Everyone at GBH is involved in some way – from production, event planning, finance and legal to fundraising, promotion and others helping us on all digital platforms.”
The recent experimental expansion to GBH 89.7 radio is especially exciting – thanks to GBH News General Manager Pam Johnston and Lee Hill, executive editor of radio and news, she said. A 12-week pilot, to broadcast the program on Sundays from 7-8pm, runs June 4 through August 20.
“It would be great to have a permanent berth on radio, and eventually syndicate the program so that radio stations in markets that don’t have WORLD could experience these stories,” she said. “Our multicultural storytellers want to be in every corner of the United States and possibly beyond.”
Now beginning its seventh season, the Stories from the Stage broadcast is available on 194 stations across the country, in markets representing 77 percent of the nation’s households. More than 5,000 people have attended the program’s live or virtual events, which have expanded beyond GBH’s studios.
Themes this season include “In an Instance,” “You’re Hired!” “Youth Rising,” “Women in Action” and “Pride.”
“We just got back from PBS Nebraska, where we taped an event, ‘On Sacred Ground,’ featuring storytellers from seven distinct Native American tribes,” said Cheng. “Much like GBH, this station is thrilled that stories from their own backyard are being shared nationally.”