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May Cashes in Her Coolness Points

Audience Favorite: May
Slam Theme: Obsessed
Story Highlights: gap sweatshirts, doc martens, teen idols, mean girls with accents, life mysteries

After years of living in the US, May returns to Israel and fulfills her dream of becoming a cool Israeli teen.

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-Karlem, Marketing Intern


Playing Dead

Winning Storyteller: Matthew
Slam Theme: Obsessed
Story Highlights: Funeral Director, White Sheets, Funeral Home Parties, Casket Games

Ever since he was a child, Matthew has been obsessed with death.


Reasons For Leaving

Audience Favorite Storyteller: Marjorie
Slam Theme: The Ex-Files
Story Highlights: cellist, misfits, the age of aquarius, educational film scripts, cocaine

Marjorie applies for a new job and on the application she’s asked to list her reasons for leaving her previous job. But these kinds of explanations are never simple. Particularly when a 3-fingered cellist is involved.



Out with the Bad


There are truths you learn, and there are truths you earn.

Life goes on.

High School. Freshman year. My primary interest: Girls (with girl parts).

September, my English teacher quoting Frost: “What I’ve learned from life can be summed up in three words: ‘It. Goes. On.’”

I immediately took to this quote, and did what all high school freshmen did when they heard something they liked: I posted it in an A.I.M. away message. (My screen name was “Buffman116”.)

Later that year, after flirtatiously instant messaging with a girl for a  week-and-a-half, we decided to meet at a Church Carnival in Northeast Philadelphia.

I wore a XXL Tommy Hilfiger T-shirt, a pair of baggy jean shorts, and size 13 Sean Kemp Reeboks. I looked like a scarecrow dressed by Eminem.

My pockets jingled with quarters left over from the time I had spent nervously playing carnival games while awaiting her arrival. My stomach gurgled with soda, and funnel cake, and awkwardness.

And suddenly, in the way people appeared in the days before text messaging, she was there: a girl (with girl parts).

We walked through the carnival, my gangly, sweaty hand entwined in hers, pockets jingling, stomach gurgling.

We stopped in front of an attraction called “The Zipper”, a ride that loaded customers into caged carts made for two. The cage that would contain us slammed against my too-long legs, but I was closer to my girl than I had been all night.

Stomach gurgling, pockets jingling, my brain told my neurons to reach my lanky arm around her shoulder. Instead, I smacked her in the face.

Arm eventually around her, I gazed into her eyes.

She closed her eyes (probably imagining I was Zack Morris).

Our cart swung up, and up, closer to the ride’s zenith as customers loaded into the carts below.

I wondered when the ride was going to start and, in a moment of adolescent over-thought-this-moment-for-too-long-so-I’m-not-going-to-think-I’m-just-going-to-do inspiration, I wrapped my mouth around hers.

The ride jolted into action.

At that same moment, I lost the smallest hybrid of soda, and funnel cake, and awkwardness…

Into her mouth.

Panicking and not knowing what to do, I tried desperately to suck it back in.

The ride began to fling not only us, but the quarters from my pockets, which pierced our faces, and legs, and arms.

Later that night, reflecting, I knew I had earned those three words:





Screen shot 2014-02-17 at 2.20.05 PMSteve Clark is a First Person Arts Grand Slammer winner and holds the title, “Best Storyteller in Philadelphia, 2013″. He works as a 6th grade teacher in Philly (not dissimilar from Mr. Feeney of Boy Meets World). He writes and performs both poetry and stories, has watched every episode of Franklin and Bash, enjoys singing Clay Aiken songs at karaoke, and carries his all-time favorite book, Infinite Jest, with him just about everywhere he goes. He is tall.


Are we playing on the same team?

Winning Storyteller: Anissa
Slam Theme: The Ex-Files
Story Highlights: softball dugout, family advice, Jesus fish, precious moments figurines, make out session

Anissa finds herself a catch at the softball field and takes control of the rest of her love life.

Like this video? Check out FPA’s YouTube channel for more stories from more Slams.




By C. C. Cieri, FPA Storyteller.


Who doesn’t love traditions? Those fragments of a simpler time, those practices passed from family to family, those things we pretend we don’t believe in but practice in the security of our homes so divine spirits won’t ruin our lives. If you’re interested in a particularly far-reaching tradition, then let me introduce you to the malocchio; more commonly known in South Philly as the maloik.

A maloik is formed by making devil horns with your finger, folding your thumb over your middle and ring fingers, and flicking those fingers in the direction of your intended target. Folklore says if you shoot this at a person, they will be condemned to bad luck, misfortune, and possible severe injury. The maloik’s at its worst when the person shooting it is particularly greedy or jealous.

I grew up with the maloik all around me. Everyone was talking about the evil eye, mom wore jewelry with eye shaped beads, and all the Italian delis I went to had anti-maloik charms for sale: both the devil horns and weird pepper-looking things. One night over dinner I found out that my grandma Gigi taught my dad how to ward off the maloiks. I knew I had to learn it then. I mean, what if I happened to be in Italy one day and some sleazy guy was making devil horns? It was like learning CPR!

Bad news was, it could only be taught by Italian family members, you couldn’t write it down, and it could only be taught midnight of Christmas Eve. If you wanted to start at 12:01 you were SOL. Despite my best efforts, I’d either completely forget about the maloiks or fall asleep each December 25th at 12 A.M. The few times I did stay up until then, I had to wait until the rest of the guests cleared out before I learned how to spot and cure the evil eye, because mom and dad didn’t want them to think we were Old World bumpkins, or because it was rude to duck out while company was over, or even because the guests weren’t Italian. Christmas senior year of high school, my father finally decided I needed to know how to cure the maloiks, reputation or hospitality be damned. We went upstairs, and he taught me the sacred words that will cure any evil-eye victim…which I’m not going to repeat here. I mean, you can’t all be both Italian and related to me.

But at least teach you how to detect a maloik, since I worked this up so much. It’s only the words you can’t teach, anyway. What you do is take a bowl full of water and place it in the corner of a room. Drop some olive oil into it, then make the sign of the cross in the oil-water three times. If the globules of oil come back together and make an eyeball, the house is cursed. At that point, you should call a professional. An Italian professional.



Caitlin Cieri is 23 years old and has been in the StorySlam circuit for a full year. She loves writing,theatre, travel, people watching and weight-lifting.


Help Me Bro

By Donald Deeley, FPA Storyteller.


When I was working at a gas station in suburban Houston one night in ’99, a kid my age set a case of lite beer on the counter, leaned forward, and told me in a fevered whisper, “Listen, I’m not 21 but my friends and I are trying to go to this party up the road and they won’t let us in unless we bring some beer.”

I loved every part of that. He opened by telling me I couldn’t sell him beer, asked me to break the law as a personal favor for complete strangers, and offered me nothing in return. That was key: I was supposed to help him because he wanted something. I was working in the service industry after all. I should have been happy to serve.


Have you ever told a suburbanite “no?” It’s delicious. I would recommend it to anyone. Their faces swell up, turn red, and you honestly wonder if they’re going to cry or explode and if that’s in fact what you’ve been spending your whole life waiting to see, the ever-missing evidence of a just and loving god. To be there in the moment when someone tells you, “but I want,” and you get to look them in the eye and say, “So what?” is transcendental.

He started pitching a fit, whining, asking me to be cool when the situation was already settled. He’d already told me I couldn’t sell him beer. He didn’t admit this after getting his ID turned down, after claiming he’d forgotten his ID, not even after being asked for ID. He set the beer on the counter and immediately said, “You can’t sell me this. So sell me this.” He kept trying to cajole me before finally giving up and leaving, ironically after I’d told him several ways to buy the beer all of which he ignored.

Looking back on it now, he never offered to invite me to the party even though that would have been the easiest bribe. Clearly, though, that wasn’t a price he was willing to pay.


Donald Deely Donald Deeley‘s writing has been published in 2600 Magazine, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and nowhere else. He currently teaches writing at Community College of Philadelphia, Temple University, and Philadelphia University. He’ll be running as a write-in candidate for President in 2016. http://d-contextualized.blogspot.com/


FPA Presents an Auction of Work by Philly Native, Zoe Strauss


Here at FPA, we are obsessed with telling stories that are inspired by real life. Award-winning photographer and Philly native, Zoe Strauss, has dedicated her life’s work to doing just that — and that’s why we love her!

We are excited to announce our online auction of photographic prints by the artist. The auction includes seven small format prints, five large unsigned inkjet prints, and eight large signed inkjet prints. Click here to peruse the auction and enter for your chance to add one or more of these powerful narrative-inspiring images to your own home collection!

About Zoe Strauss: Recently featured in a 10-year retrospective at the International Center of Photography in NYC, Zoe has also received a Seedling Award in Photography from the Leeway Foundation, a Pew Fellowship and a USA Gund Fellowship. She was featured in the Whitney Biennial and in a solo exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Philadelphia. Strauss describes her own work as “an epic narrative about the beauty and struggle of everyday life.” Through her photos she captures and recounts her own personal story, as well as that of the people and the landscape of Philadelphia.

All proceeds from the auction will go toward supporting First Person Arts. The auction closes February 16th! Don’t wait to check it out!

- Karlem Sivira, Marketing Intern



A Smashing Crashing

By Kitty Hailey, FPA Storyteller

detective 1

How do you get into a party at a posh hotel without being invited? You walk in. And that’s exactly what I had been hired to do.

People don’t always trust their spouses. As a licensed professional investigator, I’ve frequently been asked to check out where hubby is when the little woman is suspicious.

One such case was a work-related Christmas party a bunch of years ago. The wife wasn’t invited and she became very watchful. She presumed that she was intentionally not invited by her husband. She also informed me that it would not just be her husband’s male coworkers in attendance at the hotel holiday bash, but their cute little secretaries as well.

Now, I have never been described as cute, and I’m certainly not little, but in my day I’ve managed to put the package together quite well. So another investigator and I did what any team of sleuths would do; We dressed in our sexiest black cocktail dresses and highest heels, and decided to crash the party.

We knew in advance who we would be dealing with: a group of stock brokers and a company chauvinistic enough to not have a single woman on staff above the clerical wage. So we dressed for the part. Cleavage was obvious and we did the hair and makeup to the max.

When we arrived at the hotel, my fellow investigator and I feigned being so wrapped up in our conversation that we didn’t look at anyone except each other. And just like that, we were able to slip into the party under the noses of the unsuspecting hotel staff.

We could hear the hubbub of voices in full chatter, laughter, and the clinking of glasses as we made our way toward the ballroom. We kept walking until two things happened:

1. We were in the center of the dance floor with tables all around us.
2. All the voices stopped and the room became silent.

I had a most uncomfortable feeling that all eyes were on me. I looked right and my undercover partner looked left. The assembled businessmen, all in fine business attire and spiffy designer shoes, were staring in our direction. I looked left and she looked right, and we realized we had made a drastic mistake.

This was a stockbroker-only party. There wasn’t a woman in sight except the one beside me.

Oh my god! They thought we were the entertainment!

We both smiled in embarrassment and I loudly announced, “Oh no. I think we’re in the wrong room!” Fortunately, the man nearest me walked forward and thrust a glass of champagne in my hand. “No, you’re not,” he said. And for the next two hours almost 198 of the 200 assembled guests made moves on us.

I was giddy from all the wine, but the philodendron next to the bar was drunker. We flirted and acted amazingly inappropriate as we made our way around the room, looking for our subject. After all, that’s what we were being paid to do! And it was fun. Fantastic fun.

By the end of the evening my ego soared, but my investigator’s ethic was being challenged until I finally observed the errant husband.

I had nearly missed him. As I sat rather intoxicated on a bar stool, I looked passed the lothario staring at my boobs and saw the man I should have been following. He was holding hands with a male coworker in the corner of the bar where they had been drunkenly making out all night. The two had apparently chosen this party to “come out” about their relationship.

So much for the cute little secretaries! My subject never even noticed that I existed. And for good reason.

Our work was done. We made a less elegant exit–rather drunk, extremely tired, feeling a little sordid with very sore feet. In the end we were successful! Case closed.


kitty with sunglasses and JackKitty Hailey is a professional investigator. She is also the author of dozens of short stories and articles related to her profession, as well as several books on investigation and ethics. www.kittyhailey.com


Andrew’s Alter Ego

Winning Storyteller: Andrew
Slam Theme: Busted
Story Highlights: pizza, accents, theatrical aspirations, New Jersey, Englishness, free breadsticks

Andrew tricks his local pizza shop into thinking he’s English.

Upcoming Events
  • StorySlam @ L’Etage: Wild Things
  • Date: April 22, 2014
  • Time: Doors at 7:30PM, Slam starts at 8:30PM
  • Venue: L'Etage Cabaret
  • Location: 6th and Bainbridge Streets, Philadelphia
  • StorySlam @ Underground Arts: Grand Slam
  • Date: May 16, 2014
  • Time: 8PM
  • Venue: Underground Arts
  • Location: 1200 Callowhill St., Philadelphia