First Person Arts offers bi-monthly story slams, classes, and an annual festival dedicated to transforming real life into documentary art. Stories told through First Person Arts may be highly ordinary or, as in the case of the Center-funded Philly ReACTS series, may focus instead on extraordinary events. In the ReACTS series, a cross-disciplinary team comprised of historians, archivists, artists, journalists, and activists, will harness the power of storytelling and history to provide context and constructive conversation in response to challenging current events. With Center support, First Person Arts has also increased the ambition of its annual festival with the commission of a new work by playwright, actor, and journalist Dan Hoyle—the organization's first solo work of documentary theater. Hoyle is at work with director Ed Sobel on a show focused on our societal transition from the analog to the digital experience. In 2010, the Center supported a pilot project that allowed First Person Arts to explore the relationships between people, objects, and stories through the First Person Museum.
First Person Arts commissioned San Francisco playwright/performer Dan Hoyle to develop a new journalistic theater work about the news: how it is reported, who disseminates it, and how it impacts our lives. This project, First Person Arts' first commissioned work for theater, furthered the organization's mission to identify and support memoir and documentary artists with distinctive voices and styles. Hoyle conducted interviews with personnel from a variety of news organizations, including the Huffington Post, Gawker, and the Washington Post. His goal was to take audiences behind the scenes and explore how and by whom the news is reported, as well as how evolving practices and technology impact what we come to know. Ed Sobel, current associate artistic director at Philadelphia's Arden Theatre Company, worked with Hoyle to help shape the play, which grew from improvisation and experimentation based on his interview material. Among Hoyle's questions: How do we embrace the tremendous possibilities of digital media while keeping high-quality journalism sustainable, rigorous, and widely read? In the post-grant period, Hoyle pursues interviews at Google, Facebook, and Twitter to ask how leaders at these companies see their role as platforms for sharing information. First Person Arts intends to present a full production of Hoyle's piece in 2014.