First Person Arts brings memoirs to life

First Person Arts’ mission states that they, as an organization, “believe that everyone has a story to tell and that storytelling connects us with each other and the world.” For the past ten years, First Person has hosted a yearly festival celebrating the art of memoir in the form of a variety of unique performances including theater, films, readings and more.

On Saturday, November 15, I had the pleasure of attending Beaut at the Christ Church House in Philadelphia. In a collision of two one-man shows, Thomas Choinaky and John Jarboe recollected their experiences growing up as gay men in Catholic households.

When I entered the small, intimate theater, I was confused to see that there were sets of chairs on either side of the room, separated by an opaque black screen. As the performance began, Thomas and John took their places on either side of the screen. They told their individual stories to their respective sides of the audience, but what was truly powerful was when their stories merged together.

Although it was a bit hard to pay attention exclusively to one performer’s story at a time, with both of them talking at once, I could appreciate the innovative way in which Choinaky and Jarboe related their memoirs separately and together. The edition of music and dancing added an appreciated light-hearted feel after many heavy and profound statements and not-so-happy memories.

First Person continues to hold twice-monthly themed Story Slams, presenting an opportunity to the Philadelphia community to share  experiences via storytelling competitions. This organization is truly dedicated to giving individual’s a voice, and it does so brilliantly.


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