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Posts Tagged ‘Josh McIlvain’

People are Strange and other revelations from Josh McIlvain

Posted June 13th, 2018

FringeArts superfriend Josh McIlvain wears many hats in this week’s performance People are Strange and other revelations, serving as writer, performer, and producer. He is joined by performers Tara Demmy and Marissa Kennedy, and by writer/performer Nik Menotiades. This team of creators delivers a show that is at once funny, thought-provoking, and utterly bizarre.  

When describing the performances in People are Strange, McIlvain explains: “I think one thing that unites them is that they all involve fuckups to varying degrees, and they all have a lot of humor, though the tones and styles of the piece are varied enough to keep it interesting.”   

The show consists of four short solo performances set in different rooms of the Da Vinci Art Alliance in Bella Vista. It is a collection of moments, of the seemingly insignificant encounters of life. The audience will move between rooms of the art gallery to view the series of distinct yet cohesive performances. “As the show is made up of four separate places, we are able to create four different performance spaces,” says McIlvain. “These aren’t radical changes, but there is a pleasure in these little shifts between areas, and for the audience to be led to a new room or even part of the same room, and to encounter the next performance.”  

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Behind the Carousel: Q and A with Josh McIlvain on “SLIDESHOW”

Posted September 11th, 2014

SLIDESHOWFollowing two successful nights at Chris the Brit’s house, because obviously that’s where you kick off your Fringe Festival productions, Josh McIlvain, late of editing our Festival Guide, takes his SLIDESHOW on the road, stopping at Headlong Studios, WetLand, and Moving Arts of Mount Airy before he’s done. We caught up with him to talk about the show.

Tell me about the show. Justify your existence.
I’ve winnowed down 1,500 slides to 80 per tray, for five carousels. The goal was to make the story through pictures, along with writing a narrative that I tried not to tie too directly to the pictures. I figured out a story with the pictures, and then married them into the script. Then I whittled each carousel down so they’re like chapters. Once I did that, I could see where each chapter could end.

Where did these slides come from?
These slides I bought off eBay.

When my grandmother passed away several years ago and she left an attic full of camera equipment. Old film, Polaroid cameras, slide carousels. All this stuff was really nice, sturdy, well-made. I thought I was only person in family who would be interested in this stuff, and it would be fun to incorporate it in a show in some way. I found a booklet of slides in one of her closets, random vacation house on a lake—maybe from the 1950s, maybe the 1970s. I had no idea where the lake was, or knew anybody in the pictures, and they were kind of boring so I didn’t take them.

What was interesting to me was the disconnection I had from them. So I thought that if I can track these slides down again, I could create a show that’s a fictional account of those slides. Then I thought maybe those slides weren’t good enough, so I started acquiring large caches of other family slides.

These were slides that were in lots of anywhere from 100 to 1000 slides of people’s vacations. I don’t know where the hell they came from, maybe estate sales or something. A couple of them I had to pay like $30! I thought I was going to have to pay $2 for them. I’m using material from each group, but there’s one main one that’s the subject of the piece. I trace this one family from the 1950s through the 1980s. I actually portray somebody in the slides, their child, to tell the story of their lives and my life at the same time.

I didn’t do this on purpose, but it ended up being about that same disconnect I felt with my grandmother’s slides.

Why perform solo this time, and why so many venues?
I’ve wanted to create a solo show for a while so I could tour it, so I could have something where if I’m vacationing or traveling somewhere, I could do a couple shows there. And I wanted to do something different, and this is very mobile. There’s me, a slide projector, and a standalone screen. So it could be done anywhere, and I thought it would be good to take advantage of the Neighborhood Fringe idea. I definitely wanted to do a show out here [in Mount Airy], doing a show at my friend’s house, Arts Parlor, WetLand.

I think I’ll learn a lot from doing it at the Fringe. I knew from the beginning it would be a slide show, and that the audience was there, but not in a theater—we’d be all in the same room together. I knew I was basically in the center of the audience talking over these slides. The one big decision I made was to become a person in the slide show itself. Originally I was thinking of a conceit reconstructing the lives of those in the slides through journals and “research.” But I liked the idea of putting myself into the slides. And it just so happens somebody in the slides kind of looks like me. I like the idea of immediately making the audience buy into the illusion of it, like collapsing time, for them to know that the person who’s giving the slide show is not just a lecturer—he’s got other motivations going on than just showing people something. He’s a little wayward.

The cool thing about the slides is that they look so good. They’re crisp, their color is really lush. And it’s really voyeuristic; it’s weird to look at somewhat intimate pictures of people that never had any intention for this kind of use. There’s something interesting about intimate or social pictures of people from fifty, forty years ago, because it brings an immediacy to them that’s cool.

There’s the sense that my character’s kind of living in the past, or that the past is very much in the present, they’re both very much there. A lot of the actual piece—it’s basically a drama. There’s funny stuff in it, but what it is not is my making fun of the people in the slides. My character makes fun of his parents, people in the slides. But it’s definitely not me riffing off these funny people from the past.

What’s unique about the slide show?

There’s a very interesting thing to me about the aspirational aspect to the slide show. You’re gathering your neighbors, friends, family to your house and basically putting on a show. That’s what struck me about doing a theater piece–everything is already there, it’s a type of show. There’s something interesting in this idea that you show your successes to people, almost like you’re in a movie: showing real slides of yourself in a presentation about your real life that you want to share with your friends and your family. Exploring your kingdom in your format that invites you into this screen, like a movie that puts you in the picture.

What’s really different about this from Facebook or Instagram is the live event in the home. It’s nothing like a concert in the home; I don’t really know of anything that’s really similar to that. I was talking to somebody last night, and I think this basically existed from the late 50s through the mid-80s. The computer image stuff wasn’t really a thing until the mid-1990s or late 1990s. What killed it was video–the video camera took over the slide show. Instead of taking images for slides, they filmed everything on video.

It was the thrill, you could make your own TV–video cameras were a way to see yourself on television, and that was crazy. The slide show was harder to do, and probably more expensive in some ways.

SLIDESHOW September 12 and 13, 7:00 pm
Headlong Studios (formerly Arts Parlor)
1170 S. Broad Street
$10

September 16, 8:00 pm
WetLand
Independence Seaport Museum Pier
Columbus Boulevard at Dock Street
Pay what you can

September 19 and 20, 8:00 pm
Moving Arts of Mount Airy
6819 Greene Street (at Carpenter Lane)

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Putting the Value on the Art of Performing Arts

Posted May 29th, 2014

It is time to start placing more value on the “art” part of performing arts. When it comes to dance and theater and all the multidisciplinary performance hybrids, the support for performing arts organizations and artists, of all sizes, pales in comparison to the type of funding that art museums, for example, obtain. Art museums, and the like, have the advantage of also being seen as keepers of national treasures, and a housing place of art that is worth so much money that it is deemed priceless. Meanwhile, none of those artworks are alive.

The Card Players, by Cezanne, is valued at $250 million.

This painting is valued at $250 million.

These days, performing arts continually justifies its existence and its value by everything but the art itself. The Metropolitan Museum of Art needs only say, “Look at our Monets.” Performing arts companies—and their boosters—have gotten in the habit of not promoting their art as the most valuable part of their existence, but their arts’ economic impact on the city—which might be part of the reason why artists, and many arts administrators, get paid so little, because it’s always about the economic benefit they bring other people.

How many times have you heard, when an arts festival, or new theater is to open that it’s a good thing because of all the business it brings to the surrounding restaurants and shops? Not to mention a spike in the local real estate market. The justification for a new performing arts project is almost always presented in a way that showcases how it will add value to everything except the art itself. It is a weak argument, as if we were to scared to stand up for ourselves and our work, and that doesn’t help the perception of artsy people being a bunch of weenies.

There is nothing wrong with using the economic benefits argument as a buttress to the bigger picture of what the arts bring to the world, but the primary thing, the primary value that needs to be argued is the art itself. Without the art being the primary and most valuable reason for its existence, once the art becomes secondary, or even tertiary, it stops being able to fight for its own existence. Plus, the economic argument is seriously flawed: though I do believe performing arts benefit a city’s economy in various—though at times hard to quantify—ways, it would be hard to argue that they have a smidgen of the economic impact that a company like Comcast, Microsoft, or Hershey has. The argument needs to frame the performing arts as being the most valuable in the only way it is the most valuable, as art—as an economic booster this is simply not true.

This work of theater is valued at . . . ?

This work of theater is valued at . . . ?

The tricky thing is to find a way that separates the dollar value of a performance with its perceived value. The dollar value of a particular production is basically what people are paid. While a Cezanne could be worth $100 million, because that is what a collector is willing to pay for it, a particular dance or theater work costs anywhere between $2000 and $75,000 because that is what the performers, crew, and creator(s) and venue were paid. If you can make art happen for this amount of money, why not? When what might get you two tiles at the Barnes can get you a new play or dance, why would you ever give more than the minimum to the performing arts? Your impact is clearly and quickly and cheaply realized. Meanwhile, for a prestigious art museum, if you want to play with the big boys and girls, you will have to lay out some serious dough. Or give them a Cezanne. That Cezanne, incidentally, is worth more than any performing arts organization in Philadelphia—and the net worth of all the artists making that work, combined.

So we need to develop a way that the art in the performing arts has an essential value, one that people take for granted in a lifeblood fashion. Even when we speak of “supporting the arts” it comes across as a goodwill benefit. We are not buying tickets because we want to have transformative experience that might reframe our view of the world, but because we are “supporting” some good cause that the arts represent. People do not buy overpriced T-shirts and jeans because they are “supporting” the clothing industry. They are buying those items because they like them. People should be encouraged to buy tickets to a show, because they like and connect to the art.

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The Weekender: Josh McIlvain stages a conversation between a plate and a shoe and other events

Posted June 20th, 2013
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Photo by Deborah Crocker

Wednesday, June 19th through 22nd and next week June 26th through 29th at 8pm, Josh McIlvain, benevolent boss and titan of theatrical comedic delivery, restages and updates his 2008 SmokeyScout Productions show Confessions of a Plate and Shoe in the aptly titled Return of Confessions of a Plate and Shoe at the 2nd Stage at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street. Praised as the “best ever evening of outrageous short comedies” by themselves, the assortment of fifteen obscenely hilarious absurd plays stars Jennifer Summerfield, Ryan Walter, Sarah Knittel, Sebastian Cummings, Danielle Adams, and Katherine Perry. Check out the Metro’s write up of the show here and grab a ticket from $12 to $15! (TIX)

Artwork by Phillip Singer

Artwork by Phillip Singer

The 24th annual Manayunk Arts Festival takes off this weekend, 11am to 7pm on Saturday the 22nd and 11am to 6pm on Sunday the 23rd. Snack from food trucks and restaurants, explore over 300 artists’ selections, and peruse the expanse of Manayunk’s Main Street (from Green Lane to Shurs Lane) teeming with fellow collectors, buyers, and sellers at the tri-state’s most massive outdoor juried arts festival, rain or shine. If  you can’t wait a day or two for a weekend of living off vehicularly manufactured stuffed kabobs, come out 6pm to 10pm tonight, June 20th to the nocturnal buffet style Food Trust sponsored event, Night Market, at West Oak Lane, 72nd and Ongontz Avenue. Don’t get lost in the delicious delectables, bring a program!

Black Music Month Week hosts its 4th annual showcase and award ceremony, The Comeback “Philly  Style” from 8pm to 10pm at Painted Bride Arts Center, 230 Vine Street. Featuring some of Philadelphia biggest frontrunners for  $25 to $40, the event dedicates itself to preserving the legacies of Philadelphia soul music and its key contributors.

University of Pennsylvania’s radio station WXPN 88.5 FM in conjunction with the City of Philadelphia and a list of cultural organizations have organized a free city-wide live music showcase called Make Music Philly, set to hit various Philly venues all Friday long. Watch this cool promo video, scroll the event schedule, and enjoy some beats for your feets.

–Maya Beale