StorySlam host Katonya Mosley is a “medical actor,” lawyer and West Mt. Airy resident. Her award-winning “Secrets” story would be hard for anyone to top. (Photo by Ben Cromie)

StorySlam host Katonya Mosley is a “medical actor,” lawyer and West Mt. Airy resident. Her award-winning “Secrets” story would be hard for anyone to top. (Photo by Ben Cromie)

by J.B. Hyppolite

You would think that anyone winning $10 million in a lottery would be telling the entire world about it. But West Mt. Airy lawyer and actor Katonya Mosley’s father did just that and, according to her, did not tell his family about it. Mosley, 36, is a well known “story slam storyteller” who will be hosting the first-ever Festival StorySlam at the 12th annual First Person Arts Festival. The event will take place Tuesday, Nov. 12, 8 p.m., at the Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American St. in Old City. Tickets are $10.

Katonya found out about her father’s lottery windfall from her mother. The story was published in Jet Magazine. “I felt shock, confusion, numbness and utter heartbreak and worthlessness at realizing that my father would keep this secret from us,” said Katonya. “He certainly knew that we could have been helped by a little more money. His decision not to tell us made it clear to me that his approach to fatherhood had little to do with circumstances and more to do with his character.”

Firstpersonarts.org describes a storyslam as an invitation to share five minutes of one’s life in front of an eager audience that is appreciative of a well-told story. People are asked at the door if they want to be a judge or a storyteller. There’s usually a guest storyteller who kicks off the session. After the opening storyteller goes on, the host pulls names of the audience members from a bucket. Five people perform before intermission and than five perform after.

The winner is chosen at the end by judges, and the audience chooses a favorite as well. All stories have to be related to the theme of the storyslam. The theme for the Nov. 12 storyslam hosted by Katoyna is “Oops!” The goal is to engage the audience in a captivating story and not have to explain the connection between the story and the theme.

“I’m so thrilled about it that my thoughts are all over the place!” said Katonya, whose “Secrets” was a storyslam winner back in 2008. “Secrets” was the story that centered on Katoyna’s learning that her father won $10 million in a lottery. It was her second slam ever.

“I started going to storyslams, and I was fortunate enough to get picked at my first one, which was awkward. First Person Arts was really encouraging. Some stories are hard to believe, and that’s what makes them remarkable,” said Katonya, adding that the stories in the storyslams have to be true.

The only slam at the First Person Arts Festival used to be the Grand Slam, which comprised of monthly storyslam winners competing for the title of “Best Storyteller in Philadelphia.”

Katonya will also be one of the storytellers in Kevin Allison’s RISK, which makes its return to the First Person Arts Festival. Katonya and company will be telling stories they felt would stay shrouded from the ears of the public. The theme is “excitable.” Kevin Allison was featured on MTV’s comedy, “The State,” which aired in the early to mid-‘90s. It will be held at the Christ Church Neighborhood House Friday, Nov.15, 9 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Mosley grew up in the South Bronx where she was raised by her hard-working single mother, who was treated for ovarian cancer and had to stop working during her recovery. They didn’t have much money, and Katonya got a first-hand example of what she noted as low income healthcare. “I was treated by people who were not the best doctors in a hospital,” she said. “I was examined roughly. One doctor told me that I had tumors on my ovaries while answering a page from a phone. That was very alarming and traumatic. And so I carry that with me,” said Katonya. It turned out that Katonya had dermoid cysts when she was 15, which were removed at a “nicer hospital” when she was 25. (Dermoid cysts are benign tumors that contain nails, teeth, bone, hair, cartilage and/or other tissues, and can be filled with a fatty substance.)

Katonya attended the Emma Willard School in Troy, New York, where the likes of Jane Fonda are alumnae. It’s also one of the oldest schools in America. “Yes, I was one of the black girls, so I fit in to that group, but I was like the poorest,” said Katonya, laughing. She went to Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, for a year but graduated from State University of New York (SUNY Purchase College) with a degree in Sociology. She earned a full scholarship from Temple University’s School of Law and moved to Philadelphia in 2002 and has been here ever since. She went on to work for a legal document center shortly after graduating law school in 2005. Katonya currently does clinical skills simulation at three different medical schools in the city: Temple, Penn and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Medical students have to practice with somebody,” she explained, “so they hire people called standardized patients to come in, and we are trained to be patients for medical students.”

The 12th annual First Person Arts festival will be held from Nov. 6 to 16 at the Christ Church Neighborhood House and other venues throughout the city. For more information, call 267-402-2055 or visit festslam.firstpersonarts.org and/or riskshow.firstpersonarts.org. The church phone number is 215-922-1695.