First Person Arts gets ready for its 13th annual festival
What started 13 years ago as a space for ordinary people to tell stories about their life, has turned into an organization with yearlong programming and an annual festival featuring powerful personal stories from national artists and everyday people from the region.
“It’s truly amazing to witness the powerful dialogue, individual empowerment, and amazingly strong sense of community that naturally follows when we have the courage to share about our experiences,” said Jamie J. Brunson, executive director of First Person Arts.
“This year’s FPA Festival is yet another testimony to that, and will use personal storytelling as a catalyst to talk about important issues like cultural identity, sexuality, addiction, family and more.”
The festival, which will take place in Philadelphia Nov. 4-15, will feature actors Zach Grenier (The Good Wife) and Kathryn Erbe (Law and Order: Criminal Intent); Pulitzer Prize finalist Dael Orlandersmith; comedian and best selling author, Ruby Wax; celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson; Earth Wind & Fire lead singer, Philip Bailey; interdisciplinary artist Beth Nixon, and award-winning audio producer Yowei Shaw (This American Life, Studio 360, NPR) among others.
The First Person Arts Grand Slam, hosted by comedian Dave Hill, will feature winners of First Person Arts’s 13th Season of StorySlams who will be competing for the title of “Best Storyteller in Philadelphia.”
Local comedian Alejandro Morales, who describes his humor as “vulgar, mean and adorable,” will be participating in Story League Sings, a karaoke-style storytelling performance.
“There are going to be backup singers and dancers and the best storytellers,” Morales said. “I’m going to be telling a story about a strange period in my life in which I dropped out of musical theater school, I was going to Community College, working as bellhop and living in a trailer.”
He will also be performing a song that he does not yet want to reveal but said that it will most likely be a Mariah Carey piece.
“She knows how to sing her feelings and I don't usually get to sing in front of a lot of people,” said Morales, who’s been doing stand up in Philly for about five years and who hosts a free stand-up comedy open mic at the Urban Saloon in Fairmount every Monday.
This year, the festival will also feature its first live podcast and local writer, Marissa Johnson-Valenzuela, whose work revolves around social justice, will be a part of it.
“I will be telling a true story that comes about when I was a social worker in the city, working with teenagers and young men in probation, most of them Black and Latino. It’s a story about a young man on probation who was wrongly accused and who lost two years of his life to that,” said Johnson-Valenzuela, who is currently teaching a course on prison literature at Philadelphia Community College.
“Ultimately it’s a happy story but it deals with things that are pretty hard, so I’m working on balancing that with the entertainment value. The hardest things that we go through are often better told with humor,” she said.
For more information, visit http://firstpersonarts.org