A Beginner’s Guide To The First Person Arts Festival, Returning November 7-17 With 22 Events In 11 Genres At 3 Iconic Venues

The only event of its kind in the world, the 11th Annual First Person Arts Festival hits Philadelphia November 7-17 celebrating the power of storytelling to foster appreciation for our unique and shared experiences.

This year’s festival is action-packed, with celebrity appearances (Janeane Garofalo! Chef Marcus Samuelsson!), brand new festival ticket packages and first-time-ever kids programming. And we want to make sure you’re not overwhelmed by everything on the docket.

So below, we present another one of our beginner’s guides, an all-in-one reference for Philadelphia’s unique First Person Arts Festival. Whether you’re a first-time attendee or a First Person flag-waver, we’ve got something helpful for you.

What is First Person Arts?

Guided by the belief that everyone has a story to tell and telling our stories connects us with each other, First Person Arts offers an outlet for and empowers the storyteller in each of us by hosting workshops and producing interactive arts programs all year long. Their marquee annual event is the First Person Arts Festival.

Festival Hub

Hopefully after reading this Beginner’s Guide to the First Person Arts Festival, you’ll be all set when it comes to planning what to see and where to see it. When all else fails, head to Christ Church Neighborhood House. That’s the festival hub, where you can buy tickets, get concessions (including Yards beer!), have your questions answered in person and see a bunch of the performances.

Yards Beer

Yes. Yards Beer. See above. It wouldn’t be a Philadelphia festival without local beer now, would it?

Other Venues

This year’s First Person Arts Fest takes place at three major venues in Philadelphia: Christ Church Neighborhood House in Old City, Underground Arts at The Wolf Building in Callowhill and Ortlieb’s Lounge in Northern Liberties. For info on how to get to each of these spots, click here.

Celebrity Appearances

A. Kitchen isn’t the only place to catch a glimpse of Hollywood in Philadelphia. The 2012 First Person Arts Festival has secured a pretty impressive roster of A-listers:

Marcus Samuelsson: Internationally acclaimed chef and winner of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, Marcus Samuelsson will be kicking off the festival with a special dinner, reception and reading from his new memoir Yes, Chef tonight, November 7, 6-9 p.m. at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia. Click here for tickets.

Janeane Garofalo: Actress and comedian Janeane Garofalo (24, The West Wing, Reality Bites, The Truth About Cats & Dogs) joins Kevin Allison (Flight of the Conchords, The State) and dynamic storytellers from the Philadelphia performing arts scene in RISK!, an “anything-goes, laugh-out-loud smorgasbord of daring and ridiculous revelations.” It goes down at Underground Arts at The Wolf Building on Friday night, November 16. Get tickets here.

Rick Nichols: Iconic Philadelphia food writer Rick Nichols leads an event called Candyland on Saturday, November 10 at Christ Church Neighborhood House, a celebration of Philadelphia’s candied history. Special guests include Tegan Hagy (LoveBar), Michael Holahan (PA General Store) and Ryan Berley (Shane Confectionery). You’ll leave with a bag of sweets — old favorites, local heroes and new confections.

Sonia Sanchez: Get up close and personal with Sonia Sanchez, Philadelphia’s first-ever poet laureate and somewhat of a local hero. On Sunday, November 11, she’ll lead a holistic exploration of health, happiness and the written word. There’s an application process required for this one, and deadline was technically October 30, but it’s totally noteworthy and we couldn’t resist sharing it with you.


One of the best parts of the First Person Arts Festival is that a solid handful of its events are designed to make you laugh out loud. Here are our favorites:

Comedy Confessions with Corey Cohen: Friday, November 16, 10-11:30 p.m., Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill Street, $15. Taking a cue from late-night talk shows, Corey grills comedians Dave Hill, Alejandro Morales, Hillary Rea and Greg Stone after each stand-up set about the real life situations that inspired the jokes.

The Taxi Tapes: Thursday, November 15 and Friday, November 16, Ortlieb’s Lounge, 847 N. 3rd Street, $15. On stage with a computer and a beer at his side, comedian Sam Dingman weaves personal tales with revealing audio recordings from his days driving a New York City taxi.

RISK!: Friday, November 16, 8-9:30 p.m., Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill Street, $25. Local storytellers Bernardo Morillo, Jamie J. Brunson, Becca Trabin and R. Eric Thomas join Janeane Garofalo and Kevin Allison in telling ridiculous true stories they never thought they’d dare to share in public, all related to the theme of “Thanks.”

Comedy, of course, isn’t the only genre during the festival; for the full event listings, either check out the graphic schedule at the bottom of this post or click here.

PNC Arts Alive Story Day: All Roads Lead to Philadelphia

First Person Arts is for families, too. The first-ever PNC Arts Alive Story Day, a fun, festive celebration of stories, food and performances for the whole family, is set for Saturday, November 17 at Christ Church Neighborhood House from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.. Programming includes a flamenco jam session led by Pasion y Arte, food trucks, Children’s Reading Nook, First Person Arts Story Market and more.


First Person Arts has debuted ticket packages this year, which let you save up to 20% for a combination of shows.

Diehard First Person fan? Nab a Festival VIP Pass for $275, your golden ticket to see every single performance.

For single-show tickets, buy online, call (267) 402-2055 or stop by the festival box office at Christ Church Neighborhood House, open starting two hours before all performances.

2012 First Person Arts Festival
When: November 7-17
Where: Locations throughout the city; festival hub is at Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American Street
Cost: Tickets vary depending on event
More info: www.firstpersonarts.org


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