Host a performance of SLIDESHOW!

“What if Don Draper’s Carousel pitch was a theatrical experience? That’s kind of the vibe given off by Josh McIlvain‘s Slideshow. This intimate performance uses real slides to unfold a gripping tale of a family as seen through the fleeting images on a screen.”

The one-man show (with slides and carousel) returns for a limited engagement November 3–12. The show will play multiple venues during this run. Past spaces have included houses, apartments, theater stages, dance studios, a salvage shop, and a houseboat.

Contact us at for info about hosting a performance.

SLIDESHOW, created and performed by Josh McIlvain, is doing a Philadelphia and New York City (and vicinity) tour in the first two weeks of November. The show, which is performed in the form of an actual slideshow circa 1979 in the family living room, can fit into nearly any sized venue, small or large. Interested in hosting a theatrical event? The show is tailored for small audiences (anywhere from 12 to 25 people).

SLIDESHOW is a solo performance that takes the form of an old fashioned slideshow. Audiences enter a living room–like space, with a standing screen and a carousel slide projector. They sit in a semicircle facing the screen. The lights go out and the slideshow begins. The narrator—sitting within the audience, on the floor, standing by the screen, or fidgeting to focus the projector—tells the story of his family’s life through pictures and memories.

“The punchy-colored slides and humorous yet heartfelt prose McIlvain recites is as uncanny and nostalgic as some of our own family scrapbooks. This piece invites the audience to be mesmerized and taken on a journey about transition, tragedy and connection.” Philadelphia City Paper

“A thought-provoking, intimate, funny and poignant journey.” Stage Magazine

Presented by Automatic Arts. Email for details about hosting a performance of SLIDESHOW. 

Home Entertainment coming to Cliveden August 5 & 6

Automatic Arts, in partnership with Cliveden, presents


Home Entertainment


an evening of live theater, dance, and multimedia performance events
at Cliveden

Outside. Inside. With beer.

Automatic Arts, presenters of the popular and critically acclaimed Nice and Fresh performing arts series (“The best showcase for new performing arts in Philadelphia.”, brings a fast-paced evening of theater, dance, and multi-disciplinary pieces to Cliveden, with audiences watching performances outside on the grounds, on the back patio of the house, and even walking through the historical kitchens and encountering random acts of theater. All this while enjoying a summer evening with beer.


August 5 and 6 at 7.00pm

At start of show you mill about the Cliveden grounds, enjoy a beer, and experience random art encounters. Then at 7:30pm formal show begins!

Enjoy the talents of . . .

Josh McIvain / Automatic Arts

Yolanda Wisher

Ed Miller

Putty Dance Project

Asya Zlatina

Deborah Crocker


Brent White

Wyl McCaul

Joshua Millhouse

Gwendolyn Rooker

Bradley Wrenn

John Rosenberg

Anna Kroll

Andres Villamil

Iva Fabrikant

and more!

Automatic Arts (formerly SmokeyScout Productions) creates and presents new and original performing arts. Their Nice and Fresh performing arts showcase features new theater, dance, circus arts, and everything in-between by Philadelphia-based and beyond companies and artists—and with artistic director Josh McIlvain writing and directing one new theater creation per show. Since 2008, the company has produced more than 10 major works both in Philadelphia and New York City, from evenings of absurdist comedies to the highly acclaimed one-man play SLIDESHOW, a fictional family saga around found slides, to a trio of one acts around the theme of American Wisdom.


Special Nice and Fresh at Morris Arboretum Sunday June 12

Automatic Arts and the Morris Arboretum team up

to bring you

Almanac returns to Nice and Fresh. Photo: Kate Raines

Almanac returns to Nice and Fresh. Photo: Kate Raines.

Nice and Fresh Expo Edition: New Theater and Dance

Sunday June 12
Showtimes at 11:30am and 2pm

Arrive at the Arboretum at least a half hour early! Performances are a 10-minute walk into the Arboretum!

Featuring the work of

Awful DJ (comedy troupe from NYC)

Annie Wilson

Josh McIlvain/Automatic Arts

Almanac Dance Theater Circus

Yolanda Wisher

John Rosenberg

Anna Kroll

& more!

as part of STEAMpunk Expo all-day event at the Morris Arboretum

The Morris Arboretum is hosting an all day event (10am–5pm) that explores art and science the STEAMpunk way. Come out for a full day of original theatrical productions, aerial artists, and more. See examples of cutting edge technology from the past and present. Participate in science discovery stations throughout the garden. Stroll the Victorian garden in your steampunk finery and submit your photo to our Instagram fashion contest. MORE INFO

Free for members / $17 for non-members (includes access to all events and the Arboretum grounds). Pay at Arboretum entrance. DIRECTIONS.

Morris Arboretum, 100 East Northwestern Avenue, Philadelphia PA 19118.



Please Welcome, Automatic Arts!

We are no longer SmokeyScout Productions . . .

We are now . . .

Automatic Arts

What’s your tagline?

Press button art is served.

Why oh why?

We have been doing a lot of new types of performances these past few years and we think it’s time for our name to reflect that work—Automatic Arts, a company that creates, produces, and programs original performing arts.

How did it come to this?

We began SmokeyScout Productions by creating and producing comedic evenings of theater, for which a company named after our cats made sense. We have since been creating more varied theatrical experiences. Over the past three years, we have began a presentation series (Nice and Fresh), put up plays, and veered into multimedia/interdisciplinary and dance performance as well. Now we will be programming and producing larger performing arts events for other institutions as well as our own, and we felt it was time for a change. Automatic Arts is what we deliver.

Is your programming changing?

We are still creating original shows and running the Nice and Fresh series. We are also expanding into programming performing arts events for other institutions.

How can I support you?

The Philadelphia Cultural Fund supports us and so can you. It’s easy! Make a tax-deductible donation to our company by clicking here and you can give to us through our fiscal Sponsor, Fractured Atlas (they act as an umbrella nonprofit to small companies like ours). We are still listed as SmokeyScout Productions at Fractured Atlas, and we will still receive the donation under that name.

Automatically Yours,

Josh McIlvain and Deborah Crocker

Nice and Fresh: DECEMBER!

SmokeyScout Productions presents

Nice and Fresh: Fall Performing Arts Series of Pop-up Performances of New Theater and Dance Works

Annie Wilson and Jenna Horton in Lovertits

Every First Weekend (Fri./Sat.) October through December, 2013.

Moving Arts of Mount Airy

6819 Greene Street, Greene and Carpenter Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19119.

December 6 at 7pm and 9pm

December 7 at 7pm and 9pm



Lovertits, conceived and choreographed by Annie Wilson, featuring Christina Gesualdi, Jenna Horton, Ilse Zoerb (dance)


Jesus and the Sister-in-law by Josh McIlvain/SmokeyScout, featuring Emily L. Gibson (theater)

let it snowden

Let it Snowden written and by John Rosenberg/Hella Fresh Theater, featuring Josh McIlvain and Francesca Piccioni (theater)

discreet holy

Discreet Holy Landspan by Eleanor Goudie-Averill/Stone Depot Dance Lab, featuring  Melissa Chisena, Scott McPheeters and Eleanor Goudie-Averill (dance)

All works are between 10 and 20 minutes. Entire show is 70 minutes.


newspaper photo


NICE AND FRESH November (SmokeyScout): Get punched in the face by art at SmokeyScout Productions’ NICE AND FRESH

November 4, 2013 – Julius Ferraro

SmokeyScout is named after artistic director Josh McIlvain’s cats: Smokey and Scout. The program of the November NICE AND FRESH thanks them, along with Moving Arts of Mount Airy (MAMA), the intimate, neutral space in which the variety show—or “Pop-Up Performance of New Theater and Dance Works”—is being presented.

Each of the four pieces in the November program is about ten minutes, and there’s a five-minute breather in the middle, making your $7 ticket go far while keeping your legs from cramping up.

Emily L. Gibson and Steve Lippe in MAKING the WORLD a BETTER PLACE through MURALS.

Emily L. Gibson and Steve Lippe in MAKING the WORLD a BETTER PLACE through MURALS.

Program opener THE CHASE is a wordless action-clowning farce in the precise style of GDP Productions’ recent Do Not Push. Nick Gillette, playing an over-exuberant, ticket-punch wielding SEPTA employee, pursues truant passenger Ben Grinberg across land, sky and sea. Ben and Nick bend space, climbing train cars, creating motorcycles and airplanes, and dangling from cliffs, all in an approximately 5×10 foot, unadorned patch of floor.

McIlvain’s own short play, MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE THROUGH MURALS, is a titillating denouncement of an unnamed Philadelphia mural-producing program. In it, a veteran mural-maker (played by both Steve Lippe and Emily L. Gibson) goes rogue after losing faith in the belief that a painting of happy multicultural people standing in a garden can improve a neighborhood. The plentiful chuckles in McIlvain’s irreverent script have a guilty tinge to them, reminding us how much stock we place in the massive arts programs of our city.

“You’d never put one of those in an uplifted neighborhood. An uplifted neighborhood would say ‘don’t put that shitty mural here’”

The other talky-piece is by John Rosenberg of Kensington-based Hella Fresh Productions, who has worked with McIlvain on multiple productions in the past—and whose theater company is similar to SmokeyScout in that both are run by Philly-based playwrights self-producing in areas outside the usual theatergoer’s path. PLOT: SECTION 46 LOT 366-11 GRID O/P-22.5 (whew!) treads the well-worn short-play path of mismatched strangers meeting and swapping philosophical ponderations. Rosenberg’s idiosyncratic voice comes out in the cynical twist: one’s a war widow (Francesca Piccioni) fiercely bitter about not being in TIME Magazine, and the other’s a sad old man (Rosenberg) picking up chicks in Arlington National Cemetery.

The weird highlight of the night is CITY BIRD SINGS THE CAR ALARM, a dance choreographed and performed by Shannon Murphy of idiosynCrazy productions (the company which created Private Places for the 2012 FringeArts Presented Festival). Outrageous, posturing, and irreverent, Murphy’s physical vocabulary borrows from overt seduction, self-conscious grooming, childish acrobatics, and drunken provocation, all within the balletic framework of a bird rising from its nest, singing and dancing, and then returning. The result is an exploration of a sassy, messy femininity larger and more complex than societal expectations. The music, designed by Steve Surgalski, mixes Annie Lenox’s 90s pop hit “Little Bird” with car alarms and other city noises. Murphy effectively mixes vulnerability with truculence. Her persona is much larger than the little space, and manages to intimidate more than a few audience members while telling her story.

“Fresh” is a good word for this pugnacious collection; each short piece manages to make a definitive twist to its respective medium. “Nice,” maybe less so; someone’s bound to be offended eventually, but that’s all part of the fun. The downside is its out-of-the-way location; though it’s only a twenty-minute train ride, audiences balk at leaving familiar pastures. But the radius of the arts is expanding in Philly, and if McIlvain continues to cultivate work of this quality and coolness, he might lure broader audiences out of center city.November 1+2, 2013 (subsequent events December 6 + 7, 2013)


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We had a great weekend of shows on April 5 & 6 (2 per night). Look for STRATAGEMS to pop up again soon at a neighborhood near you!


STRATAGEMS for COMMON PEOPLE: A Pop Up Performance of New Theater and Dance Work

Dates: April 5 at 7pm and 9pm; April 6 at 7pm and 9pm

Venue: Moving Arts of Mount Airy, 6819 Greene Street (Greene Street and Carpenter Lane), Philadelphia, PA, 19119.

Enjoy new creations by  Josh McIlvain of SmokeyScout Productions, Shannon Murphy of idiosynCrazy productions, and John Rosenberg of Hella Fresh TheaterPerformers: Anna Watson, Michele Tantoco, Sarah Rosenberg, Sebastian Cummings, and Shannon Murphy.

Running time: 70 minutes

More details on the STRATAGEMS for COMMON PEOPLE show page!

Shannon Murphy in her new work, Parade of Traces.

Shannon Murphy in her new work, Parade of Traces.

Stratagem #45

Behind the scenes: read all about the artists and look at the Stratagems photos!

Stratagem 77

Moonlighting at the Hella Fresh Theater: Thanks for the memories!

Special thanks to John Rosenberg for bringing me on board with his show Alp D’Huez for Hella Fresh Theater, which was written by John. It was an honor to direct him and  Jennifer Summerfield in this tightly woven, funny and tragic script that takes an intimate look at the moment of break up. We wrapped up the 4-week run in November at the Papermill Theater in Kensington, Philadelphia.

A man’s wife shows up to Paris a day early and won’t say why. What is she hiding? Why is he so upset by it? What did he do on Alp d’ Huez? This intense, mysterious, funny, and often heartbreaking tale shows all the problems of a marriage colliding at the least opportune time–on vacation in France when they should be having the time of their lives, and rooting on Lance Armstrong and team America in the Tour de France.

–Josh McIlvain

Playwright and Hella Fresh founder John Rosenberg has been hailed by City Paper as “an impetuous playwright [who] takes a radical approach to independent theater.” More details at

Carter’s Play Takes A Bow

CARTER’S PLAY finished its inaugural  run on May 19. Thanks to all for coming!

Carter’s Play is the anti-feel good play about low budget art-making. Featuring a play within a play, a set built on stage during the performance, emotional manipulation, sex, and cheapness all in the name of theater.

The White Space at Crane Old School, LP, 1417 North 2nd Street (2 blocks north of Girard, near Northern Liberties)

Carter’s Play

with Patti Moore, Jennifer Summerfield, Mark Cairns, Sarah Robinson, Chris Davis, Josh McIlvain Lighting & Scenic Design by Catherine Lee Directed by John Rosenberg Co-directed and Written by Josh McIlvain


Art On A Budget…Life On Display: CARTER’S PLAY Brings New Meaning To ‘Backstage’

“For anyone who’s ever been involved in the creative process of producing low-budget theatre, one thing’s for sure: getting by with a little help from your friends, family, neighbors, enemies, (Ok, really ANYONE) is a must. This idea advances to a whole new meta-theatrical level in this original play-within-a-play, all while taking the audience on the journey of creating both. . . . Walking into the “White Space” at the Crane Art’s Old School building, there’s a very hip, performance-arty, museum-esque vibe that immediately let me know I was not in “Kansas” anymore . . . . It was apparent that THIS immediate audience would be seeing what a “real” audience never gets to see: the personal dramas and ensuing sex, hilarity, back-stabbing, etc, of the people behind the art. . . . Patti [Moore] lends an under-stated charm and honesty to all of her roles, especially when rehearsing a very hilarious sex scene from the play. . . . Jennifer Summerfield plays Chrissy as an identifiable actress, frustrated and struggling with a director wrapped up in his vision. Chrissy plays ‘Margo’ with a ferocious diva-ness and shines as she negotiates both characters quite seamlessly. . . . Mark Cairns, who plays the worn-down theatre owner and ostensibly the technical director, Tripp, does an hilarious job of representing a broken down and cynical theatre “techie.” . . . The fluid manner of transitioning between the two worlds makes CARTER’S PLAY all the more inventive and worth the trip . . .  a sneaky two-act look into a heightened world of art-making and the accompanying scandal that comes along with, CARTER’S PLAY is assuredly worth the $20 price of admission.” Amanda Curry, read the whole review here.