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06/17/2015

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!

05/13/2015

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.


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

05/11/2015

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!


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

05/05/2015

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!”

05/01/2015

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!


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

04/22/2015

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.)


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

04/15/2015

Meet Grand Slam Contestant, Kathy!

With the 14th Season Grand Slam just a month away, we’ve been introducing you to our fabulous lineup of contestants, so that you know who to root for! Up today, meet Kathy.

Our contestants are buying up their Grand Slam tickets like mad to make sure they each have a highly spirited entourage responsible for lots and lots of applause after their performances! Have you gotten your tickets yet?

Name: Kathy Houng
Age: 26
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Slam won: Shock!

FPA: How long have you been “Slamming”?

KH: Less than 6 months

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

KH: I watch the Yul Brenner/Junior mirror scene from Cool Runnings, have a beer, and do a few rounds of Darth Vader yoga breathing.

FPA: Share a storytelling tip with us!

KH: Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. It makes you relatable and shows the audience that you aren’t taking yourself too seriously.

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

KH: Jalan Jalan Cari Makan. It’s a Malaysian saying that roughly translates to “Running Around to Find the Food”

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

KH: My maternal grandmother (“wai po” in Mandarin). I grew up with her stories at the kitchen table, mesmerized by the vivid descriptions of her childhood in a Macau bakery. Every meal we cooked, game we played, or ritual we shared all had stories behind them. She taught me the art of embellishment, the craft of a story arc, and most importantly, how to use the power of my own pen and voice to capture daily life.

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

KH: See “Memoir Ch. 7 title”

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

KH: The people!

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

KH: Rafiki from The Lion King

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

KH: Half will go into my rainy day “FUN-d” and the other half (begrudgingly) to the PPA for unpaid parking tickets…


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

04/02/2015

Meet Grand Slam Contestant, Tim!

It’s hard to believe, but there are just 2 StorySlams left in the 14th Season: “Big Time” and “#onlinedating”! So, you know that means our confirmed Grand Slam contestants are already sizing up their competition. We want you to meet the contestants too, so you know who you’re going to root for on May 14 at Underground Arts! We’re introducing you to the talented lineup of tale spinners one at a time. Up this week, meet Tim!

Be sure to grab your Grand Slam tix before May 1 and save money!

Name: Timothy William Sommers

Age: 49

Location: At the moment I live in Pittsburgh. But I travel constantly and have moved around a bunch. I am originally from St. Louis and have lived in East Lansing, Michigan; Providence, Rhode Island; Washington, D.C.; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Slam won: I did two Slams this year, both at L’Etage, because I love that place. At one, I told a story about South Africa, penguins, Brigitte Bardot, and apartheid. At the other, I told a story about getting locked out of my car at a strip joint and inadvertently participating in the armed robbery of a crack dealer. That one was my winning tale. Aparently Americans really love strippers, guns, and crack.

FPA: How long have you been “Slamming”?

TWS: Slamming” sounds like an alcohol problem. But I have been telling stories at StorySlams for about two years.

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

TWS: Even if it is a story I have told many times before, I write it down word for word, then practice it without trying to memorize it. This is for two reasons: Every new StorySlam becomes the occasion of a new written story as well as a chance to tell a story that way, but also I believe in effort and practice despite being a member of the slacker generation. You know what I believe would improve Improv Comedy? If they wrote the sketches ahead of time, edited them, rehearsed them, work shopped them, and then rewrote them based on audience reactions.

FPA: Share a storytelling tip with us!

TWS: Storytelling tips, like horoscopes, are often vague and hard to follow. So, here’s a really specific, easy to do one that, I guarantee, will work. You never know what people are going to laugh at. If they laugh at something that you didn’t expect or intend to be funny, you can always get a bigger, second laugh just by pausing and saying, “That wasn’t supposed to be funny.” If the second laugh is big and you really want to go for it, try, “And now you are starting to hurt my feelings a little bit.” Hilarious.

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

TWS: My bankruptcy.

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

TWS: I don’t who is the best, but I sure think Mike Birbiglia does an amazing job of combining comedy, pathos, and a little bit of a point. At StorySlams, I find, the stories that grip me are the ones from people who have had some really unique experience. When it comes to nonfiction, content matters a lot to me.

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

TWS: Nothing. Travel, I guess.

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

TWS: StorySlams are to this decade what stand-up comedy was to the 1980s. But what I love about First Person Arts is that they are devoted and committed to building an independent storytelling community rooted in one of American’s greatest cities, Philadelphia, and covering it from every angle from Slams to podcasts to teaching and community outreach. I hope First Person Arts becomes a model for other cities around the country.

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

TWS: I feel strongly that keeping wild animals, even as spirits, is wrong and I don’t do it.

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

TWS: Get the Luxury Room at the Morris Hotel. Best hotel in downtown Philly. This was the view from the window the night I won a First Person Arts StorySlam!


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

03/27/2015

Meet Grand Slam Contestant, Emma!

Holy smokes! Is it really that time again? On Thursday, May 14, 2015, winners from the 14th Season of FPA StorySlams will be sweaty, nervous, and excited to compete against each other at the Grand Slam at Underground Arts. It’s Philly’s biggest storytelling showdown, and an always sell out event. Psst! Grab your tickets early and save money!

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be introducing you to our lineup of this season’s super talented tale spinners. Up this week is Emma, winner of the “Family Matters” StorySlam.

Name: Emma H.
Age: 31
Location: Flourtown, PA
Slam won: Family Matters

FPA: How long have you been “Slamming”?

EH: Officially, about a year, but according to my friends – always.

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

EH: My only real ritual is neurosis, lots of self-doubt, and the absolute conviction that people are going to throw things at me. That way, whatever happens is usually a pleasant surprise.

FPA: Share a storytelling tip with us!

EH: Be your own fool.

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

EH: Vodka Coma (and Other Cautionary Tales from the Former Soviet Union)

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

EH: Andrew Panebianco. His attitude is always self-effacing and charmingly neurotic, but his use of language is so precise, so clever, and so clean that it makes his storytelling aspirational instead of just relatable.

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

EH: Fail adulthood in spectacular fashion.

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

EH: How welcoming everyone has been. The first slam I did was a special event out at Woodmere Art Museum, and the group that came out from FPA immediately embraced me and encouraged me to continue. That lack of competitive ugliness is incredibly appealing.

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

EH: Something you’d see on an ASPCA commercial.


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

03/26/2015

Secrets!

“Secrets” was the theme of Tuesday’s StorySlam at L’Etage where 10 brave storytellers took to the stage with some of their juiciest never-before-told tales. Some of our more private audience members got into the action too, and shared their secrets anonymously on slips of paper, which were read throughout the evening by our fabulous host, Marjorie. Here are some of our favorites!

The jury is still out on whether this person kisses on first dates.
photo 1

Cold… Literally, just cold.
photo 2

That might explain why this person writes the letter “m” with 3 humps.
photo 4

Finders Keepers…
photo 3

Give this man his theater, art, music, and pets merit badges ASAP!
photo 1

This guy didn’t get the memo that size doesn’t matter.
photo 4

And the moral of the story is: Steer clear of apples.
photo 3

The next StorySlam is Monday, April 13 at World Cafe Live. The theme is “Big Time”. See you there!

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Upcoming Events
  • StorySlam @ World Cafe Live: High Point
  • Date: July 13, 2015
  • Time: Doors at 7:30PM, Slam at 8:30PM
  • Venue: World Cafe Live
  • Location: 3025 Walnt St.
  • StorySlam @ L’Etage: Ouch!
  • Date: July 28, 2015
  • Time: Doors at 7:30PM, Slam at 8:30PM
  • Venue: L'Etage
  • Location: 6th and Bainbridge Streets