A Guide To The 13th Annual First Person Arts Festival, Returning November 4-15 With Storytelling, Panels And A Food Event With Chefs Marcus Samuelsson And Jennifer Carroll

First Person Arts
The 13th annual First Person Arts Festival hits Philadelphia this November with more than 15 events, including the First Person Grand Slam, celebrating the spoken word. (Photo by Darragh Dandurand for First Person Arts)

Now in its 13th year, the First Person Arts Festival continues its unique celebration of documenting real life through storytelling.

Internationally renowned artists join everyday people from both Philadelphia and across the country to take part in the annual event, sharing their tall tales and personal experiences on stages around town from November 4 to 15.

Over 12 days at multiple venues, the festival includes live performances, foodie events, workshops with artists, author readings, art exhibits and many special celebrations.

Read on for our guide to the venues and not-to-miss shows of the 2014 First Person Arts Festival.


Guided by the belief that everyone has a story to tell and telling our stories connects us with each other, First Person Arts aims to empower the storyteller in each of us by hosting workshops and producing interactive arts programs all year long, including monthly StorySlams and regularly held workshops.

The annual First Person Arts Festival, the flagship festival of memoir and documentary art, showcases the organization’s mission in a grand celebration that’s said to be only festival of its kind in the world.

With more than 15 events over the course of 12 days, the festival includes a nice range of memoir-driven affairs fit for many audiences, both young and old.

This year’s festival takes places at six venues around Philadelphia. Report to Christ Church Neighborhood House in Old City or Underground Arts in Callowhill for the majority of events, but other venues range from the First Person Arts offices to Le Méridien Philadelphia hotel.

Check here for more, and read on for our picks of festival events.

 First Person Arts StorySlam. (Photo by Erika Vonie for First Person Arts)
Storyteller Kevin Lee spins his tale during a First Person Arts StorySlam. The First Person Arts Festival celebrates the spoken and written word through such performances, storytelling discussions and much more. (Photo by Erika Vonie for First Person Arts)

More on the First Person Festival, below.


With 19 shows and events, there are opportunities to take in both powerful personal stories from renowned national artists as well as tales from everyday folks. Highlights of this year’s festival include an evening with Obie Award-winning playwright and Pulitzer Prize finalist Dael Orlandersmith, plus, look for the return of Marcus Samuelsson, star of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters and ABC’s The Taste.

Read on for our top picks, and check here for the complete schedule of events.

An Evening with Marcus Samuelsson and Jennifer Carroll

Tuesday, November 4, VIP at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m. Le Méridien Philadelphia Hotel, 1421 Arch Street. Celebrity chef and New York Times best-selling author Marcus Samuelsson visits Philadelphia to offer up a meal taken from his new cookbook, Marcus Off Duty, with a hand from talented Philadelphia native and Top Chef alum chef Jennifer Carroll. A book signing concludes the evening. Tickets, $180 VIP and $150 for dinner, are available online.

Grand Slam

Thursday, November 6, 8 p.m. Prince Music Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street. The culmination of anecdotes and accounts told throughout the season, First Person Arts’ Grand Slam pits winners from First Person Arts’ monthly StorySlams against one another in an all-out championship round. Tickets are $22.

Dael Orlandersmith’s Forever

Friday, November 14, 8 p.m. Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American Street. See Obie Award-winning playwright and Pulitzer Prize finalist Dael Orlandersmith perform a staged reading of her newest work, Forever, an autobiographical piece recounting a trip to the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris and the ghosts of the past. Tickets are $22.

Reinventing Radio: An Evening with Ira Glass

Saturday, November 15, 8 p.m. Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad Street. Public radio show This American Life constantly strives to push the boundaries of broadcast journalism, and creator Ira Glass is the driving force. See Glass on stage as he tells stories from the show combined with pre-taped quotes and music. Tickets range from $28 to $125.

Long Day’s Journey

Saturday, November 15, 7 p.m. Christ Church Sanctuary, 20 N. American Street. Part of Outside the Wire’s Addiction Performance Project, a celebrity cast of small-screen stars perform a free dramatic reading of the third act of Eugene O’Neill’s semi-autobiographical work, Long Day’s Journey Into Night. The actors performing the piece hail from top T.V. shows: Kathryn Erbe of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Zach Grenier from The Good Wife and Alex Morf from The Good Wife. Tickets are free.

Philip Bailey: Shining Star

Saturday, November 15, 8 p.m. Mother Bethel AME Church, 419 S. 6th Street. The Grammy Award-winning lead singer of Earth Wind & Fire appears in coversation with WDAS radio personality Patty Jackson to talk about his memoir, Shining Star: Braving the Elements of Earth Wind & Fire. Tickets are $40.

First Person Arts
The storytellers of First Person Arts take the stage all across town for the 13th annual festival of spoken word in Philadelphia. (Photo by Erika Vonie)


Ticket information and purchases are available online, and you can check out a full event calendar.

Tickets range from free to $22 to see First Person Arts Podcast LIVE! all the way up to $150 to see Marcus Samuelsson and Jennifer Carroll. Note that all ticket sales are final, too.

All First Person Arts Festival events are super accessible via foot, bike or public transportation. Check here for SEPTA’s trip planner to make your travel easy.

Hitting more than one event this week? Make a night of it and stay over in Philadelphia. Check out Visit Philly for super deals on hotel stays and packages.

See below for the complete festival schedule, and don’t miss out on this local celebration of the spoken word.

13th Annual First Person Arts Festival
When: November 4-15
Where: Christ Church Neighborhood House and other venues throughout Philadelphia
Cost: Prices range from free to $125 (most are $22); groups of 10 or more save 20% on tickets
More info: www.firstpersonarts.org



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