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.

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About the author

Kathryn Osenlund, theater and film junkie, is a former National Critics Institute fellow, NEA fellow in Arts Journalism, and member of the American Theater Critics Assn Steinberg and Osborn playwriting awards committee. A Barrymore Award nominator and professor emeritus in communications and theater, Kathryn also writes for NY-based CurtainUp.com. On twitter @theatrendorphin.