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07/22/2016

Funnyman Chip Chantry gets serious about StorySlams

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First Person Arts StorySlams are about to get even funnier. We are thrilled to announce Comedian Chip Chantry as our new official host for Slams at L’Etage!

When you think of L’Etage, you probably think of a seductive and intimate little spot known for its warm vibe, mood lighting, iconic beaded velvet stage curtains, and of course the crepes. Since First Person Arts started Philly’s first StorySlams back in 2007, story lovers have packed L’etage every month, sometimes sitting on the stage and rubbing elbows with friends, and friends they haven’t met yet.

Now, Chip Chantry, Philly’s biggest up-and-coming comic, will be a permanent fixture in the venue voted best nightclub and cabaret.

Chip kicks off his new job as host this Tuesday, July 26. The theme is “News to Me.” Come out to cheer him on, and witness his laughter inducing skills for yourself.

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FPA: You’ve opened for some big names like Louis CK, Bob Saget, and Dave Chappelle. What’s is like sharing the stage with a comedy legend?

CC: It’s great! But at the same time, you’re still just doing your job. You have to go make people laugh. Once you’re on stage, there’s really no difference. I will say that the people who come to see a big name comedian are generally really excited to be there, which make for great crowds. And that excitement is tempered by the understanding that I am literally the only thing standing in the way of them seeing their favorite comedian.

FPA: How’d you get your start in comedy?

CC: I wanted attention, and I’m not very good at playing the guitar.

FPA: What was your most memorable experience while performing?

CC: It’s pretty much all a blur, but the first time I performed, I remember feeling the laughter hitting the stage for the first time. It almost knocks you over when you get our first big laugh. I’ve been chasing that dragon ever since.

FPA: Where was the strangest/weirdest/most unexpected place you’ve ever performed?

CC: I had to do a show once at a swimming club. We got there, and it was AT the pool. It was dusk, people were sitting on blankets and lawn chairs next to the pool, and we performed from the other end of the pavilion.

And would you believe that it was one of the best shows I’ve ever done? Well you SHOULDN’T, because it WASN’T. It was terrible. Comedy is like being naked–it should only happen indoors.

FPA: How do you keep your content fresh?

CC: You have to write constantly, or you start to hate your material. The more you perform, the faster you’ll get tired of what you’re saying. So you need to keep your eyes and ears open everywhere–the grocery store, the gym, walking down the street. You start to see comedy all around you. You just have to figure out a way to convey it to the people in the crowd.

FPA: Do you rehearse your jokes in the mirror?

CC: I’m going to be honest–I can’t see my own reflection when I look in the mirror. Don’t tell anyone. I’m sensitive about it.

FPA: What would you say to someone who secretly wanted to get up on stage and tell a story, but might be a little nervous or on the fence?

CC: STOP THINKING ABOUT IT AND DO IT. NOW.

FPA: What would you tell some of Helium’s emerging comics to encourage them to try performing a story at a StorySlam?

CC: It’s a lot of fun! And comics are storytellers, so we can always work on what we do. Plus, guys, it’s STAGE TIME.

FPA: What would your dream StorySlam theme be, and what story would you tell?

CC: Being a comedian, I love hearing (and telling) stories about hilariously awful shows people have done. Sitting in the green room with other comics talking about horror stories is the best. And I have too many fun/awful stories to pick from right now.

FPA: Do you get butterflies before you go up on stage?

CC: Not really anymore. Just more of an impatience to just get onstage already. But when I started, I could barely eat the day leading up to the show.

FPA: Give our performers a storytelling tip!

CC: Connect with the crowd. Look at people. Make it intimate. Pretend you’re telling your story to one person.

FPA: What do you love most about hosting FPA StorySlams?

CC: I get to be an audience member for most of the show, and hear great stories.

FPA: What should audiences know about you that they might not already know?

CC: My real name is Viktor Sokolov. I was born in the Soviet Union in 1938. I am holding a package that contains very important information. We must talk immediately.

First Person Arts presents Philadelphia’s premiere StorySlams 2nd Mondays at World Cafe Live and 4th Tuesdays at L’Etage. For more info about you can tell your story, click here.

Photo Credit: Jen Cleary

07/12/2016

Child, why don’t you talk?

“Every time you feel something flickering in your heart when you’re scared, think of that girl.”

At four-years-old, Amrita loses her voice. At age eleven, she finds her song. Congratulations to our “Sweet Dreams” StorySlam winner and Audience Favorite, Amrita. See her compete in the Grand Slam at the 15th Anniversary First Person Arts Festival!

First Person Arts presents Philadelphia’s premiere StorySlams 2nd Mondays at World Cafe Live and 4th Tuesdays at L’Etage. A full schedule of StorySlam dates and themes here. For more information about how to tell your story, click here.

07/08/2016

Audience Favorite Storyteller Steps Up

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Chris Lundy has been voted Audience Favorite at every StorySlam he ever attended as a contestant, including the 15th Season Grand Slam. For those of you who have taken to the stage with stories of your own, you know that’s no small feat!

Seeing Chris’ talent, we invited him to pitch us a story for a chance to perform alongside Grammy Award-winning recording artist Bilal, and hip-hop artist Freeway in BEyond Expectations: Engaging Males of Color as part of the 14th Annual First Person Arts Festival presented by PNC Arts Alive. Chris’s story pitch, a heartfelt tale about growing up with a father in prison, and rebuilding his life after losing his mother, was just the inspiring story the show needed.

At BEyond Expectations, Chris captivated over 600 attendees, and shined right alongside the celebrity storytellers. Click to watch.

From monthly StorySlams to the main stage, it’s been clear that Chris is a hit with audiences, and a natural performer. We’ve enjoyed his stories so much, and have decided to make Chris Lundy our dedicated host for all of our StorySlams at World Cafe Live!

Click here to check out the full calendar of upcoming Slams, and plan your visit to go see Chris in action. The theme for our next Slam on Monday, July 11 is “Sweet Dreams”.

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

FPA: Chris, you are a man who loves his hats. What is the best kind of hat to wear to a StorySlam? Is this a different style hat than, say, a hat you’d wear to take a stroll in a park?

CL: My hat is definitely my sidekick; a mainstay. I think a sombrero would be ideal for a StorySlam. You run the risk of obstructing other people’s view, but hey…YOLO (You Only Live Once). For a stroll in the park, a car ride, or a shower, you’ll probably find me in my signature newsboy cap.

FPA: What’s your favorite story to tell at a party and why?

CL: Any story about me striking out with a girl. There’s so many to pick from and each is embarrassingly hilarious. Fun for all…except me, I guess. Ouch. Can I change my answer?

FPA: What would you say to someone who secretly wanted to get up on stage and tell a story, but might be a little nervous or on the fence?

CL: DO IT! Everybody’s nervous. You’re not alone. You won’t regret telling your story; but you’ll probably regret NOT telling your story. Also, the FPA crowd is so warm, accepting, and non-judgmental. Take the leap and they’ll catch you. I’ve seen it.

FPA: What was your favorite prize (other than the $100 prize) that you’ve ever given away to a performer on stage?

CL: A storyteller once told a hysterical story involving a swim meet, her mom, and pubic hair. As a prize, I grabbed a mustache refrigerator magnet and didn’t even get a word out before the audience burst into laughter! They knew exactly what I was getting at; I didn’t have to say a word. It took a while for us to gather ourselves and move on with the show.

FPA: Give our performers a storytelling tip!

CL: Tell your story just like you would at a party among friends. Forget the stage. Forget the microphone. Forget the lights. Follow that rule and the rest will follow.

FPA: What’s your dream theme?

CL: “WTF?!” One of the most recognizable acronyms of the social media age. There’s a ton of creative freedom within that theme. But whichever way the storyteller chooses to go, it’s guaranteed to be captivating!

FPA: Do you have any message/advice you’d like to say to the audience judges?

CL: First of all, thank you. A judge’s job is tough! Everyone else gets to keep their scores private while yours are on front street. Not easy. Be mindful of the contest rules (time limit, theme, beginning, middle, end structure, etc.) and judge accordingly. Remember, it’s a competition.

FPA: What do you love most about hosting FPA StorySlams?

CL: The culture. FPA feels like family. There are no strangers at FPA StorySlams, just friends and family. If you happen to spot a stranger, report them immediately…or buy them a drink. Either is fine.

FPA: Do you ever get butterflies before going up on stage?

CL: Every. Single. Time. And I love it! If I’m nervous, it means I’m pushing my limits. It means I left my comfort zone about a mile back. And that’s a good thing.

FPA: People might not know this, but the only Slams you go to or perform in are First Person Arts Slams. Why are you so loyal to First Person Arts Slams?

CL: The family culture breeds loyalty. If this were Game of Thrones, I’d be Lord Lundy of House FPA. Winter is coming. Oh, and I love watching our storytellers progress as they go from nervous newcomers to polished storytellers. Makes me proud.

FPA: What should audiences know about you that they might not already know?

CL: I’ve never lost to an American in ping-pong.

First Person Arts presents Philadelphia’s premiere StorySlams 2nd Mondays at World Cafe Live and 4th Tuesdays at L’Etage. For more info about you can tell your story, click here.

Photo credit: Jen Cleary

06/29/2016

Bonus Content!: Patches, The Immigrant Cat

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When one hears the word “immigration,” one might think about the Syrian refugee crisis, or some politician’s idea to build a wall across the US/Mexico border. You might not stop to consider the topic of feline dual citizenship.

At last night’s “En Route” StorySlam, Sara took the win and Audience Favorite vote with an unexpected tale about her best friend, Patches, the Macedonian immigrant cat.

Naturally, we had a lot of follow up questions. Sara was kind enough to answer some of them for us. And in case you’re curious, she’s shared pictures of what a cat green card looks like.

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FPA: Feline green cards? We didn’t know this was a thing! How difficult is it to get one?

SR: It was surprisingly easy to get documentation for Patches. A few other volunteers in Macedonia brought back dogs and that, apparently, is a lot tougher. But the “green card” consists of a pet passport that shows all of her vaccinations, and a document from the Town Hall certifying that the pet is safe to travel. (What this means is anyone’s guess. Also the form is completely in Macedonian, so I have no idea how it is supposed to be useful for American customs people!)

IMG_1739One of my students and friends, Marija, served as my cultural attaché for this process. Otherwise I would have never figured out how to bring Patches to the United States! Marija accompanied me to the Town Hall to help me explain what I needed. Of course, they had never seen this form before, and were mystified about why some American was needing their signature to travel with a cat.

This is a bit of a side story, but I had come to Macedonia with an awesome travel guitar as one of my carry-ons. But because I was bringing Patches home, I was suddenly over my carry-on limit, and had to make some adjustments.

Marija was a great guitar player, but had this dinky guitar from who knows where. So right before I left with Patches, I gave Marija my guitar to thank her for helping me with the cat, and for being a good friend. She still has it, and still plays quite well! I think we both got a good bargain.

FPA: Where where you and what were you doing when you found Patches in Macedonia?

SR: I had a friend named Lidija who was one of the only Macedonians I knew who kept cats and dogs as pets. She would let them inside her house, but they were definitely mostly outdoor pets. I was having dinner at Lidija’s house when this poofy calico kitten came in and started meowing loudly (she still has a weird meow, which to me sounds like a toy goat). It turns out that one of the cats Lidija often fed had had a litter of kittens, and Lidija was letting the mother keep them in the basement until they got big enough to defend themselves on the tough Macedonian streets.

I said to Lidija, “She is so cute!!” and Lidija responded with, “zemaj,” a word I didn’t know (that summarizes 95% of my conversations). I picked up the kitten and kept talking about how cute she was, and I just had fallen completely in love, and Lidija kept saying this word that I didn’t know.

Eventually Lidija said “ZEMAJ,” put the cat in my hands and motioned to leave. I guess it was just a regional word for “take” that I didn’t know, so she’d been telling me all night to take the kitten with me.

FPA: You say that Macedonians don’t typically have pets, and especially not inside. Can you tell us more about that?

SR: I was in a rural, agricultural city, so pets were really uncommon. Mostly, people just considered pets dirty to have in the home. There is also a much different culture around spaying/neutering, which meas that there are strays everywhere in Macedonia. The result is that cats and dogs are associated with the public nuisance of strays rather than indoor, domestic companions like they are here.

Having pets wasn’t unheard of, it was just uncommon. Being the lone American somewhere, though, your behavior is often notable because of the ways it’s uncommon. People were always very confused and curious as to why I would want a cat living in my house.

FPA: What is Patches’ favorite pastime?

SR: Patches has many hobbies, but cuddling is definitely her favorite. She’s basically just an alive stuffed animal. Like I said in the story, I brought her back to where I was staying in Macedonia by zipping her up inside my winter jacket. I actually used to hold her like that a lot when she was a kitten. Zipped inside my jacket, she would nap while I read, or whatever. As a result, she is very needy and basically wants to constantly be in contact with a person, which I love! She has always slept with me, and she will paw at my nose until I wake up a little and lift up the covers so she can nestle underneath and be little spoon.

06/15/2016

What stories do you want to hear?

It’s that time of year again! The 2016 StorySlam Theme Contest is here. Past winning themes include Online Dating, Secrets, The Ex-Files, Do the Right Thing, and Almost Famous.

Got something better? Fill out the form below for a chance to have your theme programmed next season, and win free tickets to the Slam on your theme! Contest lasts now through August.

06/07/2016

“Pride” Comes Before a Laugh

We’re so excited to wipe the slate clean, and kick off a brand spankin’ new StorySlam season on Monday with the theme Pride! To help prime your palette, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite funniest tales on the theme.

#4 In her quest for coolness, Sara must obtain the highly coveted Beanie Baby known as Wrinkle.

#3 From catered picket lines to heckling her daughter’s grad school presentations, Marjorie’s mom can be counted on to embarrass. Through it all, Marjorie learns to be proud of her mom — quirks and all.

#2 Martha is a proud Philadelphian. But after getting lost in her own city, will her pride still be intact?

#1 As a 16-year-old mother, Mary doesn’t always feel equipped or ready for parenthood. Today, she’s proud of both her journey and her son.

Event details:

First Person Arts StorySlam: Pride
DATE Monday, June 13
TIMES Doors at 7:30PM, Slam at 8:30PM
LOCATION World Cafe Live
TICKETS $10, 20% off for FPA members
More dates and themes here.

05/09/2016

Meet Grand Slam Judge Chris Lundy!

Since his first First Person Arts StorySlam, Chris has been slinging stories that were instant favorites with FPA audiences. From tales of childhood fights, to fast food obsessions, to past career triumphs and missteps, story-lovers voted him “Audience Favorite” again and again.

We liked him so much, we even made him an official StorySlam host! The feeling was mutual, and Chris joined as a First Person Arts member in December 2015.

Now, we’re excited to have Chris help us crown the “Best Storyteller in Philadelphia” at this Thursday’s Season 16 Grand Slam! {{TICKETS ON SALE HERE}}

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FPA: At your first-ever StorySlam, you won the title of “Audience Favorite”. You’ve gone on to win “Audience Favorite” several times since, have competed in a Grand Slam, and have become a regular StorySlam host.

What would you like to say to our two “Audience Favorites” who have earned a spot in the Grand Slam lineup this season, Mister and Lisa?

CL: The long way around still got you here! You’re with the best of the best now. Deliver tonight and everyone will see why.

FPA: What would you say are the three most important elements to a good story?

CL: 1) Consistency throughout the story. 2) Relatability. 3) Passion.

FPA: A good story isn’t just about content, it’s also about presentation. What can a storyteller do to make his/her story resonate with you as one of our official Grand Slam judges?

CL: Find the human element. If I can connect the emotional dots, I’ll be able to relate regardless of subject matter.

FPA: So, you’ve talked about some of the “do’s” of storytelling. Are there any “don’ts” in storytelling for you?

CL: Don’t ramble. Tell well-formed story. Don’t disregard the time limit. That’s important.

FPA: If a storyteller wants to suck up to you at the Grand Slam, what is your drink of choice?

CL: Bourbon on the rocks. Bulleit if they reeeaally want to suck up.

FPA: Will you be using decimals in your story scoring on Thursday?

CL: Reluctantly, yes. But these are the best storytellers around! I expect the margins will be paper thin.

FPA: This year marks First Person Arts’ 15th Anniversary. Tell us your own story on the Grand Slam theme of “Where I Come From” in 15 words!

CL: Take a pan. Toss in Haiti, Brooklyn, and the D.C. area. Then bake.

FPA: Any final words of advice for this season’s Grand Slam contestants?

CL: Don’t just retell your story. RELIVE your story. Out loud and in front of the audience.

EVENT DETAILS
16th Season First Person Arts Grand Slam
DATE: Thursday, May 12
TIMES: Doors at 7PM, Show at 8PM
LOCATION: World Cafe Live
TIX: $17-22 | BUY

05/05/2016

Meet Your Host for the 16th Season Grand Slam, Chip Chantry!

He’s opened for comedy legends Louis CK, Bob Saget, and Dave Chappelle. See why these leading comics have shared the stage with him when he shares the stage with Philadelphia’s top storytellers at the Grand Slam next Thursday, May 12 at World Cafe Live. Meet comedian Chip Chantry! {{TICKETS ON SALE HERE.}}

Chip_horizontalFPA: You opened for Louis CK’s secret Philly show last month. How did that happen? Tell us what your reaction was like when you heard the news that you got the gig.

CC: I found out at noon the day of the show. I knew I was going to see the show, even though I didn’t know who it was going to be. When the owner of Helium called me to see if I could open, I immediately said yes, without even knowing who it was. When I found out, I was floored. Also, I was standing in the middle of a convenience store when I got the call, and got a few looks from people. So I guess I looked shocked.

FPA: In addition to being a standup comedian, you’re also a writer for comedy television. Is there a different approach to writing for TV versus writing for the stage?

CC: When you write for TV, you’re writing for someone else, so I think the biggest difference is knowing their voice. When it’s stand up, it’s just me, so I know where I’m coming from. But it’s fun to work in someone else’s voice, and put your own stamp on it. It’s a fun challenge.

FPA: What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you on stage?

CC: This isn’t as crazy as it is heartbreaking, so buckle up! A few years ago, I was asked to do a Nerd Nite show in Philly, which is a great event that combines entertainers and scholarly talks. It’s a lot of fun.

The room was packed with a few hundred 20 and 30-something-year-old self-proclaimed nerds that night, ready for a show. I was psyched!

Right before they introduced me, the host announced to the crowd that Steve Jobs just died. SHE ANNOUNCED THAT STEVE JOBS DIED IN A ROOM FULL OF NERDS, AND THEN SAYS, “Your next act is comedian Chip Chantry.”

That’s like going to do a set at the Basketball Hall of Fame, and having the host announce that Michael Jordan died. There were literally people in tears while I was trying to sling my jokes. So do me a favor: If, on the night of the Grand Slam, the world’s most famous storyteller dies, PLEASE KEEP IT TO YOURSELF.

FPA: Do you have any pre-show lucky rituals? Lucky socks or underwear?

CC: Having an empty bladder always seems to help matters.

FPA: What piece of advice would you give this season’s Grand Slam contestants?

CC: Pray that if the world’s most famous storyteller dies that night, no one announces it right before you go on.

FPA: Is there a dumb childhood joke that you still love, and why?

CC: I like to think of myself as pretty comedically refined and sophisticated, but whenever the Coyote falls off a cliff wearing rockets shoes, I’m on board for the laugh.

FPA: This year marks First Person Arts’ 15th Anniversary. Tell us your own story on the Grand Slam theme of “Where I Come From” in 15 words!

CC: You see, when it comes to my hometown and upbringing, I would have to say…

FPA: Do you think there’s a difference between standup storytelling and comedy? What role does storytelling play in your work?

CC: I think it’s all about emotion, and what emotions you can spark in the crowd. For comedy, getting the laugh is obviously the goal. But when I started telling more stories in my stand up–true stories–the comedy became so much more authentic and real. I tell a few stories that include some tragic topics, but if I can strike a real emotional response from the crowd, then throw in a punchline, the laughter is so much better. It’s a release from the tension.

EVENT DETAILS
16th Season First Person Arts Grand Slam
DATE: Thursday, May 12
TIMES: Doors at 7PM, Show at 8PM
LOCATION: World Cafe Live
TIX: $17-22 | BUY

05/02/2016

Who Are You To Judge?: Meet Grand Slam Judge, Bryan Buttler!

IMG_1527(1)He’s been a First Person Arts fan for years, has covered FPA events as a former writer for Philadelphia Magazine, and even shared his own story at a Slam on the theme “Superstitious”! Meet Grand Slam judge Bryan Buttler of Bryan Buttler Media Relations! {{TICKETS ON SALE HERE.}}

FPA: You are certainly no StorySlam virgin. You’ve been part of the First Person Arts family for some time now. What’s your favorite thing about FPA StorySlams?

BB: I think there is so much interesting energy in the room! The Slams bring out such a unique mix of people of all walks of life, and usually people are so supportive. They are there to hear a good story.

FPA: As a journalist and a writer, you are also a storyteller. In your opinion, what are the three most important elements to a good story?

BB: I think you have to be passionate about the story. It is just like good writing: if you’re not interested, your audience is going to know. You also have to bring an element of truth to every story you tell. That’s what makes a story genuine. Also, just be yourself. There’s nothing worse than a faker or someone who is sugar coating something just to make people laugh or cry.

FPA: A good story isn’t just about content, it’s also about presentation. What can a storyteller do to make his/her story relatable to you as one of our official Grand Slam judges?

BB: Speak the truth! When you come from a place of the heart, you’re so much more likable.

FPA: So, you’ve talked about some of the do’s of storytelling. Are there any don’ts in storytelling for you?

BB: I’ve seen people who present stories that are purposely outlandish for the sake of trying to get laughs. It doesn’t work. Also, stay within time limits! No one likes someone who goes on and on and on. You’re like that kid in class who always answered the teacher and took up too much time.

FPA: If a storyteller wants to suck up to you at the Grand Slam, what is your drink of choice?

BB: God, I do adore a mojito, but they’re hard to make if the bar doesn’t have mint.

FPA: Will you be using decimals in your story scoring on Thursday?

BB: Eh…that’s a hard one! Probably not. Get that full point, baby!

FPA: This year marks First Person Arts’ 15th Anniversary. Tell us your own story on the Grand Slam theme of “Where I Come From” in 15 words!

BB: I am the stereotypical oldest child, and those traits have served me well.

FPA: Any final words of advice for this season’s Grand Slam contestants?

BB: You’ve already wowed an audience once. You’ve got this!

EVENT DETAILS
16th Season First Person Arts Grand Slam
DATE: Thursday, May 12
TIMES: Doors at 7PM, Show at 8PM
LOCATION: World Cafe Live
TIX: $17-22 | BUY

12/18/2015

Call for stories!

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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
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    Upcoming Events
    • StorySlam: News to Me
    • Date: July 26, 2016
    • Time: Doors at 7:30PM, Slam at 8:30PM
    • Venue: L'Etage
    • Location: 624 S 6th St.
    • StorySlam: White Lies
    • Date: August 8, 2016
    • Time: Doors at 7:30PM, Slam at 8:30PM
    • Venue: World Cafe Live
    • Location: 3025 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA