R. Eric Thomas‘s most definitive life moments can be summarized by the songs of Patti LaBelle and Beyonce.
If you personally know the comedic storyteller, this isn’t news. However, when Thomas shares his fascination with “New Attitude” and “Get Me Bodied” with a room full of strangers, it’s, well, special. Now Philadelphians will have the chance to discover what’s been billed as “the best rock and roll storytelling event in New York” by Flavorpill; The Soundtrack Series is coming to Tin Angel on July 11, and it’s hosts, the incomparable Dana Rossi and Philadelphia’s own Thomas, promise to make this one music-inspired night that’ll keep you laughing and entertained. Read more »
After a sold-out stint of workshops in June, Elna Baker of This American Life returns to Philadelphia for a much-anticipated series of classes at First Person Arts titled From Good to Great: The Craft and Business of Storytelling. Read more »
To be named “Best Storyteller in Philadelphia” is not an easy task. Yet, Steve Clark has won the title, not once, but twice: the Philadelphian has taken home the crown from First Person Arts two consecutive years in a row (2013 and 2014). We had the chance to sit down with the superstar storyteller to learn how he works his magic to charm audiences with his tales (we’ve also got his winning story on video for you).
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We recommend checking out these events going on around Philly this week:
The Phillies is hosting its annual fundraising day at Citizens Bank Park this Monday. Fans of all ages can take pictures with some of their favorite players while enjoying a host of games across the field. Those looking to channel their inner Steve Carlton can also sign up to take a few throws in the bullpens. A silent auction will round out the phestivities. All of the money will go to help strike out ALS, the neuromuscular condition commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Monday, May 19th, 4:30 p.m., Citizens Bank Park, 1 Citizens Bank Way.
In a story slam local poets and artists deliver five-minute narratives built around a given theme. More than a storytelling competition, these artists invite listeners into their lives with passionate and real anecdotes. Expect a unique experience connecting with others as local raconteurs offer an intimate glance into their personal lives. All of the stories Monday night will be based on the theme of “Busted.” Monday, May 19th, 7:30, World Café Live, 3025 Walnut Street.
Get a look behind the curtain of an actual performing group at this exclusive open rehearsal. Two aspiring playwrights and two actors will bounce ideas off each other, channeling new means for inspiration and playing with different creative techniques. See the artistic process on full display with this behind-the-scenes glimpse into theater production. Monday, May 19th, 8 p.m., Plays and Players Theater, 1714 Delancey Street.
Only 1 in 10 registered voters went to the polls last election. That's just crazy. No matter what your politics, make your voice heard on Primary Election Day in Philadelphia. Check out Committee of Seventy for a great rundown of local elections, and its superb polling-place finder. Also keep track of the day's election coverage via Philly Mag's news blog. Tuesday, May 20, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., various locations.
A handful of some of Philly’s best local talent will perform intimate acoustic sets upstairs at World Café Live. Along with them will be recently signed recording artist Lindsay Cohen, who will be playing from her new EP. That's five artists for $5 — a steal, no matter who you are. Tuesday, May 20th, 7:30 p.m., World Café Live, 3025 Walnut Street.
From Be Well Philly: This Wednesday, Bryn Mawr Running Company’s Bryn Mawr location is hosting a Prediction Run, sponsored by Brooks. The idea is this: Leave your Garmin at home, and try to predict your finish time for either a five-, seven- or 10-mile course. The 10 people who finish closest to their predicted finish time will win shoes, clothes and other prizes from Brooks. The run costs just $5. Runners will gather at the Bryn Mawr store (828 West Lancaster Avenue) at 6 p.m., and leave by 6:15. More here.
Art never tasted so good. The Philadelphia Museum of Art will be hosting a 90-minute cooking class lead by Executive Chef Gerald Drummond this Wednesday. Those who sign up will learn the recipes of fashion designer Patrick Kelly, who was known to entertain guests with comfort food favorites he learned from his grandmother. Kelly is the focus of a must-see exhibition being held at the museum, "Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love." Participants will be able to sample the food they create and will receive recipes for all dishes. Wednesday, May 21st, 6 p.m., The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Birthdays are the theme for Tell Me a Story's three-year anniversary show at Shot Tower Coffee. The Queen Village shop will host a series of comedians and story tellers as they reveal comical yet true stories based around the theme. Producer and curator of “Tell Me a Story,” Hillary Rea will host. Nothing is off limits in this romp down memory lane. Wednesday, May 21st, 7:30 p.m., Shot Tower Coffee, 542 Christian Street.
William Shakespeare turns the big four-five-oh this year, and the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater is pulling out all the stops to celebrate. Dust off your high-school copy of Hamlet to join one of said festivities this week. On Wednesday, Ursinius College English Professor Matt Kosuzko will host a discussion on the influence of Shakespeare’s tale of the tragic prince of Denmark. Wednesday, May 21st, 6 p.m., Parkway Central Library – Room 108, 1901 Vine Street.
Eakins Oval will play home to a festival of art, food and music beginning on Thursday. Shop, dance and stroll in front of the Art Museum on the first of this three-day soiree featuring food trucks, and live DJ’s. This open-air market is partly hosted by PHAIR to create a community of unique shopping and artistic businesses. Thursday, May 22nd, 5 p.m., Eakins Oval on the Parkway.
We round up six of the weekend’s top to-dos:
Get a lesson in oral history with Kevin Allison and RISK! at Underground Arts. Comedian/actor/storyteller Allison, of MTV's The State, takes his incredibly popular podcast into live format, showcasing storytellers and their stories. Even in the age of oversharing, RISK! performers reveal personal tales that are more than status-deep. For those new to storytelling, Allison will follow Friday's performance with RISK! storytelling workshops Saturday and Sunday. Friday, April 11th, 8 p.m., $20, Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill Street.
Cinedelphia's second film festival continues into the weekend with hot picks curated by local found-footage outlet Video Pirates. Friday sees the world premiere of Life of Pia, "a comedic, multimedia celebration of the life of ’80s icon Pia Zadora." Throughout the weekend, expect more weird and wacky celluloid gems, including rarely screened classics and newly compiled VHS oddities. Stay up until the wee hours at PhilaMOCA, with four consecutive screenings Friday starting at 7:30 p.m, and another marathon Saturday starting at 1 p.m. . Check out the full line-up here. Friday, April 11-26, various showtimes, $10, PhilaMOCA, 531 North 12th Street.
Eastern State Penitentiary opens its 2014 season with a look into the sins of some of history's most notorious criminals. The pop-up exhibit "Sin and Salvation" goes up this Saturday, and features artifacts from Al Capone, "Slick Willie" Sutton, amongst other infamous American baddies. Most of the pieces on display have been hidden away in the historic prison's back rooms and archives, and for 11 days only are available for public viewing. Among the hundreds of artifacts are signs of sin (shanks, photographs, wanted posters) and salvation (writings and photos of prisoners indicating reform.) Saturday, April 12th, Eastern State Penitentiary, 2027 Fairmount Avenue.
Internationally acclaimed dancer Malavika Sarukkai brings her masterful Bharatanatyam choreography to the Annenberg Center. Her performance will be accompanied by live traditional music. The beautiful and precise dance style doubles as a story-telling performance, with Surkkai narrating the stories on the banks of India's holy river with grace and beauty. Sarukkai is in Philadelphia for one night only on her return trip to the U.S. Saturday, April 12th, 8 p.m., Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut Street.
This Saturday Philly Poetry Day brings 24 hours (yes, from midnight to midnight) of poetry and poetry-themed events in a new festival curated by its participants. Amateur poets, published poets, poetry enthusiasts, or anyone with something to say or an ear to listen is invited to host their own pop-up poetry reading, which they can list on the Poetry Day site. It's a democracy of words happening all over the city. Check out where you can find (or host) a reading here. Saturday, April 12th, midnight, see site for locations and times.
The perennial show of spring's gorgeous early bloomers is on display this weekend around Philadelphia. As part of this year's festival, Japanese-themed events will take place throughout the area all week, including Sakura Sunday at the Horticulture Center in Fairmount Park. There, check out arts and crafts, guided garden tours, Little Akiba (a celebration of all things J-Pop), and live performances on two stages, all with a backdrop of cherry blossoms. You can check out the complete itinerary for Sakura Sunday here. Sunday, April 13th, 9:30 a.m., Horticulture Center, Montgomery Drive & Belmont Avenue.
Find more events now through June in our carefully curated Philadelphia Event Listings.
In partnership with SMITH Magazine’s Six-Word Memoir Project, we asked you to submit your queer life stories—succinctly. Every day until we run out, we will present the most touching, poignant and hilarious entries in meme form. Today, we’ve got two for you, this time featuring one of our favorite drag queens, the ditzy, kooky, fabulous Maddy Milan, who obviously popped a few Valium before writing her memoir.
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In partnership with SMITH Magazine’s Six-Word Memoir Project, we asked you to submit your queer life stories—succinctly. Every day until we run out, we will present the most touching, poignant and hilarious entries in meme form. Today, one of Philly’s premier comedic storytellers, the always delightful R. Eric Thomas.
Tomorrow night, Tue., Oct. 22, Thomas will join D. Bruce Hanes, Julia Scotti, Liz Spikol, Kemar Jewel and Brian Seaman at our LGBT Six-Word Memoir Slam, where he will delve into the story behind his memoir. I’m guessing it will be some kind of LOL-worthy story about his adventures with online dating. To purchase a $10 ticket to the event, click here. And click here to see all our LGBT Six-Word Memoirs of the Day to date.
Friday, May 25
The Arden Theatre is hosting an open bar party (6 p.m.) for Tulipomania, a musical set in a seedy hash bar in Amsterdam about love, sex, obsession, money – and tulips.
Register for the Liberty Bell Classic (7 p.m.) at Stir in time for the kickoff on Saturday.
Drama is in the air during a party with reality TV divas at Parx Casino (7 p.m.). Meet Ramona from the Real Housewives of New York, Tracy from Jerseylicious and Drita from Mob Wives.
Kelli Dunham and R. Eric Thomas present Normal at Nite: Good Times & Family Matters with Perfect Strangers (7:30 p.m.) at the William Way. The show is inspired by the duo’s love of sitcoms – and how they relate to their own childhood. Click here for an exclusive interview with Thomas – and find out which Huxtable he would be.
It’s FriGay at Sumo Lounge at RAW with DJ Reenie Kane spinning classics in the courtyard.
It’s Phat ‘N All That (10 p.m.) at Tabu where Daina Dane presents 80s and 90s videos and a free old-school hip-hop mix CD giveaway.
Sandy Beach hosts Smashed (11 p.m.) with special guests Salotta Tea, Vanessa Sterling and HrH Mortimer at Venture Inn. We hear Sandy will be singing a ballad or two – a first for the campy cabaret series.
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Courtesy of R. Eric Thomas
Normal at Nite: Good Times & Family Matters with Perfect Strangers opens tonight at the William Way (7:30 p.m.) with R. Eric Thomas and Kelli Dunham. We talked to Thomas about the inspiration for the show – sitcoms from the 70s and 80s – and how they impacted his own life growing up and why he always wanted to be a Huxtable.
How did you and Kelli first start working together?
I first met Kelli when I submitted to her “Queer Memoir” reading series. After a couple different appearances here and in New York, she asked me to open for her “Why is the Fat One Always Angry?” show at Stonewall. I was totally shocked that my jokes on Grindr and my stalker-like dating habits went over as well as they did with Kelli’s fans and we realized we had a winning chemistry.
How do stories about growing up shape the show?
For me this is a show about mixing nostalgia with reality. Now that I’m an adult I can look back on my childhood and see things that I never knew were going on and this perspective helps me to replay them in funny ways. The stories Kelli and I share definitely show how wacky our families can be, but everything we talk about is with the kind of affection you feel like the Huxtables or the Keatons had for each other.
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R. Eric Thomas will share the secrets to storytelling during a new workshop at Way Gay U. He's also showing off his skills during a variety show kicking off the spring semester next week at Tabu (courtesy of R. Eric Thomas).
To help kick off new one-day and eight-week adult-enrichment classes being offered at William Way’s “Way Gay U” this season, the center is hosting a free variety show (March 14) at Tabu touting some of the new classes led this year by local performers.
“Eight of the classes are brand new and are instructed by some of Philadelphia’s better-known queer talent,” says Paul Blore, a spokesperson from William Way. “The campaign is meant to bring more visibility to Way Gay U, a program that we’ve been offering for years, but of which many people may still be unaware.”
A series of videos is being introduced to tout the classes, while the variety show – billed as “Gay is the New Geek” – showcases a few skill sets students can expect to learn from the workshops starting later this month.
“The series of videos is meant to drive home the point that the courses are for our community, taught by people of our community,” says Blore, “and that they cover a broad range of subject matter – including skills to help land a job, to help in a relationship (whether as a parent, or as a lover), to help stay fit (while keeping it fun), and to help tap into a creative outlet.”
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