Category Archives: Shows

Posts about the shows I shoot.

Scenario: Script to Perform


For the past year I’ve been one of the house videographers for The Kitchen, a visual and performance arts space that’s been around almost as long as me.  For some of the projects I shoot, they ask me to come in and watch a dress rehearsal to get an idea of what I’m in for.  Scenario: Script to Perform was one of those times.  I’ve been wanting to expand into photographing dance, so I asked if I could shoot during the dress.

To borrow from the Kitchen’s description of the piece:

choreographer Gillian Walsh continues her work with scores. The score—a constellation of derived language and numerical codes—orients the dancer toward form and away from performance, towards dance as non-fiction form. Scenario is infinite emptiness: undermining expectations of extroversion and theatrical effect, it is structural choreographic thought without a dance.

It was a fascinating piece to watch, almost meditative at times.  The set was the blank walls of the Kitchen’s performance space, with the lighting by Zack Tinkelman changing things up — from cold fluorescent, to a warmer “normal” look and into deeply saturated blues and magentas (again courtesy of LEDs and again giving an odd oversaturated, almost blacklight look on camera).  The movement was not dynamic, but there were some nice images created with the dancers’ positions in space.  To a certain extent, I was having to rely on my Viewpoints training to look for spatial relationship, repetition, architecture, shape, etc.  So thank you, Anne and SITI Company, for making this one successful!



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.


Also posted in Nylon Fusion

Nylon Fusion Gala


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!

Also posted in Nylon Fusion

This Round’s on Us: 1900 – 1920s


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!

Also posted in Nylon Fusion

Dead Special Crabs


A few years back, I played York in a production of Henry VI directed by my friend Adam Marple for his directing MFA thesis for Columbia University.  There are so many stories that I could tell from that production.  But importantly, there was a theatre company that co-produced the show, called Wide Eyed Productions.  It was a big financial risk for them, but they were trying to move to a new level and their people were integral to the show on all sides of the stage.  Last week, Kristin Skye Hoffman, Wide Eyed’s Artistic Director, contacted me because they were looking for a production photographer and their stage manager had recommended me — their SM was Rosie, the SM for the production of Richard III that I had performed in at the Secret Theatre.

So I reconnected with Wide Eyed Productions and some old friends from Henry who were taking a more comedic turn with this new piece.  Dead Special Crabs is a twisted take on a road trip, following I-95 from Maine to Maryland.  From one haven for the crabby crustacean to another.

The show was in The Barrow Group Theatre, where I shot The Tragedy of King Arthur and This Is How I Don’t Know How To Dance.  A split level set added some interesting staging opportunities, but a length of safety cable across the front was a challenge for me, frequently cutting right across faces.  The costuming added a lot, especially Kathy and Walter with their bright yellow cult-wear!

As a bonus, Time Out New York did choose one of my images as their Photo of the Week (the last one with the ship’s wheel)!



Last year SITI Company had their inaugural conservatory program.  One year of training in creating theatre using the tools that SITI company does: Viewpoints, Suzuki and composition of devised works.  The culmination of that year was the gorgeous This Is How I Don’t Know How To Dance, which I Got to shoot earlier this year.

Now, several months later, several of the artists have continued to collaborate and create work on their own, supported by SITI Company in the form of mentorship and some access to space.  They presented a first look at their work and asked me to come and photograph them.

I’m totally biased toward SITI Company, their work and the extension of their work ethic and artistic (pardon the pun) viewpoint.  What I saw was beautiful and brave. It was not theatre looking for the easy way out. It’s not about playing to the lowest common denominator in the hope of getting rich. It is theatre borne out of a need to tell stories, to pass on what it means to be us.

This is why I love theatre and what gets me going.

The shows include:

  • The Forgotten Princesses
  • Chekhov Vignette 1: On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco
  • Civility!
  • Chekhov Vignette 2: The Bear
Also posted in SITI Company

Philadelphia, Here I Come!


I love me some Brian Friel.  One of my fondest memories of theatre was a production of Translations in one of Seattle’s small theatres (I think it was AHA!)  I haven’t seen as much as I would like, so I was happy to get the call from my friend Janet at T. Schreiber to come shoot their  production of Philadelphia, Here I Come!

It is amazing how much theatre you can fit into the small spaces in NYC.  The show is at the Gloria Maddox Theatre, where I’ve shot (and even performed) for a few Nylon Fusion shows.  The set is very evocative of a small Irish home of the 1960s and provides some nice levels and playing spaces for the actors.

The play gives us the last night in Ireland for Gar O’Donnell, before he heads to Philadelphia to stay with his aunt and uncle and work in a hotel.  He’s leaving behind his father and his job at his dad’s shop.  The action is commented on by Gar’s inner voice, his conscience, who seems to say what the public Gar wishes he could.  We see several of the characters who make up his life in Ireland — his widower father who is more boss than father, the doddering headmaster, who might have been the father he could have had, the mother figure housekeeper, his mates and the local Canon who comes to play checkers with his dad.  All of these characters seem to be living their lives by rote.  Even with Gar leaving the next day, not too much seems to be changing about their daily interactions.

Gar is also “visited” by some figures from his past and future — Kate, the  girl who got away, and her father Senator Doogan, who made Gar quite aware that he was not good enough for his daughter and his mother’s sister, his uncle and their friend, all visiting from America and the reason he is invited to come live with them in Philadelphia.

All of these people (with the exception of the American contingent) all seem to be on the verge of asking Gar to stay and he seems so on the edge, that given any excuse — any deviation from the daily ritual of his life — he would stay.  But we never see it happen.

Performances were strong all around and the direction (Jake Turner) kept me wondering if Gar would find what he’s looking for — either in Ireland or in Philadelphia.

Uncle Vanya at the Pearl Theatre

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The Pearl’s 31st season started with Uncle Vanya.  It’s a Chekhov I had not seen before, but it does not stray far from his other big works.  Good, solid country people collide with bored or frivolous city people, everyone’s lives get shaken up, murder is attempted, no one is happy and the invaders leave again, but leave the good, solid country people worse for wear.

As always, the Pearl’s production values do not disappoint.  A lovely pastoral set morphs into a colorful country house.  My one complaint — purely as a photographer — is that huge table.  It cut off all the actors who got caught behind it.  Costumes were, as always, perfect.

It’s fascinating to keep coming back to Pearl and see these familiar actors slipping into various roles.  It really does point out the benefits of a rep company.

Also posted in Pearl Theatre Company

Macbeth – MKA 7th Graders


I wasn’t originally going to blog about this.  It was just going to be some shots for the kids, but darned if there aren’t some compelling visuals in here!

I met Christian Ely a few years back when I choreographed the fights for a play he was directing for a short play festival.  It was a food fight that goes over the top… in an elevator!  Fast forward 7 or so years later and Christian reconnects with me through a friend — he’s teaching and directing at a middle school in NJ and would I like to come fight direct a Romeo & Juliet?  Well, schedules didn’t work out that year, but this year they did for Macbeth.  I didn’t know what to expect — I knew going in that we had a cast of almost 40 thirteen year-olds.  20-odd witches, an army of soldiers… but what could we actually accomplish?  I needn’t have worried.  These kids were committed to the play and to their director.  He does not pull the play down to a “middle school” level, he pushes it up above some NY productions I’ve experienced!  The witches are an omnipresent force of nature (or supernature?) and create some gorgeous images with their striking makeup and costumes.  The set is a mobile and grand canvas for evocative projections (created by an MKA alum, now in the business).  Add haze, lights and sound and it’s an effective take on this story of ambition.

One of my favorite moments was a discussion about if we should have blood.  “Oh, I want blood,” Christian said.  “OK, how bloody can we get the children,” I asked — expecting a couple little smears or blood packs.  “Buckets!”  came his response.  A gallon of blood was ordered and with dilution, we’re talking about 1.5 – 2 gallons possible.  From what I’ve seen, I’m guessing these kids will wring every last corpuscle out of that jug!

On to shooting it.  The auditorium is a vast space and the stage, including an apron built into the space made for a lot of area to cover, especially trying to fit all 37 kids into a single frame.  I moved between all of my lenses, but relied more heavily on the 70-200 mm f/2.8 L IS II than I have been recently in the usual small NYC spaces.  Light was challenging — the look of the piece was very stark, so lighting tended to be dark, sometimes accented with hot spots, with few scenes in any kind of wash.  the witches in their white makeup and gowns tended to blow out quite easily, especially when they were sharing the stage with Macbeth and Banquo in their pseudo-military garb.  The witches movement was very dance based so I tried to dial down the shutter speed on a few occasions to get some motion blur to evoke that dynamic.

The battle scene was pretty epic, with just about everyone on stage — soldiers fighting, witches applying blood and feasting on the carnage.  Visually it was chaotic — we slowed the fight to slow motion, not for safety concerns (the kids were very good about stage combat safety!), but because there were so many bodies, it was too much to take in at full speed.  Blood effects for the final fight went well.  You can see the spray of blood coming from a couple of syringes, which “painted” his body with blood, but were also effective photographically.

The Tragedy of Dandelion


Joan Kane, the director of this play, also directed of one of the pieces in Nylon Fusion’s last This Round’s On Us: Spring Break Forever! (The first three images in the gallery for TROU – Spring Break Forever!)  She and her partner at Ego Actus reached out to me about shooting their production of The Tragedy of Dandelion at Urban Stages.  The play is a bold undertaking — 29 roles played by 10 women across 5 acts, 13 scenes and 12 locations.  Oh, and in verse!  From the playwright’s website:

The Princess Dandelion dresses as a boy in order to escape her rapist and would-be husband, along the way falling in love with another princess, and traveling through her society, meeting nuns, soldiers, and clowns, and all the time her pregnancy continues, the impending birth complicating everything.

The play takes a lot of familiar tropes and stands them on their ears to defy expectation.  Shakespeare allusions abound, but there is a serious through line about identity and the ever present danger of being a female in a male dominated society.

Urban Stages is a small showcase theatre (65 – 74 seats) with a fairly deep stage.  The producer and director both told me they needed wide shots that would highlight the scenery and costumes for their website, so I tended to work a little wider on this shoot, again favoring the 24-70 mm f/2.8 with my new standby, the 16-35 mm f/2.8 coming in second.  The 70-200 mm f/2.8 still saw duty and got some of my favorite shots.

Lighting was widely varied — from a well lit throne room to a dark, dank dungeon cell — but most challenging were the scenes where the space was strongly defined by the lighting, for instance a hallway defined by a strong diagonal lane of light across the stage.  The actors had obviously not had much time to acclimate  to the lighting and were frequently half in and half out of the light.  This resulted in their heads and torsos in shadow and their belt and below strongly lit.  It took some work with the gradient filter tool in Lightroom to save what could be saved.

Ultimately, this is one of the challenges with working with a show so early in its life and especially showcase productions that don’t have the leisure of more than one or two runs on the stage before opening night; the actors are still trying to figure out their environment.