Nice and Fresh April Artist Bios!

LExaLexa Grace’s (director, The Presidents) Philadelphia directing credits include Villanova Theatre’s second annual studio production We Must Share Everything; a devised piece that explored the theme of privacy in the modern age. Lexa is the founding artistic director of SKITco, a Los Angeles based theater company, where she directed The Most Important Thing To Do Is Really Listen and Smiley Face. Lexa served as the co-president of The New School’s Theatre Collective, where she directed Maybe I Should Just Chop My Dick Off: A Christmas Story, Close Encounters, and Breakfast.  Lexa also works as a dramaturg, costume designer, and event producer. Lexa is completing her masters in theater with a nonprofit certificate at Villanova University. Her graduate directing thesis production of Chuck Mee’s Bedtime Stories will premiere the first week of June.

Sarah Knittel (creator–performer, peepSHOW) is the 2017 Resident Artist for Automatic Arts. She is a theater maker, teaching artist, improviser, and muse in Philadelphia. Recent grad of the Pig Iron School of Advanced Performance Training. She has performed in numerous Nice and Fresh evenings for both Automatic Arts (The Recruits, Sadie Remembered, Joni and the Doorman) and Hella Fresh Theater (Autopia, Magick and Glitter). She has also performed with Hedgerow Theater, Pig Iron, Philly Shakes, Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, Luna, Manayunk Theater Co., and Phenomenal Animals among others.

.Josh McIlvain _ Nice and FreshJosh McIlvain (series curator and writer of The Presidents and actor-director in BALK) is a Philadelphia-based playwright and theater artist. He founded the Nice and Fresh series in 2013, curates the series, and writes and directs a new work of theater for each show. He is also the artistic director of Automatic Arts, formerly SmokeyScout Productions, which he founded with Deborah Crocker in 2008; in addition to the Nice and Fresh series, the company produces shows written and directed by Josh, and collaborations with other artists. His solo show SLIDESHOW debuted at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival in 2014 to critical praise; and continues to be performed periodically. Additionally, he has had more than 115 productions of some 70 plays throughout the U.S., including more than 38 New York City productions. He lives in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia with his wife Deborah Crocker and children Jasper and Ginger.

Ed Miller (performer, BALK) has worked with Theatre Exile, Arden Theatre, Swim Pony, and Revolution Shakespeare. He is a member of Tongue and Groove spontaneous theater. He has previously performed in Automatic Arts’s (formely SmokeyScout Productions) American Wisdom, Boothe House (April 2016 Nice and Fresh), and at last summer’s Home Entertainment (at Cliveden) as a host, coproducer, performer, and writer. He also stars as Gary Pierce in The Wonderful World of Gary Pierce videos Creeks and Bridges.

Lillian Ransijn (creator–performer, peepSHOW) is a dance theater artist and educator from Atlanta, GA.  After earning her BA in dance and movement studies at Emory University, she trained and performed with Susan Eldridge/DENSE, Catellier Dance Projects, and Out of Hand Theater. She founded her own ensemble Ground Delivery Dance Theater in 2008 as a vehicle to experiment with the dance theater form. A recent graduate of Uarts/Pig Iron’s MFA program in devised performance, she is dedicated to investigating the cross-pollination of artistic forms through ensemble-driven work. Lillian has choreographed and performed professionally with Amanda Byars, Blake Beckham/The Lucky Penny, Claire Porter, David Dorfman Dance Theater, Dance Truck, Duende Dance Theater, Ellisorous Rex and the Dance Machine, Fly-By Theater, Helen Hale Dance, 7 Stages, and Theater Emory. She is a proud member of Moving in the Spirit’s community, where she was as a teaching artist from 2008-2011 and guest choreographer for the Teen Apprentice Corporation National Tour. She feels most alive digging intimately into universal questions, and she thrives in the communal pursuit of artistic questioning.
John Rosenberg (writer, BALK) runs Hella Fresh Theater. He has written and produced twelve non award-winning full-length plays in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco. His newest play, Let It Snowden, started as a short work devised for the Nice and Fresh Series in 2013. He is grateful to Automatic Arts for the opportunity to present a glimpse of his future to you.
 Irina Varina (creator–performer, Research 2) is a performer and filmmaker based in New York and Philadelphia. She has acted in film and theater, as well as produced her own work. Irina’s films have been screened at Art of Brooklyn Film Festival, Queens World Film Festival, NewFilmmakers New York, Tiny Film Festival (grand prize winner for a short  “A Memory”), PBS channel (winner of the weekly Reel 13 contest for “A Memory”) and others. In 2016 she created and performed “Speculum Diaries”, a solo show about longing, which debuted at Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Some of Irina’s regular film collaborators are Dutch director Felix van Cleeff, cinematographer Aharon Rothschild and editor Lorena Ospina Diaz. In 2015, after meeting at Headlong Performance Institute, she began making dance/theater shenanigans with Mira Treatman. They’ve been performing together and solo throughout 2016-17 in New York and Philadelphia. Most of Irina’s projects start out as explorations of life experiences that are hard to put into words or seem too shameful which, when we see expressed on screen or stage, we recognize immediately and go, “Oh, I felt that too”. She is interested in finding voice and form for these experiences. Embarrassment, discomfort, and laughter are often parts of that search.

Her work tends to have something to do with women, relationships and a desire to connect and find a place in the world.

Mark Wheeler (The Presidents) is a second-year graduate student in Theatre at Villanova University.  He has been seen as “J-Man” in The Evaluation Room, Villanova Theatre’s first student-produced “studio show”, and as Mr. John Brooke in Little Women.  He earned his BA in Media Arts from Wesley College where he was active in The Wesley College Players (the college’s drama club) as well as the Wesley Contemporary/Jazz Ensemble as a guitarist.  Mark is also a graduate assistant in the Office of Research Administration at Villanova.