Diane Kastiel performing at The Moth in Chicago.
First Person Live ™ is the brainchild of Diane Kastiel, a writer and performer from Arlington Heights who's been telling stories on stage in Chicago for over 10 years. One day, in particularly horrific traffic, she said, "Why is all the fun in the city?" and decided to bring storytelling to the suburbs.
First Person Live was piloted in the western suburbs in January 2017, selling out every show of its 6-month run and outgrowing its "starter venue." We finished the year with shows at larger venues in Lisle and Glen Ellyn before moving to our founder's home town of Arlington Heights in January 2018 - producing sold-out shows at Big Shot Piano Lounge, Hey Nonny music venue, and the 200-seat auditorium of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library.
During the pandemic, we continued the show when we could do so safely, producing an outdoor summer series in the gardens of a local church that drew more than 500 people, and a socially-distanced holiday show that included music and a sing-along! In the spring of 2022, we began producing indoor shows again, and our venue partners expanded to include The Laughing Academy comedy club in Glenview and the Buffalo Grove Performing Arts Center.
First Person Live believes storytelling is as much about community building as it is about entertainment. Vital to our mission are our partnerships with colleges and universities, libraries, high schools, churches, civic organizations and community centers to expand storytelling to new populations.
We thank our library partners for their generous sponsorship of our shows and workshops, and all our partners for their visionary expansion of personal narrative storytelling.
First Person Live partners with Northwestern University to teach storytelling skills and techniques to students at its Kellogg School of Management through a series of quarterly workshops on the main Evanston campus.
"Diane is a master storyteller and inspiring teacher. Her approach combines valuable models with hands-on exercises and engaging examples from a variety of storytellers. After taking her workshop, you'll have a clear idea of how to craft a compelling story and be flush with ideas for getting started. Diane has the ability to spark our inner storyteller - I left my first session with her hungry to start typing." - Shana Carroll, Clinical Associate Professor; Director, Program in Communicating for Impact; and Academic Director, Russell Fellows Program at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
Arlington Heights Memorial Library is a
5-star, nationally recognized innovator with a 200-seat dedicated performance space. First Person Live debuted its 2018 season at the library - filling up that performance space the night after a snow storm that closed the library until 2:00 p.m. - and continues to hold workshops and special performances there.
"I’ve long been looking to bring storytelling and live lit to Arlington Heights. We are so glad to have a local resource in First Person Live to help us achieve this - always one of our most successful programs!" - Jennifer Czajka Programs and Exhibits Manager
"More than books" is the Glen Ellyn Public Library's motto. It's dedicated to serving the community as a vibrant center for trusted information, robust learning, and personal discovery. To that end, it sponsored a First Person Live show right in the library at no cost to its patrons.
Thank you for the wonderful program and a huge success - 75 people on a cold and rainy Tuesday night! The tellers were extraordinary and First Person Live did a great job of partnering with us to market the program. Great job bringing storytelling to our community! - Sarah Kleiva, Outreach Librarian
My Lincolnwood Story is an oral history project exploring the past and present of Lincolnwood by documenting stories of its residents. Modeled on Story Corps, the project will record, preserve, and share audio interviews with the Lincolnwood community. First Person Live is partnering with the library to help people "find their voice" - and their stories - through workshops in the art of personal narrative storytelling.
“It was a pleasure working with First Person Live to organize a storytelling workshop for adults at the Lincolnwood Public Library. Diane Kastiel was easy to communicate and work with, and I was very pleased to see patrons enjoy the workshop. I would not hesitate to work with her again, or recommend her to others. - Lev Kalmens, Information Services librarian
First Person Live works annually with Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn to introduce to the art of personal narrative storytelling to its students. The workshop, conducted over three weeks, cumulates in a live show in the school's auditorium for students, parents, and staff.
"I first saw First Person Live as an audience member and was immediately struck by the talent and diversity of storytellers - and I wanted to bring that same spirit to Glenbard West High School students, The workshops, led by producer Diane Kastiel, shaped students into vulnerable, authentic storytellers who spoke their truth. Her warm but pointed feedback was just what the students needed to enhance their stories. Diane's storytelling experience also made her real and dynamic to the students. I look forward to working with Diane for years to come!" - Tina Shah, English teacher and developer of "My Voice" student storytelling program
Mount Prospect Public Library is dedicated to promoting education and lifelong learning, and building community for its nearly 60,000 residents. To that end, the library sponsored a two-week workshop conducted by First Person Live, to offer its patrons an opportunity to learn about personal narrative storytelling. One graduate went on to appear in First Person Live the following month!
"First Person Live's storytelling workshop was a wonderful opportunity for the community to learn about the elements of developing a personal story, the generation of story ideas, and some great tips for effective storytelling." -Marci Buerger, Adult Program Coordinator
We worked with the Indian Trails Public Library System to bring story to its "Speaking of Family" program. The workshops culminated in a special show at the library featuring workshop participants and other local storytellers.
"Diane is clearly a talented storyteller and workshop facilitator. We received nothing but positive feedback from workshop participants as well as people who attended the show." - Stavroula Harissis, Program Coordinator
The Broadway Youth Center (BYC) of Howard Brown Health is a haven for more than 100 LGBTQ youth and young people experiencing homelessness or housing instability. BYC provides refuge and community as well as medical, social, and mental health care services. First Person Live volunteered training in the art of personal narrative storytelling as part of our efforts to include marginalized voices in the storytelling community. (The Howard Brown Health Center does not provide endorsements for pro-bono work.)