Residents Invited to Share ‘Stories From the OC’

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The “California campsite” setting for FivePoint’s “Stories from the OC” recording project.
— Photo courtesy FivePoint ©

Newport Beach residents can share their experiences, be part of Orange County history and contribute to the Library of Congress through a countywide, community-driven storytelling project.

Community builder FivePoint created “Stories from the OC,” an interactive experience and cultural archive that “invites people to listen to and learn from each other’s unique life experiences,” officials announced in a press release shared last month.

Participants are encouraged to share their personal stories, memories and reflections in any language with a family member or friend of their choosing, officials explained.

“FivePoint believes strongly in creating spaces and opportunities where people from all walks of life can connect, feel energized and experience something meaningful,” Emile Haddad, chairman and CEO of FivePoint, said in a prepared statement. “Stories from the OC is the perfect extension of our mission to introduce experiences that enrich people’s lives and move humanity forward.”

Stories from the OC debuted Aug. 15 at Cadence Park in Irvine and continues through the end of the year at no cost to participants.

There are already several stories from (or mentioning) Newport Beach, including from Ava Steaffens and Jessica Prechtl.

Prechtl, who grew up in Newport Beach, interviews her mom, Steaffens. Their chat is full of laughter, reflection, and touching memories.

Ava Steaffens and Jessica Prechtl outside the “Stories from the OC” recording studio.
— Photo courtesy Jessica Prechtl ©

The mother-daughter duo talk about Steaffens growing up in Miami as a Cuban and French-Canadian first-generation immigrant, life on Balboa Peninsula, family history, and more.

Prechtl also discusses attending Newport Elementary, meeting friends, and hanging out at the beach.

“The playground was the beach… We could see dolphins during recess,” she says in the interview.

It was tight-knit neighborhood, she added, “it was a neat community.”

Prechtl noted in an email Wednesday that participating in the Stories from the OC project was a positive and eyeopening experience.

“It was a fantastic learning experience for us,” she wrote in the email. “I uncovered some stories about our family that I hadn’t heard before.”

Stories from the OC is the vision of StoryCorps, a national nonprofit organization founded in 2003 that “has given people of all backgrounds and beliefs, in thousands of towns and cities in all 50 states, the chance to record interviews about their lives.”

The conversations are recorded through the StoryCorps app and preserved for posterity at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, a collection that exceeds 250,000 stories and serves as the largest single collection of digitally recorded human voices ever gathered.

In Orange County, the experience is set within a California campsite-themed installation that “celebrates the American pastime of gathering around a campfire to share stories and memories.”

Emile Haddad, chairman and CEO of FivePoint, and his daughter Serene.
— Photo courtesy FivePoint ©

Visitors can record conversations, as well as listen to other recordings to “experience how diverse, enjoyable, moving and inspiring these simple conversations can be.”

A “storytelling guide” will be present at the experience to assist participants on setting up their StoryCorps account on the app, tips for recording their story, how to upload the conversation to where it will be archived and share it to the Stories from the OC community page.

While sessions are unscripted and unrehearsed, participants are encouraged to bring photos that evoke personal memories and a list of questions to get the conversation started.

Cadence Park is located at 703 Benchmark in Irvine, within FivePoint’s great park neighborhoods. Residents may also participate digitally through the StoryCorps app.

For more information, visit StoriesFromTheOC.com

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