NICE AND FRESH October (SmokeyScout): New art pops up

Fresh from the inaugural weekend of NICE AND FRESH, I’m heartened to report that SmokeyScout Productions (founded by Josh McIlvain and Deborah Crocker in 2008) now offers something new and really important—continuity. Every month NICE AND FRESH will provide opportunities for new art to germinate, work out rough edges, and get exposure.

The October program is bookended by two very different conversation plays. And although both are delivered by actors seated in chairs, these are performances, not script readings.

Sarah Knittel stars in SADIE, REMEMBERED
Sarah Knittel stars in SADIE, REMEMBERED

The first one, PROTECTION by John Rosenberg (acted by Rosenberg and Kevin Ryan) is a complicated dialogue sketch. Two strangers chat in a casino in Reno. Well one character talks—a lot—meandering through sports, race, and weird drug and alcohol soaked memories. The other doesn’t say much. There’s some confusion between them about the two Kenny Rogers, and something else is going on under the exchange.

SADIE REMEMBERED, the other conversation play and the last piece in the show, is written and directed by Josh McIlvain and acted by Steve Lippe and Sarah Knittel. A tale unfolds as Lippe’s character inhabits his own version of remembered reality involving memories of a camp, a beautiful river view, fears of invasive fish species, and his son’s former wife, Sadie.  Knittel’s character tries to make inroads. She’s a savvy actress, and Lippe, in his dour role, comes across as an old school stand up comedian.

LAY OF THE LAND, created and performed by Meg Foley, is called dance, which is almost a misnomer. Her unique approach to performance is hard to pigeonhole. Appointing a clock-watcher in the audience, she checks the time with her regularly. There’s no music at all as she bangs against walls and crawls around the circumference of the space, around people’s feet. She assumes sinuous, fluid postures then shifts into jumping and spastic dislocations. One of the most unusual things about this presentation of physical art is that Foley talks, discussing how she feels about certain things that she’s doing and pointing out aspects she wants to draw attention to. For instance, during a shape she’s creating she says, “This side is more for you than it is for me.” Meg Foley puts herself on the line.

Playwright Chris Davis is quite an entertainer, and his contribution, BORTLE 8 IS THE TRUE DARKNESS is a highlight of the program.  During his monologue, which might more accurately be described as storytelling, he doesn’t recite but talks directly to the small enthusiastic group and asks for responses. The audience accompanies him on his idiosyncratic, well-constructed journey that moves between memory and fantasy, past water and light pollution and way into space.

SmokeyScout Productions deserves a lot of credit for helping to keep performing arts flowering in Philadelphia by offering monthly ‘Pop up’ programs of works by Philadelphia-based artists. Who knows what you might discover at a monthly NICE AND FRESH? Samplings of new music would be a nice addition to the new theater and dance agenda. Members of the vast Philadelphia theater should community come out to support ground floor theater initiatives like this one. The next scheduled pop up, on Nov 1 & 2, will feature clown theater, dance, monologues, and a play.

Location scout alert: Moving Arts of Mount Airy is situated on the unbelievably charming corner of Greene Street and Carpenter Lane. At dusk the corner is the perfect setting for a romcom, with lights glowing in a picturesque co-op grocery store, a cute café (which should stay open later), the green, leafy grounds of an old fashioned stone elementary school, and a row of pretty buildings along the street.  October 4 + 5, 2013, (subsequent events November 1 + 2 and December 6 + 7, 2013), smokeyscout.com.

6 Replies to “NICE AND FRESH October (SmokeyScout): New art pops up”
  1. Thank you for the kindest words about the MaMa studio (Moving Arts of Mt Airy) and our intersection in what some call “Mt Airy Village.” As many streets in Philly have similar names, some readers may want to know we are at the corner of GREENE STREET & CARPENTER LANE.

  2. Hi Kathryn! Talking is a really old mechanism in dance and doesn’t eliminate the fact that Foley was moving as much (or likely more) than she was speaking. Ditto to the idea that dance without music is something worth noting as special. These things have been happening for such a long time, and in mediums like ballet where the understanding of what qualifies as “acceptable” is quite codified. I wonder what artist would want to be “pigeonholed” into any particular genre or category…and moreover what artist who is making something of this moment of multiplicity in our culture feels bound by any traditional category or definition? Is an actor who walks around the stage suddenly not acting? What about Beckett, who sometimes doesn’t talk at all? Is a marching band a veiled dance performance because they’re in motion? What I learned most from your assessment is that you’re vexed by an ill-fitting experience based on a litmus that is no longer a suitable way of evaluating what is happening on stage–because the field has expanded. I’d rather hear why it made you confused, what stuck out as something to hold onto or how your vintage definition of dance got in the way of genuinely experiencing what was in front of you. Keep watching, and try to keep your assumptions in check–or acknowledge them in your writing so that we readers know where you’re coming from. Thanks.

  3. AZ, It’s refreshing to find a reply that addresses issues brought up in a review. So few readers actually take the trouble to pick up on an issue and respond as you have. I will try to address your concerns. You wonder what artist would want to be bound by a particular genre or category. That’s exactly my point. It’s why I mention in the review that it’s hard to pigeonhole Foley’s work into a specific ‘dance’ category, as the show’s ads and evening’s Program do. Rather than a censure of her work, the review is intended as a set of little descriptions that show how her performance is not, in fact,traditional or easy to categorize. As you note, the boundaries of dance have expanded. But not all potential audience members may be as aware of this as you are, and they may bring more conventional expectations. Foley is out on the edge. I find that a good thing.

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