Newstory explores the possibilities of interdisciplinary storytelling

Visitors of this year’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books will witness a new exhibition, designed to push the definition of storytelling into a new dimension. Newstory will make use of creative storytelling to bring improvisation, immersive entertainment and more to the festival, showcasing a plethora of exhibits you’ll have to see to fully understand.

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Clint Schaff, the vice president of strategy and development for the  Los Angeles Times, was in charge of the Newstory programming this year, and said he was primarily drawn to artists and public figures who were making use of as many resources as possible to share their messages.

“I was first looking for storytellers who do their craft across more than one medium,” he said. “I was really interested in that conversation of not just how they do that one thing well, but how they choose to express themselves in one medium versus another, at any given time in their life or career.”

While curating the lineup, Schaff saw almost no limits to what could be considered storytelling, driving him to find unlikely combinations that would mesh well with the rest of what Newstory had to offer. Referencing record producer Moby, who will be featured in conversation with author Bob Lefsetz on Saturday, Schaff noted how the artist’s restaurant in Silver Lake, which donates 100 percent of its proceeds to animal rights organizations, was a form of storytelling that he’s excited for visitors to learn more about.

“I’ve been listening to Moby’s music since the early ’90s, and I actually don’t catch a message of animal rights in the music itself,” he said. “That’s him telling a story through food, culinary storytelling.”

Moby won’t be the only musician sharing his story at the festival this year; KRS-One, Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest and many others will also be present at Newstory to interact with the audience. Schaff is particularly excited about an exhibition that will be put on by 1500 or Nothin members Larrance Dopson and James Fauntleroy II, acclaimed producers who have worked with artists such as Sam Smith, Beyoncé and Rihanna. As part of the Spotify Secret Genius series, they will produce a brand new song right in front of the audience, taking suggestions from the crowd to directly involve them in the creative process.

Schaff hopes visitors will leave such exhibits not only entertained by what transpired on stage, but inspired to follow their own passions and share their own creations with the world as well.

“A lot of festivals have the effect of having the audience think, ‘Wow, those people on stage do something that I could never do,’” he said. “The tools of storytelling have democratized so much over the last couple decades, but I think the fear of not doing it well enough remains for many.”

For many years, the Festival of Books has involved elements of storytelling beyond the boundaries of the page, but Schaff sees Newstory as the next step for the festival to keep pace with the ever-changing creative landscape. Although books and traditional writing remain at the center of the festival, Newstory will allow visitors to broaden their experience while they’re on campus over the weekend, and imagine what legendary authors of prior generations would have been able to accomplish with the technology of today.

“If John Steinbeck, Mark Twain or George Orwell were doing their thing today and had a story to tell, I’m not certain they’d do it through a book, I think they might do it on a YouTube channel,” Schaff said. “They might do it on a Snapchat [Discover] platform. Or maybe more to the point, I think they would probably do it on both. That’s the privilege of the time that we’re living in right now; we have access to these tools, and we wanted to celebrate that, especially given that those industries are so important to L.A.”