9 Questions With the Phenomenal Ursula Rucker


Photo by Wendel Patrick

You know what the world needs now? An army of Ursula Ruckers. She’s the Germantown-based, soft-spoken, truth-telling spoken word poet and recording artist whose words are tight with poignancy, wisdom, fury, pain and female strength. She’s like a fearless warrior of the real, unafraid to be unguarded and point the way out of hardship into better times. She is one of the headliners at the 14th Annual First Person Arts Festival (running November 4-15), performing her 90-minute spoken word memoir, My Father’s Daughter, this Friday at Plays & Players Theatre.

One of the reasons why her spoken word poetry and songs about urban reality are so effective is her delivery. Rucker has a beautifully delicate voice that says the most extraordinary things, but in a somewhat flat, contained manner. Because she’s not yelling, but instead, quietly delivering her stories; the message comes in under the defenses like a verbal grenade that rolls in under the fence and then explodes.

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First Person Arts Has Found a Very Bad Boy In David Crabb

David Crabb

David Crabb

David Crabb grew up as a punk gay twink in the middle of Texas and got high on more VHS cleaner than is humanly possible (“God knows how many brain cells I’ve burnt,” he told me). Yet, the actor, storyteller, and writer lived to quite literally tell the tale of his sorted youth in his one-man show Bad Kid, which he later turned into a memoir, recently published by Harper Collins. Crabb is bringing his outrageous tale of growing up gay to Philadelphia, and I had a chance to chat with him about his work and his appearance at this year’s First Person Arts Festival.

Tell me about your previous experiences in Philly. Have you ever worked with First Person Arts before or done any other performing in the city? I told a version of this story for a First Person Arts show, but this is the first time I’m performing the whole solo piece here in Philadelphia. I’ve also worked with Story League out of D.C., and we’ve done performances in Philly.

I know Bad Kid is based on your own personal experiences. When did you realize that you had a story that you really wanted to share? I got into storytelling with Risk and The Moth about six years ago. I was an actor in New York up until that point. I started writing new personal stories for the stage, and the theater I worked with gave me an opportunity to mount the show. My best friend wanted to direct the show: he worked in theater as a clown. We tried to put together the show six months and it just didn’t work. Then we finally realized that I was telling all of these stories about me growing up as a goth kid Texas in the 90’s with The Moth, and that was the show that worked. It opened four years ago now for the first time, and I’ve remounted it in New York three or four times now. Read more »

First Person Arts Festival Announces Full Lineup

A scene from "Bad Kid."

A scene from “Bad Kid.”

“We are liking, favoriting, following, commenting, and connecting across platforms and devices like never before,” said First Person Arts’ Executive Director Jamie Brunson. “These trends reaffirm to us that people want to share life, and everyday people are becoming documentarians of our age through technology, which is really an exciting and empowering concept. This year’s Festival is a tribute to this movement—to sharing life, and maybe even making new friends and understanding ourselves a little better along the way.”

Indeed, the theme for the 14th Annual First Person Arts Festival is “Share Life,” and there’s something for just about everyone on tap throughout the 12-day celebration of personal storytelling and narrative that runs from November 4th through the 15th. Read more »

10 Things To Do In Philly This Week: Guilty Pleasures at the Franklin Institute, Anjelica Huston at the Free Library, Asian American Film Festival and More

What’s Worth Seeing in November: Usher, Bob Dylan, Jerry Seinfeld, the PMA Craft Show and More

Corrina Burns | Photo by Jauhien Sasnou

Corrina Burns | Photo by Jauhien Sasnou

The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence
November 5-23
Off-Broad Street Theater
Time and time again, we’ve heard that there’s a dearth of roles for actresses of a certain age. “But I think that might be changing,” says Corinna Burns, the female lead in Azuka Theatre’s The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, a 2014 Pulitzer Prize finalist. Last season, the 42-year-old Swarthmore grad was cast in just one show. This season? “I have five shows,” she says, including Revolution Shakespeare’s just-wrapped Macbeth and a Fringe play that won accolades from the New York Times. “I feel very lucky. It’s an embarrassment of riches.”

More November must-dos after the jump

Who to See at First Person Arts Festival 2014: Kathryn Erbe, Marcus Samuelsson, Ira Glass and More

Kathryn Erbe, Marcus Samuelsson, and Ira Glass will appear at the First Person Arts Festival.

Kathryn Erbe, Marcus Samuelsson, and Ira Glass will appear at the First Person Arts Festival.

The First Person Arts Festival marks its 13th year next week, and it features a star-studded lineup. The festival runs Tuesday, November 4th through Saturday, November 15th and includes celebrity chefs, TV stars and a live edition of the First Person Arts podcast.

Kick off the festival by spending the night of Tuesday, November 4th, with Marcus Samuelsson, the star of Top Chef Masters and ABC’s The Taste. Celebri-chef Samuelsson will prepare a meal from his new cookbook Marcus Off Duty with the help of local Top Chef competitor Jen Carroll. Tickets for the 7:00 p.m. dinner are $150 and include access to a special book signing.


Giulia Rozzi and Margot Leitman star in “Stripped Stories” | Photo courtesy of Anya Garrett.

If you’ve recently thought, “Wow, I could really go for a sex-themed variety show starring two awesome female comedians,” well, First Person Arts has totally been reading your diary. Comedy Central’s Margot Leitman and MTV and VH1’s Giulia Rozzi will tell their sexiest “Stripped Stories” onstage Saturday, November 8th, at Underground Arts. Doors open at 9 p.m.. Live music will be provided by Philly’s Johnny Showcase, and tickets are just $22.

Storyteller, author, comedian, and mental health campaigner Ruby Wax is bringing her one-woman-show Ruby Wax: Sane New World on tour, stopping at the FPA Fest on Thursday, November 13th. Based on her best-selling book Sane New World: A User’s Guide to the Normal-Crazy Mind (a copy of which is included with your $35 ticket) the 9 p.m. show combines humor with Wax’s Oxford University Masters degree in cognitive therapy.

Attention all Law and Order: Criminal Intent binge-watchers: Detective Alex Eames, a.k.a Kathryn Erbe, will join The Good Wife‘s Zach Grenier and Alex Morf for a one-night-only dramatic reading of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into NightThis semi-autobiographical tale of a family’s struggle with addiction is part of Outside the Wire‘s Addiction Performance Project. The free reading is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, November 15th, at the Christ Church Sanctuary and features a post-performance discussion of addiction.


Earth Wind and Fire’s Philip Bailey | Photo courtesy of the artist.

Let the storytelling continue when Earth Wind & Fire lead singer and eight-time Grammy winner Philip Bailey shares tales from his memoir Shining Star: Braving the Elements of Earth Wind & Fire. A truly behind-the-scenes look at the legendary group, music icon Bailey will be interviewed by WDAS’ Patty Jackson about his amazing journey. The $40 ticketed event begins Saturday, November 15th, at 8 p.m. at Mother Bethel AME Church.

Also on Saturday, November 15th, the inimitable Ira Glass takes the Merriam Theater stage at 8 p.m. to talk broadcast journalism, what makes a good story, and more. The creator of This American Life will mix stories with pre-taped quotes and music in order to recreate the sound of the show for the live audience. Tickets range from $28-$125.

For ticketing, information about these events and a full calendar of the First Person Arts Festival, visit FirstPersonArts.org.

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