Nice and Fresh February: Theater, Dance + Circus!

With

Almanac Dance Theater Circus

Freshblood/KC Chun-Manning in collaboration with Camilla Dely

Asya Zlatina (featuring Ashley Searles)

Josh McIlvain/Automatic Arts (featuring Ezekiel Jackson and Sara Vanasse)

Hosted by

Sarah Knittel

with special guest The Joseph Davenport Experience featuring musical accompaniment by Betty Smithsonian

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Friday February 24 at 6pm and 8pm

Saturday February 25 at 6pm and 8pm

Venue

Moving Arts of Mount Airy
6819 Greene Street (at Carpenter La.)
(Mount Airy) Philadelphia, PA 19119

 

Photo (above) by Daniel Kontz

Nice and Fresh brings new works of theater and dance by Philly’s most exciting performing artists and companies to unique venues in Northwest Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Artists need to create.
Performers need to perform.
Audiences need to see new work.

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SLIDESHOW AT WHITE PINES, PERFORMANCES FEBRUARY 10 + 11

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Created and Performed by Josh McIlvain

The critically-acclaimed

show returns!

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 10 8pm (tickets)
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 11 8pm (tickets)

A comedic drama that features real slides from the 1950 to 1980s alongside a fictional family narrative about vacation, America, and when visions of one’s future collide with reality.

THE WHITE PINES PLACE
7908 High School Road
Elkins Park, PA 19027

SLIDESHOW is being presented by White Pines Productions as part of their 2017 Cold Hard Love winter series of theatrical performances. Check out the full list of  shows here.

“The performance is a brilliant exercise in connecting dots that lead McIlvain’s unnamed character on an epic journey with several loves.” Mark Cofta, Broad Street Review Read the full review

“This intimate performance uses real slides to unfold a gripping tale of a family as seen through the fleeting images on a screen.” Philebrity.com

“Invites the audience to be mesmerized and taken on a journey about transition, tragedy and connection.” Philadelphia City Paper

“Ingenious travel down memory lane. . . . A thought-provoking, intimate, funny and poignant journey.” Stage Magazine

Announcing our first Resident Artist: Sarah Knittel

Automatic Arts is thrilled to announce the launch of its Artist-in-Residence program, with its 2017 inaugural Resident Artist, theater artist and actor Sarah Knittel. By tying the residency to the company’s Nice and Fresh series, audiences will be able to watch the Resident Artist face new creative challenges throughout 2017. Automatic Arts will select one Resident Artist each year to be a part of the company.

Sarah Knittel, Joni and the Doorman, promo photo: Said Johnson.

Sarah Knittel in a Joni and the Doorman promo photo. Photo by Said Johnson.

The Artist-in-Residence program is closely tied to the company’s Nice and Fresh performing arts series. For each month from January to June, the Resident Artist will be challenged to creatively participate in Nice and Fresh: from acting in plays to hosting shows to writing and directing work and other creative challenges. The residency will culminate in the fall of 2017 with a Nice and Fresh that is produced and curated entirely by the Resident Artist under the Automatic Arts banner.

“Sarah Knittel is the perfect choice to kick off this new facet of our endeavors,” says artistic director of Automatic Arts, Josh McIlvain. “In addition to putting different kinds of performance—and types of artists—side by side, the Nice and Fresh series, for Automatic Arts, is about the challenge of creating and/or performing in new work continuously. I can’t force that on the other artists and companies that perform at Nice and Fresh, but this program allows us to do so with a willing participant; Sarah is an artist who shared our ideals and curiosity, willing to expand the idea of the space itself and the type of performance it can support. It’s also important for our future to have artists besides myself to be officially part of Automatic Arts, and expanding our output.”

“I’ve always loved performing in Nice and Fresh,” explains Sarah Knittel, “and admire the work that Automatic Arts does—it explores and encourages new, often daring work and always champions the creative process. I’m excited for the challenge and the months ahead!”

Sarah Knittel’s education began at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where her studies took her to the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, Stonestreet Studios for Film and Television, and The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. This past spring she fulfilled her graduate studies at the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training in Physical and Devised Theater. In Philadelphia, she performed for Automatic Arts, Hella Fresh, Pig Iron, Hedgerow, Philadelphia Shakespeare, Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, Luna, Manayunk Theater Co., and Phenomenal Animals among others. Also a teaching artist, Sarah has taught for White Pines, Odd Act Theater Co., Story UP! and currently Dancing with the Students.

Presented by Automatic Arts,  Nice and Fresh is a performing arts series that features new works from Philadelphia and beyond-based theater, dance, and circus arts companies and artists. Curated by playwright-director Josh McIlvain of SmokeyScout Productions, each show features four to five artists/companies performing new and original works in the 10–15 minute range in a variety of artistic disciplines. Using only venues in Northwest Philadelphia (Mount Airy, Germantown, Chestnut Hill), Nice and Fresh provides an easy-going, affordable-for-everyone option to stroll around the corner and experience new theater and dance. Expect funny, imaginative, compelling pieces from artists in an accessible format and for only $7! Next show is February 24 and 25 at Moving Arts of Mount Airy, Carpenter Lane and Greene Street in Mount Airy, Philadelphia.

Nice and Fresh – Season 4!

“The best showcase for new performing arts in Philadelphia.” Phindie.com

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Season 4 begins!

Friday January 13 at 6pm and 8pm

Saturday January 14 at 6pm and 8pm

$7 / Art for the price of a sandwich

BUY NOW: autoarts.brownpapertickets.com

Featuring new works by

Josh McIlvain/Automatic Arts (theater)

Irina Varina (dance/performance art)

Steve Lippe (storytelling)

&more!

Moving Arts of Mount Airy
Carpenter Lane at Greene Street
Mount Airy, Philadelphia

Nice and Fresh brings new works of theater and dance by Philly’s most exciting performing artists and companies to unique venues in Mount Airy, Germantown and other Northwest Philadelphia neighborhoods. Features new works from Philadelphia-based (and beyond) theater, dance, and circus arts companies at venues in Northwest Philadelphia. Each show features four artists/companies performing new and original 10- to 15-minute works in a variety of styles and artistic disciplines. Read the reviews and press.

peco-logo nea_art_works_logo-color Print

The 2016/17 Nice and Fresh series is supported in part by the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts program of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Support also provided by PECO. This program is administered regionally by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.

New Review of SLIDESHOW!

Broad Street Review, November 7, 2016

Automatic Arts presents Josh McIlvain’s ‘Slideshow’
A living room epic

Theatergoers of a certain age surely remember relatives sharing vacation photos in slide shows, and the jokes about how tedious they were. Writer-performer Josh McIlvain does, but makes his Slideshow a fascinating fictional history of long-ago road trips and family gatherings as his 1950s through 1970s character travels the world in search of himself.

It’s easy to forget, during his 75-minute solo performance, that this innovative and absorbing work stems from strangers’ old slides stitched together by McIlvain’s clever, seemingly rambling, off-the-cuff commentary. It’s a great idea, executed skillfully.

Coming to a living room near you

While I saw Slideshow at Moving Arts in Mount Airy, it belongs in (and often plays in) private homes with people crammed together to watch. McIlvain props up an old slide projector with a stack of books and unfurls a portable screen. He uses a remote to switch slides — a remote on a cable, as such things worked circa 1978 — and passes a bowl of popcorn and cans of beer. He plays cassette tapes on the sort of player we called small back then, the size of a 500-page hardcover book.

At first, it’s fun that he identifies every stray person captured in faded Kodachrome as a cousin or neighbor, and shows a series of bizarre candids that supposedly document a family tradition of cross-dressing on wedding anniversaries. I haven’t seen so many middle-aged men in Bermuda shorts, high socks, and sandals since I was a kid. Inevitably, one slide is upside down. It’s all very amusing and, for us of a certain age, warmly nostalgic.

And then it gradually morphs into this amazing story.

McIlvain’s little anecdotes grow more and more bizarre, particularly his character’s father’s “weird drunk Christmas confession” about meeting a celebrity. Amid shots of his parents and other relatives posing at landmarks as “classic American tourists” — and his habit of wracking his brain to identify a location, then finding it clearly marked by a sign in the next picture — a larger tale emerges.

An existential journey

Sometimes the details seem like a reach in order to justify an unusual photo, as when he captions one shot with: “I parlayed my water skiing skills into a career at Sea World,” but they’re so cleverly connected that we accept them. Some slides tinged green (probably from bad lighting or age) are explained as a drug-enhanced adventure. Relationships and jobs come and go as he knits together increasingly random pictures: views from airplane windows, bridges, bison — and wait, was that one Dachau? The performance is a brilliant exercise in connecting dots that lead McIlvain’s unnamed character on an epic journey with several loves. “If you don’t belong where you come from,” he asks us rhetorically, “where do you belong?”

By the end of Slideshow, we don’t feel that stultifying boredom everyone used to joke about. Instead, we really feel like we’ve really been somewhere. Somewhere weird and wonderful. —Mark Cofta

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.” Philebrity.com

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 AutomaticArtsCo@gmail.com 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 AutomaticArtsCo@gmail.com for details about hosting a performance of SLIDESHOW. 

thINKing DANCE article on Home Entertainment

Cliveden, Animated

Photo: Garth Herrick

Cliveden, Animated

by Lisa Kraus

Quick, what do the words “home entertainment” conjure up? Charades? Sing-alongs? Cleared furniture making space for rollicking dancing? At Cliveden, the historic Germantown mansion, Home Entertainment meant a mix of arts—dance, music, theater, performance, visual installations and video—offered in a homespun, indoor-outdoor, distinctly summertime way. MCs Ed Miller and Josh McIlvain, Home Entertainment’s mastermind, alluded to the old-timey versions of home entertainment in their patter, but the art itself turned out to be mostly of this moment.

Museums and historic places increasingly value performers who can “animate” their spaces, drawing new interest and traffic. And no wonder—discovering the performances and installations studding this estate’s landscape and interior spaces was like a treasure hunt. You saw the home, grounds and outbuildings in a new way, focusing, for instance, on a single tree, dramatically uplit for a monologue written by John Rosenberg about one tree’s importance. In a courtyard, Iva Fabrikant’s red paper light sculptures, resembling translucent, 3-D origami, stood like so many overgrown chess pieces. In a lush expanse of grass bordered by majestic trees, a fairy ring of Anna Kroll’s photographic collages with accompanying fantastical texts by Rosenberg beckoned with their intriguing (and appropriate) title—The Return of the Rock Museum. In the Kitchen Dependency (the 18th century word for a cookhouse), a tiny conceptual artwork, required kneeling to peep through a hole in the floor.

With light rain falling, the first events of the “Mains” part of the “Menu” (that’s how the program termed it) were held in the old carriage house packed with folding chairs and an SRO crowd. Folk-music duo Chickabiddy played as we filtered in, with Aaron Cromie switching between traditional-sounding banjo and mandolin and Emily Schuman on guitar, their voices melding in sensitively tuned harmonies.

The ensuing variety show included an excerpt from iStand. Lauren Putty White’s two dancers—one female and one male, one black and one white—delivered a mostly-unison string of funky, energized moves riding on Brent White’s eminently danceable recorded music. They joined hands at its close before heading their separate ways.

Intermission was an invitation to wander, checking out the performance of Kitchen, created by the MCs plus Deborah Crocker and Bradley Wrenn. In a perfect 1950’s light teal-colored kitchen, replete with chrome and aluminum cookware, the players’ repetitive cycling through test kitchen-type sandwich-making reminded a companion of Beckett’s Watt with its repetitious deadpan humor.

The outdoors slid into a velvety darkness enhanced by a soft warm wind. How right then to bring the audience back together with Chickabiddy’s gentle sound.

What followed was anything but gentle. Poet Yolanda Wisher’s the ballad of laura nelson was rendered as a video (concept and editing by McIlvain and music by Brent White). Gradually meted out, Wisher’s words were projected in white on a black background, interspersed with just enough images of the 1911 lynching of Nelson and her son to sear into the mind forever. This poem, delivered in this way, on this comfortable summer evening, with a diverse neighborhood crowd out for pleasure, was particularly effective in making racial injustice visceral. I imagined the poem’s images as thoughts coursing through Nelson’s mind before the hanging. The anguish of this mother and her fear for her son resonate powerfully with the events of our day.

Add to this the knowledge that this video was projected on the high stone wall of a space where enslaved people lived and toiled. A neutral theater space could never convey an equally deep experience of this important work.

With the rain, I missed a full viewing of Maybe Rome Did Fall in Day, an installation by Henrick Fergusten, though its two dancers did slink along satiny red bands of fabric indoors. Other “acts” included Ed Miller Listens to a Song, in which he did just that, wryly guiding us through highlights in a Joan Armatrading classic with some personal narrative mixed in; My Yiddische Mommeh, a dance by Asya Zlatina to the eponymous song; Thom Jacand the Caretaker, a short play by McIlvain for two guys navigating a challenging moment; and It’s Jolly, a goofy monologue with horse marionette by Gwendolyn Rooker about Jolly, “the sperm-eating horse.” That must be why the evening had a parental advisory.

Home Entertainment wasn’t the first Automatic Arts event at Cliveden, where the group has presented its Nice and Fresh series several times previously. As a Germantown resident, I walked to it with several neighbors. As a bunch, we were definitely entertained, and moved, and hope there will be more to come.

Home Entertainment produced by Automatic Arts in partnership with Cliveden. August 5 & 6. https://automaticartsco.com/

By Lisa Kraus
August 10, 2016