USA Network will team with cable operators to launch a five-city "Characters Unite" tour showcasing real-life personal stories of bigotry and discrimination.
The "Characters Welcome" network - in conjunction with non-profit storytelling organization The Moth and Cox Communications - will create the tour, which features five to six everyday people "storytellers" sharing a true, personal experience of bigotry or discrimination in front of a live audience. The tour launches tonight (Oct. 18) here in New Orleans with a Characters Unite-themed "Mainstage" storytelling show, according to Alexandra Shapiro, senior vice president, Brand Marketing and Digital USA Network. Cox Louisiana Senior vice president and general manager Jacqui Vines will participate as a storyteller in the New Orleans show, which will be hosted by actress Angela Bassett.
New York, Chicago, Denver and Seattle will also host tours later this year and into 2011, said Shapiro.
"At the end of the day through the tour we really want people to question their own filters and behaviors in an effort to create a more tolerant society," Shapiro said. "We don't in any way think we're going to eradicate hatred and prejudice, but if we can play a small role in encouraging people to dialogue about these issues and question right and wrong, we'll make a small contribution to we hope the betterment of society."
In addition to the Mainstage shows, USA Network, The Moth and local cable operators will choose a local school in each city to host four after-school workshops in which ten selected students will receive in-depth training from Moth professionals on the art of storytelling, according to Shapiro.
Each student will then develop their own five-minute story about prejudice and power which will be presented during an in-school assembly with the hopes of beginning a dialog about respect and understanding.
Grace King High School, in Metairie, La was chosen from the New Orleans area, with schools from the other stops to be announced in the future. Shapiro said eventually the tour's school-based curriculum will be rolled out nationally with all of our affiliate partners.
"Both USA and our cable affiliates share a belief in the importance of diversity, and I think to the extent that we can practice that both internally and externally we'll all be better for it," she said. "By giving people the license to share their stories openly and dialogue openly we hope to be able to bridge the divides - it can't happen if we sit in silence."