Go Deeper

Josh McIlvain: A man with a new show you should see

Posted November 11th, 2011

Josh McIlvain is a man of many talents. Husband of Deborah Crocker, father of Jasper, Josh is responsible for the creation of the Festival’s yearly Guide. Josh has had more than 100 productions of 65 plays, including 35 NYC productions. In 2008, Josh and Deborah started their own theater company SmokeyScout Productions.

This weekend, you have the chance to see Josh’s newest project alongside two other amazing independent artists in the performing arts at the Papermill Theater in Kensington.

Opening this Saturday, SmokeyScout Productions and Hella Fresh Theater present WILD PUNCH: Dance Theater Adventures in Kensington.

Wild Punch features dancer-choreographer Annie Wilson’s dance graceful frustrated expletive, as solo about her personal evolution as a dancer that involves a hilarious and touching first person narrative, dance, and an anything goes approach; Josh McIlvain’s play, Waiting for The Boss, a comedic drama about maintaining your sense of worth as you grow older in menial, underpaid labor, and the intimate personal revelations between coworkers who care nothing for each other; and John Rosenberg’s play Automated Fault Isolation, a dark romance set in 1950s Arkansas about a high school girl and a soldier waiting to murder a black teenager she has lured to a motel room.

Luckily, I had a chance to ask Josh a few questions about this upcoming project.

M: What was the inspiration for the name of Wild Punch, the collection of shows? What about your show, Waiting for the Boss?

J: The Wild Punch name came about as a back and forth by Annie Wilson, John Rosenberg, and I, looking for a way to tie the three of us and our three separate works together. We liked the idea that you won’t quite know what’s coming next when you see this show, as well as it being a surprising mix of work. I also just think it’s a good sounding title, and that’s all that really matters.

For Waiting For The Boss, my play that is featured in the show, well, that title came about because the play is about two guys waiting for their boss. Also, I liked referencing Waiting For Godot, because then people may think I’m playing off of Beckett’s play and come see the show with this whole subtext in mind, and I’d acquire some type of respectability points. But the truth is that it has nothing to do with Godot. (However, I did reread Godot after first writing my play, and found a couple things to insert into my play to reference Beckett’s play—but funny enough I’ve forgotten what those things are.)

M: What are you the most excited about in relation to this project?

J: I’m most excited to find out how an audience engages with the whole show, which features a new play of mine, a dance piece performed and created by Annie Wilson, and a new play by John Rosenberg. I like the idea of mixing plays and dance in one program—but not in any sort of multi-disciplinary way—each piece is completely its own thing.

We also have each work set in a different area of the Papermill Theater. My play is on the risers, Annie’s piece is on the stage, and John’s piece is a motel room which the audience enters in order to watch. Instead of trying to lamely stitch all 3 pieces together, I think it is more interesting to have a strong production aesthetic that allows the audience to experience three divergent works under one roof so to speak.

M: As your show, Waiting for the Boss is about two co-workers, what kind of work do the characters do?

J: This is never really specified, though I see them as guys who work for a low level real estate developer, and they clear out buildings, put up sheet rock, do plaster work, those kinds of things. It’s pretty relatable to anyone who has ever done off-the-books sh*t work. The characters are drawn from various people I’ve worked with or known over the years.

M: Did you draw on any experiences of working at the Festival for the content of this show?

J: Not at all, but I would saw crews—theatrical and film crews—would be able to relate to the characters, and the situation of spending a lot of time alongside someone whom you share a lot of information with, but are essentially strangers.

M: In your description of the show, you mentioned that the characters end up sharing their philosophies about life, what is your own philosophy on that subject?

J: I can’t say I have a philosophy of life, but one thing I am interested in dealing with in this play, and more generally my longer work, is examining the work lives of Americans, and the way we compartmentalize those hours which take up so much of our lives, and push them away at the end of the day, almost as if they were unreal. The societies that are created in the workplace, the human interaction both professional and personal, and the peculiar range of emotions at work, are very strange and deserve to be looked at.

How does that relate to a philosophy about life? I think there is generally a huge disconnect between people’s philosophies about life, and how people act within their work place, as well as the means they employ to accomplish their work. What’s fascinating is how those two forces exist within the same person, yet one almost never acknowledges the other’s existence and they continue to go on, side-by-side. I find that there is a lot of material there for theater because you create characters and everyday situations that everyone can relate to.

The details:

Dates: November 12 & 13 (Sat & Sun), 19 & 20 (Sat & Sun), 25 & 26 (Fri & Sat).

Time: All shows are at 2pm

Where: Papermill Theater, 28225 Ormes Street, Kensington, Philadelphia, PA 19134

Performers: Annie Wilson, James C. Tolbert, John Rosenberg, Josh McIlvain, Anna Flynn-Meketon

Tickets: $10 & 18 at, $18 ticket includes rides to and from theater from specified locations