Category Archives: Nylon Fusion

Unmentionables

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Theatre in the round.  Or at least, the rectangle.  It keeps a photographer on his toes!  Nylon Fusion Theatre Company presented their full length piece, Unmentionables, at Theatre 54.  It’s an intimate space, which I’d worked in before, as a fight director for a production called Homeward Bound.  For that one, they eschewed the traditional floor plan of stage at one end of the long room and audience at the other.  Instead, they put the barracks in which the is set all along one long wall, with the audience opposite.

In Unmentionables, director Montserrat Mendez and set designer Kyu Shin set the two playing areas (a Hollywood agent’s outer and inner offices) in the entirety of the space, save a 4′ strip around the space where the audience is seated.  The space is small, so there are no bad seats, but certainly where an audience member chooses to sit will affect which story lines are intimate and in their face and which are a bit more remote.  Of course for me, this meant running circuits of the room, trying to catch each moment from just the right angle.  Frequently, I’d be waiting for actors in a scene to hit a good position for where I was, only to give up and move to where the shot was, JUST in time for them to move to the angle I’d been waiting for! 

The lighting by Gilbert Peatro was lovely.  He had a challenge, creating two distinct areas with as little bleed as possible.  He made use of some LED instruments, mixed with traditional instruments, which gave some rich, saturated colors.  However, as I learned in this show (and the next one — Scenario: Script to Perform), the light they give is challenging for cameras.  It will be interesting to see the changes and adaptations I’ll have to make in the coming months and years as LEDs become more prevalent.

The show itself was very well done.  a 1930s tale of Hollywood, where everyone has a secret and everyone is trying to make it big – whatever that means to them.  Well directed and well acted, it was a pleasure to watch while I was shooting.

 

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Nylon Fusion Gala

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This was a fun one.  But it also marked the beginning of a new era for me.

Nylon Fusion held a gala to raise funds for their upcoming projects.  It was also a fete honoring Austin Pendleton, who directed last season’s Luft Gangster and Broadway star and Disney princess Anika Noni Rose.  Oh and the entertainment was going to be provided by Mr. Wynton Marsalis and Mr. Ted Nash and their rhythm section.  Pretty sweet night!

After doing some major pining following the Masks shoot I had picked up some lighting gear.  B&H had a special on a pair of Canon 600ex-rts, the wireless controller and a couple of stands, umbrellas, etc., which I got in time for this gig.  I set up on their red carpet and shot the guests on their way in.  My friend Theik Smith, photographer and fellow fight guy, worked the crowd inside.  Once the festivities got underway, I went inside and shot John Patrick Shanley roasting, er, introducing Austin, followed by Austin’s acceptance speech.  Then came Anika.  Then came the music!  They did a gorgeous version of Blue Skies, Anika was convinced to get up and sing Summertime and there was a rip-roaring version of Sweet Georgia Brown, along with a couple others I can’t remember now.  Gorgeous stuff.

I was so glad to have the flashes!  Of course they made the shots in front of the step & repeat much crisper and “poppy”, but the difference between trying to shoot the musicians without a flash at high ISO and being able to bounce the flash off the wall and drop the ISO was, pardon the pun, night and day!

This Round’s on Us: 1900 – 1920s

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Nylon Fusion is starting a busy season and their first show of the year is one of their This Round’s on Us short play series.  This year they’ve parted ways with the holiday themes and are doing a series through time.  This first one covers 1900 to the 1920s.  Themes included WWI, Vaudeville, women beginning to come into their own and art and literature.  As usual, they had a tight group of 11 plays split between their 7:00 and 9:00 shows.  All but one were set in the time period (though a couple had time travelers from the current day), with the lone outlier set in current day, but inspired by the Charleston.

Nylon Fusion moved to TADA! with this iteration.  The space is fairly traditional — a relatively deep space with a raked audience.  It was deep enough where I decided to sit in the front row to get the best reach with my lenses.  It’s also a fairly wide space (by NYC standards) so I needed all three of my lenses (16-35, 24-70 and 70-200) at one time or another.

The lighting was a stock plot, with a LOT of blue in it, which had to be corrected out in many cases.  It was also fairly uneven, which made shooting and post-processing challenging.  It’s so hard to make a single plot (which might be the house stock plot) fit 11 different shows.

Next up will be the 1930s – 1940s. The Great Depression, Dust Bowl, and WWII.  Should be some good stuff!

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TROU: Spring Break Forever!

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The latest installment in Nylon Fusion Theatre Company’s This Round’s on Us series featured 10 plays loosely inspired by the theme of spring break.  Nylon Fusion and I have a great photographer/theatre relationship, but they came and saw me in The Merry Wives of Windsor last year and realized I can act, too!  Now things are complicated.  They want me to shoot the show, but they want me to act, too!  So you will only see 8 of the 10 shows  that were presented. The other two were right before mine and mine.  Sorry, guys. Maybe I’ll wear a GoPro next time, like I did for a certain zombie project…

Photo by Lori Kee

Photo by Lori Kee

We were back in T. Schreiber’s Gloria Maddox Theatre and I was still trying to find a good location for shooting.  Luckily, with the purchase of the EF 16-35 mm f/2.8 L II USM, I had a few more choices, in this very shallow, but wide space. I ended up on the furthest house left, front row seat, on the tip of the shallow U that makes up the audience.   The 24-70 mm still saw the most use, but I was glad to have the 16-35 mm at a few points — about as many as the 70-200 mm.  It wasn’t a bad location, unless actors weren’t cheating out when they were stage right. Know where the camera is, people! 🙂

The lighting at the Maddox remained quite nice to work with — even the darkest play, about a man counting stars, was lit enough to not have to resort to extreme measures. In fact, I was able to drop the ISO to 3200, well below the 5000 & 6400 I was using to shoot SITI Conservatory’s “Darth Vader” show.  As I mentioned in that post, I had changed to Spot Metering, due to the high contrast in lighting.  I probably should have moved back to Evaluative Metering for this show, since the lighting was more even here, but it wasn’t a big hindrance (again, it’s a suggestion from the camera, it doesn’t actually affect any settings).

 

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The Big Funk

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The folks at Nylon Fusion Theatre Company always keep me on my toes.

They are running two shows in rep right now — The Big Funk and A Snowfall in Berlin — at Teatro LATEA, on the Lower East Side (a space they “discovered” when they came to see me in Merry Wives of Windsor, everything is interconnected!)  I was  recovering from a nasty late winter cold and that evening had to be back in Queens for my Richard III at the Secret Theatre, but I couldn’t leave them in the lurch.

The Big Funk is John Patrick Shanley’s jadedly optimistic comedy about people overcoming the damage that parents and life can do and coming into their own.  It’s a visually lush production directed by Lori Kee, with wonderful costumes by Debbi Hobson, sets by Cassie Dorland and lighting by Wilburn Bonnell.  They took full advantage of the space, bringing characters in through the house and sometimes working their way through the audience itself.

The audience is welcomed with a quirky two person lounge act called The Roly Polys and is then introduced, in turn, to Jill (Ivette Dumeng), a woman with a pretty rotten opinion of herself; Fifi (Meghan Jones), the colorfully attired assistant and wife to knife-thrower Omar (Josh Sienkiewicz), each with scars from their upbringing; next Omar’s friend, the young still idealistic Austin (Jacob Troy) and finally, Jill’s date, the greasy Gregory (Paul Walling).  The characters are pushed to the very edge of reality and sometimes step to the other side.  Twins are coming for one of the characters — oh, and she’s due tomorrow!  It all serves for Mr. Shanley to focus his light on how life can change in an instant, rendering your current life off-target, moot.  The cast all meet the challenge, fully committing to the normal as well as the outlandish.

The shoot was technically fairly straightforward, the lighting, especially in the first act, was mostly bright, if a little contrasty (very bright or very dark with little fall-off between).  The second act is a dinner party for the two couples (Omar & Fifi, and the newly minted Jill & Austin), so the lighting remained constant throughout, until the coda, a monologue by Austin that takes him up through the audience — a bit challenging, that, but not impossible.

The main challenge was the nudity.  Jill and Austin both have scenes where they literally bare themselves to the world.  Both actors were fearless and the nudity is supported fully by Shanley’s script.  The images are beautiful, but as I’m shooting, part of me is thinking about “usable” shots vs. artistically satisfying shots.  Let’s face it, the gorgeous shot of the Jill’s back above, dappled with shadows probably won’t be making it to the company’s Facebook page and Austin nonchalantly standing at the dinner table won’t be too useful for marketing materials (yeah, it’s not here, either!)  So you do have to find the shots… where is he slightly behind another actor (or a mirror)?  How can I frame her so the suggestion of her nudity is there, but it can still pass the TOS of everyone’s favorite social media sites?  Like I said: Nylon Fusion keeps me on my toes!

Next: A Snowfall in Berlin — same space and set pieces, completely different challenges (plus a dead, naked actress in a bathtub).

 

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A Snowfall in Berlin

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This is a continuation from the post about The Big Funk, so you might want to start there…

The day after shooting Nylon Fusion’s The Big Funk, I was back at Teatro LATEA to shoot the sister production, A Snowfall in Berlin.  Where Funk compacted the action into localized spaces, with occasional incursions from the house, Snowfall exploded the space, working edge to edge, sometimes with actions occurring in multiple locations and even timelines, simultaneously.  It’s a whodunnit, but so much more.

Led by director Shaun Peknic, the play by Don Nigro feels like a film noir detective film, a David Lynch psychological thriller and a paean to the golden age of cinema with all the reels tangled together, like the treatment of the cyc at the back of the stage.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to shoot a full run through, timing being what it is, they were needing to work through one last time before opening, so I came in part-way through the action.  What I do know is that a girl is dead.  Rosa, an actress (Brandi Bravo), has been found dead in a bathtub and a hard bitten Irish detective Mulligan (Don Carter) is on hand to find her killer.  The likely suspects are the other characters in and around the film she was acting in when she died.  Director Natasha (Tatyana Kot) discovered Rosa and tapped her to be in her film, possibly derailing the chances of the other young actress, Megan (Stephanie Heitman).  Two other behind the camera forces, fiery Italian producer Emilia (Jessica Vera) — who herself discovered Natasha — and smarmy British screenwriter, Coates (Eric Percival) round out the suspect list.

Mr. Peknic’s staging is visually complex and what you find in the resultant stage pictures vary depending on where in the shallow 3/4 thrust house you are — but each has been carefully considered.  You could watch this show three times (at least) and see three very different takes on what is happening on stage.  In this way, it was actually fortunate that I was shooting during a working session — I would shoot from one angle, they might stop and go back and I could reset to a different spot in the house and get a different view on the same scene.

The lighting in Snowfall varied quite a bit more than The Big Funk and there was much more use of color and, again, with different time lines happening at once, sometimes multiple colors across the stage.  This kept me hopping a bit more on my settings (and in my post processing), but it definitely made for some striking images.

As with The Big Funk, A Snowfall in Berlin has some nudity.  In this case, Rosa spends her time as a recently passed soul, confined to her bathtub.  As I mentioned in my previous post, there’s a line to be walked between optimal artistic composition and the best composition for a shot that can be used for marketing purposes.  Here, that was a question of inches.  The lower the angle, the higher the edge of the tub is against Rosa’s body and there are several low-angle shots that really served the noir-esque character of the play.  But sometimes looking down on the action gives the look you need and in those cases, more gets seen.  As with The Big Funk and Love Gone Bad before that, my agreement is that the actor gets to approve what Nylon Fusion or I use.

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This Round’s On Us: Love & Civil Rights and Love Gone Bad

This Round’s On Us: Love & Civil Rights

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Love Gone Bad

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Happy 2014!  I know It’s been a few months since I posted last, but I’ve been busy working on the other side of the lens, playing Sir John Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor, the reading of a new musical called Wild and Willful Women and King Edwards IV and the Lord Mayor in a Richard III set in the heyday of the London punk scene.  But now some of my favorite people are back on the boards and calling me in to shoot.

Nylon Fusion Theatre Company is being particularly prolific right now – they had another of their This Round’s On Us short play festivals, this time with the theme of Love & Civil Rights.  The same weekend, they had another short play festival benefitting the ASPCA, called Love Gone Bad, featuring plays by by Neil LaBute, Robert Askins, Kristina Poe and Don Nigro.

These works saw Nylon Fusion move into The Gloria Maddox Theatre at T. Schreiber’s studios.  This space had some pros and cons over the Gene Frankel Theatre, where I had shot the prior two iterations of This Round’s On Us.  First of all, at the Frankel I had a nice, out of the way seat with access to floor space where my gear could live at easy reach.  Not so much here – I had a good seat, in the corner of a very shallow, squared-off U, but I had no choice to keep my gear accessible, but to take an extra seat.  These were a hot commodity, as these are always very well attended shows.  The way they use the space at the Frankel was also a bit more inventive.  Added seats on the stage turned it into an L shaped audience, making directors and actors deal with audience on two sides – I think it forced a little more mindfulness and creativity in staging.  Here, it was essentially a proscenium stage, flat to 95% of the audience (except the 3 columns of folks on each of the arms of the U).  Still, it is a nice space with decent lighting (yay, decent lighting).

Love Gone Bad presented some unexpected challenges.  First and foremost, all of the characters spend at least part of the play in their underwear.  My thanks to Nylon Fusion and the actors for letting me post these here — part of my agreement with the production was that all of those shots would need pre-clearance with the company and the actors in the shot.  Glory Kadigan, the director, was very protective of her cast — making sure they were each comfortable with being photographed and communicating Nylon Fusion’s requirement about usage of the material.  Luckily, this shoot was able to be done during a final dress, literally moments before the house opened to the opening night audience.  I think shooting people in their underwear with an audience present (and on opening night!) would have more likelihood of making the actors self-conscious (not to mention you don’t want the audience to feel they have any excuse to take their own cellphone photos).  The show consisted of four monologues cleverly tied together with a repeated connecting scene between one of the actors with two of his or her partners, like ghost images of two separate, but simultaneous post-coital repartees.  Other than costume, the shoot was fairly unremarkable.  The lighting was generally enough to be able to shoot at ISO 5000.  Some of the interstitial scenes were lit in a deep red wash, which was challenging, but gorgeous!

Coming up next is The Pearl Theatre Company’s production of No Exit next weekend.  Next up with Nylon Fusion will be a March double header of Don Nigro’s A Snowfall in Berlin and John Patrick Shanley’s The Big Funk, wherein they go one step further… nudity.

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This Round’s on Us: Halloween

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This post is late in coming.  I’ve been up to my ears playing Falstaff in The Baited Bear Players’ production of The Merry Wives of Windsor.  Believe me, I tried to figure out how to shoot the show while I was in it.  The best I could do was some shots from a rehearsal and some from the wings.  But that is another post!

Despite it all, photo gigs will come!  Once again, I’m thrilled to be shooting for the Nylon Fusion Theatre Company.  This was another in their This Round’s on Us 10 minute play festival series.  This time the theme was, appropriately, Halloween.  It really is a pleasure working repeatedly with a company and getting to know their people and their style.  While each show is different, there is a certain common energy to their productions, which I hope I am capturing on my sensor.  I certainly see it!

As with the last iteration, TROU: Independence, TROU: Halloween was in the Gene Frankel theatre, which the Nylon Fusion people use to its utmost – they fill that place to the rafters!  I took my now customary spot on the corner of the L they create with their seating and got to work.

While “Halloween” led to a few darker plays, thematically, despite my worries, they were generally bright, technically.  Shooting went well throughout, with no technical challenges.  For each shoot, I try to learn and grow.  This time, it was about the nature of the show and how I cover it, shot-wise.  During a traditional, long-form play, I shoot several shots per scene, depending on the action of the scene.  Two people at a table talking will get fewer shots than a fight scene, obviously.  But for eleven ten minute plays?  I feel like I’m shooting more than I normally would for those “quieter” pieces, because I don’t want them to get short-changed at the end of the culling and editing process.  Then during the culling process I’m trying to keep things even, so I’m maybe a little harder on the more “active” plays, really focusing on the best of the best so they don’t overwhelm the gallery.

Ultimately, they did a great job.  If my hardest job is to be spoiled for choice?  I’ll take it!

Next up is the Pearl Theatre Company’s production of And Away We Go!  So happy to be shooting for them again.  And rumor has it, I’ll be dealing with a VERY interesting challenge for Nylon Fusion’s next show (or duet of shows) coming in 2014!  Stay tuned!

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