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Call for stories!

temp web image freedom seder.2

First Person Arts is now seeking pitches for the 4th Annual Freedom Seder Revisited presented in partnership with the National Museum of American Jewish History.

What’s Freedom Seder Revisited?
Inspired by the original 1969 Freedom Seder, where hundreds of people of all backgrounds gathered to explore and celebrate freedom in the context of the Civil Rights Movement, this communal event invites you to the Passover table for an evening of commemoration, stories, and a community exploration of freedom in America.

This year’s event will take place on April 13, 2016 at the National Museum for American Jewish History.

How do I submit my story?
Pitch us your 5-10 minute true story on one or more of the themes listed below for a chance to be part of this special program. Email your story pitch to pitch@firstpersonarts.org, or calling in a 3-minute excerpt of your story to 601-568-2435. Storytellers of all ethnic and religious/nonreligious backgrounds welcome to apply.

Selected storytellers receive a stipend. Pitches due by 1/16. DEADLINE EXTENDED!: JAN. 23.

2016 Freedom Seder Themes:
  • Freedom in America today
  • Community building
  • Slavery and bondage
  • Spring renewal
  • 10/21/2015

    Meet Animated Illustrator and Comedian, Doogie Horner!

    doogiehorner_Steve Belkowitz
    Comical and endearing, Doogie Horner returns from Brooklyn to his original homeland, the City of Brotherly Love, for a behind-the-scenes look at Kid Athletes, illustrated by Horner and written by David Stabler. He will be joined by Super Bowl Champion Raheem Brock, who will also be sharing his own personal story of how he became a professional athlete, creating a marvelous combination of humor and inspiration.

    Doogie is the author of 100 Ghosts (Quirk Books, 2013) and Everything Explained Through Flowcharts (HarperCollins, 2010). His art and writing have appeared in Wired, McSweeney’s, Fast Company, Boing Boing, the Believer, the London Times, the Sun, and other publications. His comedy achieved national attention when a video of him taming a hostile crowd on America’s Got Talent became a viral sensation. He has designed numerous book covers, including Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

    Here’s the man, himself.

    FPA: Your work with Philebrity involved a lot of very entertaining list-making. In honor of our 14th Annual Festival, give us a list of 14 things you miss about living in Philadelphia since you’ve moved to New York.

    DH: I’m not going to lie, I wish this was your 10th Annual Festival. 14 is a long list! That’s not a list–that’s a novel!

    This list will probably be more heartfelt than entertaining, but here you go.

    1. Ping pong at Bob and Barbara’s
    2. Federal Doughnuts
    3. Possums that are so bold they’ll climb up your back and steal the Wawa shorti right out of your hand
    4. The La Colombe in Rittenhouse. Especially their iced coffee.
    5. Brickbat Books, my favorite bookstore.
    6. Gangs of Fishtown children throwing snowballs at me and calling me names
    7. Talking to the comic book guys at Brave New Worlds in Old City
    8. Buying a house with your debit card
    9. My neighbor in Fishtown who we could hear through the walls, screaming in Spanish all hours of the night and day
    10. Helium Comedy Club
    11. Working at Quirk Books, especially with my friend Jason Rekulak
    12. Smoking marijuana with Mayor Nutter inside the Liberty Bell
    13. The Franklin Mortgage, my favorite cocktail bar
    14. Digging up Ben Franklin’s grave on the 4th of July to do spells and stuff

    FPA: Who is your favorite kid athlete?

    DH: I don’t know if I have one. They were all fun to draw. I enjoyed drawing Bruce Lee because he had some cool scenes, and same for Babe Didrikson. I guess Babe Ruth’s story was the most interesting for me. His parents put him in an orphanage! That must have been tough. I like that Yao Ming’s parents were also super tall, and had special giant furniture installed in their house.

    FPA: You were a contestant on America’s Got Talent. Tell us something we don’t know about the show. Any story-worthy TV shenanigans?

    DH: I don’t have dirt on any stars that you’ve heard of. I have plenty of stories about the other contestants, but I doubt you remember Harmonica Pierre or The Maniacs. The best part of doing the show is hanging out with all the other contestants. There is a lot of down time on the show. You sit and wait for hours, and you’re together with all the other contestants, and you’re all bored out of your minds, so you end up performing for each other—playing music, dancing, doing magic tricks or telling jokes.

    While we were shooting in Las Vegas, I was hanging out with Michael Grasso, a contestant on the show who’s a magician. We were crossing through the casino lobby heading towards the elevators when someone recognized Michael. “Hey Magic Mike!” they yelled, “do a trick!” and they tossed a quarter at him.

    Michael is a great magician, but he’s not super personable. He doesn’t like talking to strangers, and he didn’t want to stop to talk to this guy. So, without breaking his stride, and using only one hand, he made the quarter disappear, then reappear, then become two quarters, then disappear again, and then we were in the elevator and the doors closed. It was pretty cool, and I still don’t know how he made the quarter multiply into two quarters. Does he always have a spare quarter taped to his wrist?

    FPA: If you had to invent a sport that would make you the best athlete/player of the sport in the world, what would it be?

    DH: Reading/Coffee Drinking/Napping triathlon

    FPA: For athletes, the meal they eat right before a match, race, etc. is really important to their performance. What is Doogie Horner’s ideal meal before he gets up on stage to do standup comedy?

    DH: It doesn’t matter. I know some comics don’t like to eat before they go on stage, but I don’t mind. When I first started performing, I was nervous so I’d have a few drinks before going on stage. After a while I got less nervous, but would still have a drink or two out of habit. At a certain point though, a couple years ago, I changed my performance style to be less deadpan, more natural and improvisational, so I had to stop drinking entirely because it slowed me down too much. Also it’s bad for your health to do that every single night; it’ll catch up with you.

    So anyhow, now before a show I usually don’t eat anything. I just drink some water. Maybe I’ll have some coffee or a Diet Coke if I’m tired. After the set I’ll maybe have a whiskey on the rocks or a salad. Most comedy club food is pretty bad though.

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Grab your tickets!


    DATE Saturday Nov. 14
    TIME Doors at 4:30PM, Show at 5PM
    LOCATION Christ Church Neighborhood House (20 N. American St., Philadelphia)
    Before Oct. 23: $13
    After Oct. 23: $15
    FPA Members: $12

    Children under 10 free.

    -Browse the Full First Person Arts Festival Schedule-


    Meet Our ‘Baddest’ Festival Artist



    David Crabb makes being bad look so dang good. His acclaimed one man show, Bad Kid, is a hilarious and harrowing tale about growing up gay and goth in Texas–making friends who he paints as “superheroes going to a funeral”, and experimenting with substances, both controlled and otherwise. The performance has been such a hit, that Harper Collins asked Crabb to adapt it into a book, which was published this year, and has been spotted in the hands of such celebrities as Kelly Osbourne.

    David is also a Moth StorySLAM host and winner (so you know he has serious storytelling skills), and The Wall Street Journal praised him as a performer capable of guiding a crowd “from belly laughs to pin-drop silence.”

    Grab your Bad Kid tickets here!

    FPA: What’s the “baddest” thing this bad kid has ever done?

    DC: Ask the IRS. No but really, our relationship is healing. Sallie May, however… That’s another story. As a kid there are just too many indecent acts to count. It’s all in the Bad Kid memoir. (See what I did there?) The answer more than likely relates to some household cleaning product I ingested.

    FPA: What’s a can’t miss goth accessory?

    DC: A dark & mysterious cloud of sexy solitude… or lonely horniness. Either one works. And an ankh. Every good bad kid needs an ankh.

    FPA: Tell us about your time in Australia hosting for the Moth. How does it compare to small town Texas?

    DC: Strangely, there’s a very similar “wide open frontier” feeling about Australia, minus the guns. Australia’s coffee is excellent and their city birds put america’s to shame. We have pigeons. They have fabulous, screeching, golden cockatoos that sound like high-drama drag queens who’ve lost their purses.

    FPA: We saw from Facebook that Kelly Osbourne, herself, is reading your book. Who else would you love to see Bad Kid in the hands of?

    DC: Speaking of drag queens, I would love RuPaul to read the book. Goth and Nuwave kids wear/wore their own sort of drag. I really feel like they’re the clowns of the alternative kids in that sense. I think Ru would appreciate that. I’d love erasure’s Andy Bell & Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant to read it, as the book references their music a lot. I’d love Morrissey to check it out, only to read his deliciously nasty review of it afterward. I’m sure he’d hate it. Hating things seems like it’s sort of his job now.

    FPA: This is our 14th Annual Festival. In honor of that, give us a 14-word story!

    DC: At 14 I was serenaded with Mariah Carey by the “Ariel” at SeaWorld.



    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Grab your tickets!


    DATE Friday, Nov. 13
    TIME Doors at 8:30PM, Show at 9PM
    LOCATION Christ Church Neighborhood House (20 North American St., Philadelphia)
        Before Oct. 23: $13
        After Oct. 23: $15
        FPA Members: $12



    Meet Your 15th Season Grand Slam Host, Margot Leitman!

    Margot3_Credit Mindy Tucker


    It’s the most wonderful time of the year! (No, we’re not talking winter holidays yet. Sorry.) Autumn is rolling in, with our 14th Annual First Person Arts Festival Presented by PNC Arts Alive riding its coattails in the apple and pumpkin-scented wind.

    Comedic storyteller, writer, and teacher Margot Leitman hosts this year’s 15th Season Grand Slam at the Festival! (Psst! This show always sells out. Grab your tickets now!) An accomplished tale-spinner herself, Margot is a five-time Moth StorySLAM winner, Moth GrandSLAM winner, and the author of two books: Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever Need, and Gawky: Tales of an Extra Long Awkward Phase. She also co-hosts the hilarious sex-themed storytelling show Stripped Stories.

    Let’s get to know her!

    FPA: Margot, as co-host of storytelling’s sexiest show, Stripped Stories, what is the hottest, riskiest story you’ve ever told in front of a live audience?

    ML: Well, let’s just say I chose to tell it live and didn’t have it recorded for a reason. I can just picture my dad (who is quite computer savvy) Googling me and uncovering the sordid details of a mistake in judgment I made when I was 23. You just can’t un-see that!​

    FPA: You’ve just recently published a new book, Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll ever Need. What’s your #1 tip for this season’s talented Grand Slam contestants?

    ML: It doesn’t need to be a “big story” i.e. a near death story about dangling from a cliff, to be a good story. As long as you were affected by what happened, even if it’s a “small story” like getting fired from a temp job, your audience will be on board. Passion and emotional response to the story you are recounting will take you very far. ​

    FPA: You’ve performed all over the world—from New York,​ to Australia, to Chicago,​ to LA. What do you love most about Philly audiences?​

    ML: Oh boy, are they smart! Very worldly. They get references that go above a lot of audience’s heads.

    FPA: Who is your storytelling hero/muse and why?

    ML: ​Is it cliche to say Spalding Gray? Does everyone say that? It’s true. I picked up his manuscript for Monster in a Box off the ​​shelf at my parents house one visit many years ago and read it in one sitting. I felt on fire afterwards because it inspired me so much. Reading his works and researching him changed me. It inspired me to start doing this, and seeing how far it took him drives me daily to see how far storytelling can take me. ​​​Or I guess I should say, how far I can take storytelling.​

    FPA: This is our 14th year Festival. In honor of that, share a 14-word story with us!

    ML: The same day as my bad car accident, I discovered my severe cat allergy. ​

    And there you have it! Click here to grab your 15th Season Grand Slam tickets and see Margot live!

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    15th Season First Person Arts Grand Slam
    DATE Thursday, Nov. 5
    TIME Doors at 7PM, Show at 8PM
    LOCATION World Cafe Live, Downstairs (3025 Walnut St., Philadelphia)
           Before Oct. 23: $19
           After Oct. 23: $22
           FPA Members: $17


    -Hannah, Marketing Intern


    Tell Us Your Dream Themes!

    It’s that time of year again! We want to know what stories you’re dying to hear. Submit your juiciest, silliest, most heartstring-tugging, outrageous, and inspiring themes below for a chance to have your idea picked and programmed in FPA’s next StorySlam season (Season 16). Our winner(s) will also win 2 FREE TICKETS to the Slam on his/her/their theme(s)! Enter once, twice, or one hundred thousand times! The contest ends July 31!


    Meet Grand Slam Contestant, Kelsey!

    With just one day out, our Grand Slam contestants are officially hyper-nervous-excited-psyched for tomorrow night’s big showdown. They’ve been working up their best “Going For It” tales that are sure to impress you, and our panel of VIP judges from Painted Bride Art Center, WHYY, and Story League.

    Up today, meet Kelsey! Kelsey won her first-ever StorySlam with a perfect score. No pressure, storytellers!

    Standing room only tickets are now on sale! Grab yours before they’re gone.

    Name: Kelsey Stewart
    Age: 27
    Location:South Philly
    Slam won: #onlinedating

    FPA: How long have you been “Slamming”?

    KS: The #onlinedating Slam was my first time!

    FPA: How do you prepare for a StorySlam? Do you have any rituals or lucky pairs of socks?

    KS:I suppose a glass of champagne, followed by a glass of red wine…

    FPA: Share a storytelling tip with us!

    KS: It’s a good idea to not use your friends’ names.

    FPA: What would Chapter 7 of your memoir be called?

    KS: Maybe, “Showering in a Trashcan.”

    FPA: Who’s the best storyteller you know and why?

    KS: The best storytellers I know are Alan Stewart (my dad) who keeps me going on runs with his stories about being a hippie, and Kimon Hatza (my friend Nikki’s dad) who’s been keeping me entertained with his “when dad was little” stories since college. (No doubt, dads tell the best stories.)

    FPA: What do you do in real life when you’re not out winning StorySlams?

    KS: I work with kids in West Philly as a student mentor and spend my free time daydreaming and doodling.

    FPA: What do you love most about First Person Arts?

    KS: I really like how warm and welcoming everyone is!

    FPA: If you had a storyteller spirit animal, what would it be?

    KS: The Pink Power Ranger.

    FPA: The winner of this Grand Slam will get a $250 prize! What will you do with the money if you win?

    KS: I’m going to buy a new pair of sandals, register for the Philly 10K, and then use the rest to go camping in West Virginia.

    The 14th Season of First Person Arts StorySlams is presented by Harmelin Media.


    Meet Grand Slam Contestant, Marjorie!

    Name: Marjorie Fineberg Winther
    Age: I’m 60, but I can play 59.
    Location: Mount Airy
    Slam won: Hindsight

    FPA: How long have you been “Slamming”?

    MFW: Since December 2011

    FPA: How do you prepare for a StorySlam? Do you have any rituals or lucky pairs of socks?

    MFW: I write, read out loud, revise, read out loud, revise, rehearse. Start all over. Does this sound compulsive?

    FPA: Share a storytelling tip with us!

    MFW: Bring your authentic self. Your vulnerability is your strength.

    FPA: What would Chapter 7 of your memoir be called?

    MFW: Be Here Now Somewhere Else Later

    FPA: Who’s the best storyteller you know and why?

    MFW: OH I am NOT going there. Way to hurt the feelings of anyone I didn’t mention.

    FPA: What do you do in real life when you’re not out winning StorySlams?

    MFW: I design and teach classes for employees of the Philadelphia Gas Works.

    FPA: What do you love most about First Person Arts?

    MFW: The community, the creativity, the classy venues, the chance to hang out with writers, the attention.

    FPA: If you had a storyteller spirit animal, what would it be?

    MFW: Galapagos Tortoise. They are pretty mellow and have slow metabolisms.

    FPA: The winner of this Grand Slam will get a $250 prize! What will you do with the money if you win?

    MFW: Karaoke party!


    The 14th Season of First Person Arts StorySlams is presented by Harmelin Media.


    Meet Grand Slam Contestant, Freya!

    Our 14th Season Grand Slam lineup is officially complete! On Thursday, May 14 all of our StorySlam winners from this past season will return to see who has the best story of all–the tale to win the celebrity judges’ hearts, and (most importantly) their votes! Up this week, meet a storyteller and FPA member very dear to the FPA community and family: Freya! Buy your tickets to come see her compete!

    Name: Freya Zork
    Age: 34
    Location: East Falls
    Slam won: Big Time

    FPA: How long have you been “Slamming”?

    FZ: Wow, almost 2 years now.

    FPA: How do you prepare for a StorySlam? Do you have any rituals or lucky pairs of socks? 

    FZ: I do have just one remarkably boring ritual, but since you asked… When I put my name in the bucket at a StorySlam, I always sign it and have someone witness my signature. Usually Steve Clark if I can find him; he’s the luckiest.

    FPA: Share a storytelling tip with us

    FZ: Well first you need good material. I get a lot of stories from my 20s when I had no common sense and made a lot of poor decisions so try that first.

    FPA: What would Chapter 7 of your memoir be called?

    FZ: Kicking and Screaming.

    FPA: Who’s the best storyteller you know and why?

    FZ: I have so many favorite storytellers, especially in the FPA community. But if I have to single someone out, I’ll say that lately I’ve really been appreciating FPA’s Managing Director Dan Gasiewski. A lot of people might think of him as someone who supports other people’s storytelling, but he’s got some solid gold material of his own.

    FPA: What do you do in real life when you’re not out winning StorySlams?

    FZ: I just became a geriatric nurse practitioner. It’s awesome! Thanks for asking. :)

    FPA: What do you love most about First Person Arts?

    FZ: So many of the best people I know have come into my life through First Person Arts, so obviously the community is incredibly important to me. But I also want to mention a few things that set FPA apart from other storytelling groups. I love that all the videos go up on YouTube for free. (Thank you!!) I love that the Slams are never curated or coached at all. I love how storytellers are accountable to the audience, and FPA audiences have really good values. And I especially love how the FPA programing outside of StorySlams features such diverse voices. I’ve learned about so many different little corners of this city through FPA.

    FPA: If you had a storyteller spirit animal, what would it be?

    FZ: I turn into a dragon in one of my stories, so I’ll go with that.

    FPA: The winner of this Grand Slam will get a $250 prize! What will you do with the money if you win?

    FZ: You wanna get matching tattoos with me? “First Person 4 lyfe!”


    Meet Grand Slam Contestant, Dave!

    We’re exactly 2 weeks out from the 14th Season Grand Slam! Earlier this week, at the sold out #onlinedating Slam, we announced the Grand Slam theme: “Going For It”. We’ve been introducing you to our talented Grand Slam contestants who have been fiercely prepping their best stories to wow our celebrity judges. Today, meet Dave Hillis! And if you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, what could you possibly be waiting for?!

    Name: Dave Hillis
    Age: 31
    Location: West Philadelphia
    Slam won: Broke

    FPA: How long have you been “Slamming”?

    DH: I did my first Slam as part of a “turning 30 crisis” in September 2013. (Is this too early to be considered a midlife crisis? It’s certainly wordier.) It was either tell stories, or buy an expensive car.

    FPA: How do you prepare for a StorySlam? Do you have any rituals or lucky pairs of socks?

    DH: By trying to not anticipate how the audience will respond. My predictions are always completely wrong!

    FPA: Share a storytelling tip with us!

    DH: Break routines whenever possible. Comfort and complacency are the enemies of good stories.

    FPA: What would Chapter 7 of your memoir be called?

    DH: 上を向いて歩こう in the Japanese version. In English, Sukiyaki in the US Market.

    FPA: Who’s the best storyteller you know and why?

    DH: I really love the radio monologues of Joe Frank—compelling, bizarre, and completely screwed up. I also love Courtney Barnett, who writes funny, closely observed story-songs.

    FPA: What do you do in real life when you’re not out winning StorySlams?

    DH: I work in the tech department of a nonprofit service organization, and have about fifty side projects in various stages of development.

    FPA: What do you love most about First Person Arts?

    DH: I love the sense of community, and the fact that I’ve been able to forge friendships with people that I’d never otherwise encounter.

    FPA: If you had a storyteller spirit animal, what would it be?

    DH: I don’t know of any animals known for their stories. Eric Burden? That’s right, two early 60s pop references in this interview!

    FPA: The winner of this Grand Slam will get a $250 prize! What will you do with the money if you win?

    DH: Maybe I’ll get that expensive car after all!


    The 14th Season of First Person Arts StorySlams is presented by Harmelin Media.


    Meet Grand Slam Contestant, Diane!

    Psst! Grab your Grand Slam tix before May 1 and save money!

    Name: Diane Ivey
    Age: Old enough to remember when plastic tattoo chokers and mini backpacks were in fashion the first time. ;)
    Location: Washington, D.C.
    Slam won: Ex-Files

    FPA: How long have you been “Slamming”?

    DI: This will be my third year performing with First Person Arts, and my fourth year as a storyteller.

    FPA: How do you prepare for a StorySlam? Do you have any rituals or lucky pairs of socks?

    DI: I have an official pre-show playlist! I made it a couple of years ago, so I should probably update it. If I’m trying to connect with a certain era in my life (high school, college, etc.), I’ll try to listen to a song or watch a movie/tv show that reminds me of that time to help me get in the right mood.

    FPA: Share a storytelling tip with us!

    DI: Your best laugh lines often come from candid moments where you’re unabashedly honest. Don’t be afraid to say what you were really thinking, especially if it pops into your head on stage. It may seem obvious to you (because you live in your own head), but to others, it’s often hilarious. I love hearing how another person’s mind works.

    FPA: What would Chapter 7 of your memoir be called?

    DI: “I Was Told This Was A Theme Party”

    FPA: Who’s the best storyteller you know and why?

    DI: I think everyone brings something different to the table, so I don’t have a favorite storyteller, but I definitely have favorite stories. As I’ve said, I love when people are just honest about themselves and all the weird stuff they’ve done. I really enjoyed Jackie’s story from “Ex-Files,” for example. I would be remiss not to also mention this classic from Shrake at FPA’s “Philly vs. Detroit” Slam.

    FPA: What do you do in real life when you’re not out winning StorySlams?

    DI: I am the onstage timekeeper and publicity director for D.C.’s Story League. I have a day job, but I’d rather it remain a mystery so people think I support myself solely by being glamorous. On a related note, my main hobby is thrifting. I collect romance novels, YA series from the 80s and 90s (V.C. Andrews 4ever), and vintage lingerie. My dry cleaner definitely thinks I’m some sort of stripper (not hating!), because I’m constantly bringing in like, silky nighties with feathers and sequins for cleaning. They’re always looking me up and down and saying, “oh…that’s interesting.”

    FPA: What do you love most about First Person Arts?

    DI: I love Philly audiences, and the audiences at First Person Arts are the absolute best! They are so reactive to everything and they’re game for any journey you’re about to take them on, even if they’ve never seen you before. It’s like having an audience of friends even when it’s all strangers.

    FPA: If you had a storyteller spirit animal, what would it be?

    DI: I prefer the term “patronus” from Harry Potter. Fiction-wise, I consider Jenna Maroney (played by Jane Krakowski on 30 Rock) to be my patronus. In real life, I’m sorta dying for someone to call me “The Taylor Swift of Storytelling.” I don’t care if it’s in a hater context or in a think piece or what. I just want it to happen. Now that I’m saying this aloud, it sounds like something Jenna would say, so there you go.

    FPA: The winner of this Grand Slam will get a $250 prize! What will you do with the money if you win?

    DI: I travel from D.C., so it honestly goes toward train fare. What’s left will be spent at Sephora or Lush, though! (They’re across the street from each other in Georgetown, and it’s a large part of why I’m always broke.)


    The 14th Season of First Person Arts StorySlams is presented by Harmelin Media.

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    Upcoming Events
    • 6th Annual “Ex-Files” StorySlam: Early Show
    • Date: February 14, 2016
    • Time: Doors at 6:30PM, Show at 7PM
    • Venue: Underground Arts
    • Location: 1200 Callowhill St., Philadelphia
    • 6th Annual “Ex-Files” StorySlam: Late Show
    • Date: February 14, 2016
    • Time: Doors at 8:30PM, Show at 9PM
    • Venue: Underground Arts
    • Location: 1200 Callowhill St., Philadelphia