Behind the Scenes: Performance Takes Center Stage at the 2011 First Person Arts Festival
Last week Liz Green, FPA's Programming Coordinator, gave us a behind the scenes look into how this year's Festival is bigger and better than ever before. In this week's interview, she's giving us an glimpse into some of the exciting performances set to take place at the 10th Anniversary First Person Festival.
There are more performances and one person shows hitting the stage this year. What can you tell us about these specific programs and why they were chosen? How will it change the dynamic of the Festival?
We chose to do more live performances this year because they were the most popular events of last year's Festival, and there's some great stuff out there right now. Liberty City is about growing up in a turbulent environment and during a movement that doesn't always get a lot of attention, the Black Power movement of the 1970's. Exit Cuckoo is based on the experiences of actress and writer Lisa Ramirez had working as a nanny working in New York. Both are about big ideas and address important issues, with a lot of personal humor and reliability.
Left: April Yvette Thompson plays in Liberty City; Right: Lisa Ramirez plays in Exit Cuckoo.
That's only two of ten full performances we've booked. Watching live performances is a communal event, and I think having more of it will create a more experiential and “all in this together” dynamic. I hope people will talk to the person sitting next to them after the show, and either argue in the
lobby all night, or be new best friends forever.
Tell us about the latest First Person RAW performers. How were they chosen? How many people applied? What was the selection process like?
We had around thirty applicants for this year's season of RAW from around the country. Most were performers of different kinds – dance, theater, storytelling, and poetry. We looked closely at who was really thinking outside the box. Memoir and documentary art have some tried and true forms – one person theater shows, documentary film, poetry, and memoir in reading settings, etc. RAW is an opportunity to take big risks on untested ideas, and we wanted to see artists pushing boundaries. Beaut features two one-person-shows separated by a screen, and the stories intersect and bounce off one another. The SHE Project is poetry performed in a blend of traditional and slam poetry styles and incorporates music from both Hmong and hip-hop traditions. Will You Accept This Friend Request? is performed by R. Eric Thomas, and is half theater, half comedy routine, but all in the storytelling style of the StorySlam… and might even include food. These artists are mashing up genres so much it's hard for us to define what they are doing. That's what RAW's about.
The Grand Slam is definitely a crowd favorite. What kind of stories and/or storytellers can we expect this time around?
The Grand Slams get more competitive every year. Some storytellers in Philly have really stepped up and taken a professional and serious approach to this work, and that has raised the bar for everyone. Our hosts are amazing – Margot Leitman and Guilia Rozzi are both Moth Grand Slam winners, and their show Stripped Stories is being featured in the Festival. This event is always packed, and I can think of no better pair to get the crowd pumped. I'm pumped already!
For more information about these and other 2011 Festival programs visit the First Person Arts Festival page. Tix go on sale September 28.
-Laura Reeve & Whitni Rouse