Monthly Archives: February 2014

Richard III

This is one of the most challenging aspects of what I do.  How do I shoot a show I’m IN?

Richard III for The Queens Players at the Secret Theater in Astoria has been an incredible process.  Set in a punk rock club in London in the early ’80s, Richard is a tale of acting out and defying social norms and good behavior in the pursuit of power.  As with so much Off-Off-Broadway theatre, there hasn’t been near enough time, but skirting immodesty, we’ve got a very talented cast and director (Alberto Bonilla) that have been able to make the most of the time we have.  There’s also the band.  It is hard to imagine a show that is made worse by live music and these guys bring the music of the era come to life adding an amazing energy to the show.

There’s also the look.  Our set IS a nightclub.  Everything is perfect.  I’ve been in this club before.  The band posters and graffiti are so evocative of the era.  And then there’s the costume, make-up and hair design.  They are dead on.  Sue Waller is a serious fashion designer making her first foray into costuming and the aesthetic is right up her alley.  Emily Lambert is responsible for hair and make-up design and just knocked it out of the park.  As an actor, these things are all wonderful — they help us live in the world of the show without feeling like you’re making excuses for what is not there.  The less you have to worry about what is not there or feeling that you’re pretending that you’re in the right setting or the right clothes the easier it is to just be.

And as a photographer?  The images come alive!  There is no acting when the band is playing — they are a band playing music, it’s honest and dynamic.  The actors have such intense looks, it’s hard to get a bad picture of them!

The challenge, as I noted above, is that I’m in the show.  I wanted to get the shots, but I couldn’t go into the house and I had to give myself adequate time to prepare for my scenes and make my changes.  Unfortunately, this meant I only got coverage of a few scenes.  But what I got, I’m really happy with!  The lighting is all over the place (in a good way) — straddling theatrical and club lighting, so there are extreme color casts and starkly lit scenes that kept me on my toes, but ultimately added to the overall look.

Nylon Fusion’s double header is coming up in a couple weeks!

Posted in Shows

No Exit

“Hell is other people.”

I returned to The Pearl Theatre Company on the far West side of Manhattan last Sunday, after a full day of Richard III rehearsal with the Queens Players in Astoria, to shoot Pearl’s production of Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit.  I was excited to see the play, as I think every theatre student has read it during the course of their education, but I don’t recall it being produced often.  This production is directed by an old theatre friend, Linda Ames Key, who with her talented cast have created a tight and engaging production.  While the characters may be damned to an eternity in Hell, the audience is left wanting more!

The Pearl once again provided a gorgeous set — this time the interminable hotel room for the three damned souls doomed to be the others’ torturers for all eternity.  It felt a bit like a W Hotel…  furniture more for style than purpose, ostentatious art that looms, yet adds nothing.  But enough about my business travel prejudices.

Shooting the show was a pleasure — as, in Sartre’s Hell, there is no escape via sleep or night, lighting was almost constant and fairly bright.  I was able to keep my ISO down at 3200 and still had the ability to do most of my shooting in the  f/4 to f/5.6 range, which gave me a little more leeway in terms of depth of field.  Linda and the cast created so many distinct and dynamic stage pictures, I was just trying to keep up with them and capture them all!

Next up, I’m going to shoot some of my Richard III for the Queens Players (the blessing of being dead for most of act 2) and then Nylon Fusion’s two shows in rep, John Patrick Shanley’s The Big Funk and Don Nigro’s A Snowfall in Berlin.

Posted in Pearl Theatre Company, Shows

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

Love & Civil Rights

Love Gone Bad

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.

Posted in Nylon Fusion, Shows