I had the distinct pleasure and honor to shoot Pearl Theatre Company’s world premiere production of Terrence McNally’s And Away We Go on Sunday. There were actually many pleasures involved – first, this was the first run post-tech, so I was in the first audience to see this performed, ever. Second, Mr. McNally was there and I got to chat with him briefly about the show and finally, I got to shoot side by side with Sara Krulwich, the renowned New York Times’ theater photographer. While this does mean no NY Times credit for me this show, it was great to talk with her a bit and see that our equipment list and processes (at least the shooting part) aren’t all that different.
The challenge shooting this show is apparent the moment you walk into the space. The set. The set is a character unto itself and it is a very demanding character. The stage is completely open to the walls, as it was for Henry IV, Part 1. But it is supposed to be the back stage of one of several (any?) theaters. One where collected props, costumes, marketing materials and actor detritus have collected over decades and created a warren chaotic to an outsider, but intimate and welcoming to any theatre-folk. It’s a lot to take in. You want to examine each piece. Create the backstories, consider the symbolism. Luckily since there’s no curtain (a recurring theme), the audience will be able to take it in before the actors take to the stage.
But as a photographer… The set was more of a consideration than usual. How much do I include? When might it overwhelm the actors and when does it support them? Our human eye is made for following motion, so live it wasn’t such an issue. But looking through the lens and freezing moments, the actors lose their upper hand. And there’s a gorgeous verticality and scale, as you can see, with the lighting. But to include the sculpture of the lighting dwarfs the actress or actor, which is cool from an overall composition aesthetic, but my style favors tighter shots on actors – seeing their bodies and faces, the tools they have that convey their art in a photograph. That was all but lost in that scale.
So balance was needed. Compromises were made. It is a wonderful show. Anyone who is of the theatre or who just truly enjoys theatre will adore this love letter, with its in jokes and themes. Just be sure to go early and take in that set!