These days, you can’t throw a rock in LA without hitting some kind of word event. Theaters, clubs and restaurants are all hosting shows where people read their personal essay and/or tell their story – and there’s a new show starting almost every week. Personal story-telling is the standup comedy of the 2010s.
Each show has it’s own particular vibe, rules and flavor, from serious to sensational, literary to licentious. Professional writers and/or performers often mix with inspired amateurs. Some include music. Some strictly enforce time limits. Some are competitive. Some are a lot like therapy – at least for the people onstage telling the stories.
This is all great news for writers, because these events provide hard deadlines and thematic frames to create focused pieces, encourage productivity, provide a sense of community and offer an interesting new kind of showcase.
The flourishing word scene is especially good news for women writers, because the confessional emotion-based format embraces – and is often produced by – ladies, as opposed to the still-male-dominated standup scene.
It’s also great news for Los Angeles, because these shows are usually pretty inexpensive (often under $10 admission) and they’re pretty consistently compelling and entertaining – assuming you think other people spilling their guts is a good time (which I do).
Los Angeles is proving once again that there are a million stories in this city – and in most of the stories you hear in these shows, slams and readings, the names aren’t even changed to protect the innocent.
Whether you’re trying to get discovered, get more comfortable onstage and/or get something off your chest, one of these shows is probably right for you. IIf you want to get your story on and try working in one or more of these shows, I recommend:
1. Go see the show
2. See how you feel about performing there after you’ve seen it
3. Think of one or more stories / essays you would do there
4. Seek out the producer/booker and a) tell them how much you liked the show, b) if they performed, say how much you liked what they did, c) ask how they select performers and how you could get considered, d) be prepared to pitch or e-pitch one or more stories you’d like to tell in 1-5 sentences each.
Following is a (partial) list of many of the shows currently running around LA, or, as I’ve now come to think of it, Word-opolis. I’m sure I’ve missed some, so please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 323-717-4731 with questions, corrections or additions so I can keep this up to date.
Pez Show: A Personal Ezzay Show
Sunday Night Sex Talks (Ladies Only)
If you aren’t in LA, and/or are interested in national outlets (and/or inspiration), check out:
Un-Cabaret & Say the Word Archive
Un-Fictional (Come on KCRW, couldn’t you dig a little deeper for an original title?)
As the co-creator and producer of Un-Cabaret (the confessional standup show that arguably started the current wave of story-based comedy – and now up and running again on Sundays), and “Say the Word” (the first ongoing personal essay reading show from 2000-2005 at the Skirball Center), I’ve been delighted to watch this cultural wave broaden to include writers of all levels of experience, deepen to become an art-form of its own and now swell into a virtual tsunami of words for all to enjoy.
If I was a sociologist, I’d speculate that 9/11 was the death of ‘objectivity’, the consciousness that the ‘news’ isn’t reliable anymore (if it ever was) and the only real truth is subjective. Lucky for you, I’m not a sociologist, or this blog would be a lot longer and more boring – although it might also include some cool charts and graphs.
So let’s hear your story. You can’t say no one’s interested.
WOW! I really did not know all of this was happening around L.A. Amazing. You didn’t mention a couple spoken word places. Great post! Very informative.
Tuesday Night Café Project
20 Judge John Aiso St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dante’s Poetry Lounge
Greenway Court Theater
544 N Fairfax Ave .
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Also on Tuesday nights