“The punchy-colored slides and humorous yet heartfelt prose McIlvain recites is as uncanny and nostalgic as some of our own family scrapbooks.” Philadelphia City Paper

“Ingenious travel down memory lane!” Stage Magazine

2 special house shows in Philadelphia this holiday season!

Wednesday December 17 at 8pm

Thursday December 18 at 8pm

Chris the Brit’s House, South and Front Street (exact address provided after ticket purchase).

$10 / / Extremely limited seating, must purchase in advance.

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

Shadow Life Experiment Has Begun!

Shadow life 2On November 3rd at Scratch Night, an in-progress showing of work hosted by the Live Arts Brewery (LAB), appeared the first iteration of Shadow Life, a 20-minute, soon to be multi-displinary work that combines recorded narrative, dance, music, and film. At Scratch Night, Josh McIlvain performed his work as a monologue/one-man show (with some audience participation) on the Painted Bride stage in Philadelphia.

The purpose of this showing was to explore the possibilities of what the recorded narrative will sound like, and to sharpen up the text before committed it to tape. The project will now progress into its next phase. Read on! Full project explanation is next!

Shadow Life is a 15-minute multi-disciplinary performing art experiment about the need to discover a fantasy world within the mundane details of everyday life. The written narrative of Shadow Life, once recorded, is given to a dancer-choreographer, a composer, and a filmmaker. Each creates a work around that vocal recording without knowing what the other artists are creating. The 4 various elements will come together for the first time when it is performed for an audience. The lone thread between the dance, music and film is that they are all timed to the recorded narrative, so that they will be technically in sync. Otherwise, each artist has total control over his/her interpretation–and yet no control of the actual outcome of the performance. Audiences will experience creation in performance!

Advancing on the audience volunteer.

Advancing on the audience volunteer.

The point of this work is the experiment itself, where ultimately process becomes performance. The point of the show is to witness of how varying interpretations of a narrative by different disciples and media interact when blind to each other. Will it create a rich layering, discord, or uniformity? Or perhaps varying degrees of all three? Audiences will be able to interpret and judge the relationships for themselves as the work is performed.

We will keep you updated as to when the full performance takes place. We are planning on Fall 2013, but who knows! You can see a video of the scratch night performance here.

Shadow Life from Josh McIlvain on Vimeo.

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.