Getting your foot in the door

In my previous life as an consultant in the government market I learned that you don’t always get into the ideal situation with a new client. Sometimes you have to just get in the door, consistently deliver results and look for opportunities to make it your ideal job.

I have a long history of involvement with theatre. I love the theatre.

I’ve been working with the amazing creative folks at Red Branch Theatre Company for a number of years. RBTC is a local non-profit professional theatre with a mission to produce socially aware content and serve the community.

First, simply taking production stills during tech week.

 

That being said, I wanted to do more with the theatre. So we expanded my involvement to getting decent, headshots of the casts for display in the lobby and something the theatre could give to their actors.

rbtc-headshots

I kept pushing for more involvement and creative opportunity. While my work isn’t central to the work they do, I felt like I could be a larger part of their success. I hope that extending my involvement to other areas like having the headshots be of the characters instead of the actors would be recognized as valuable.

untitled-1

This was really a fun expansion of my work with the theatre. It meant that for new shows I needed to get an idea of color palette, content, tone and a little more interacting with the incredible casts and crew.

That just wasn’t enough I wanted to have a bigger impact and more creative reach. Instead of minutes with the characters, I wanted some real time for setup, evaluation and experimenting (shocker, a creative who wants more time to do their work). Theatre budgets, of money or time, aren’t large. So managing my desires with available resources was important.


Still we worked together last year in gym near the theatre to create some very cool images for a calendar to promote “Dogfight”.


 

 

I don’t know that the calendars sold as well as we would have hoped, but the project was fun and I think it helped promote the show.

 

 

 

 

It gave me more chance to try different things, change-up lighting and tell more of a story in my images.

 

 

 

 

With the new year, there were changes at RBTC. In addition to finally getting their non-profit status approved, they have become a Helen Hayes Award eligible theatre. The first show they produced that was eligible was Sweeney Todd. For Sweeney Todd we did a studio shoot with the principles that I discussed already.

These are the people I want to work with. When they get the grant for 1.5 Billion Dollars, they’ll be the only client I need. Until that happens my work with them will be more of an expression of my creative passions than my greed. 🙂
Along those lines I had hoped to do something funny and dark for the production of Heathers, but schedule and budget didn’t work out for that. That had me looking forward to the Fall and EVIL DEAD: The Musical!!!! I’ll talk more about that in my next post.

 

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Assignment: Philadelphia Funk Authority

The Gig

Earlier this Summer I received an email from Gary at Authority Entertainment which handles Philadelphia Funk Authority (phillyfunk.com) asking if I would be interested in shooting group shots and concert stills of the band at Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA. (Is it inappropriate to respond “duh” to a potential client?) PFA is a super fun party/event/concert band and a great bunch of musicians. Of course I’m jumping at the chance to work with them.

I have had a relationship with PFA through my friend George Hrab, the band’s drummer,
for quite a few years. Over those years I’ve photographed the band at Musikfest,

had the privilege to hang out with members of the band (we even watched humans put a lander on Mars together)

and hired them to play my 50th birthday party. You can see the results

People danced!

Scheduling

The band has gone through some changes in the last year necessitating the new pictures. Not the least of which is the loss of singer Alisa B Anderson to cancer. The new line up should be featured in their promotional materials and website. The job called for a new group shot of the whole band as well as images of them in action. I had originally planned to shoot all this on the first Sunday of Musikfest, when the band plays in the big Festplatz Tent to more than a thousand people. This worked well for me, since I planned on being there anyway and I had a wedding to attend on Saturday in Maryland. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the best option for the band, so we negotiated to shoot at the Musikfest Cafe Friday night for their 10pm concert.

So, the weekend would be:

  • Drive up to Bethlehem on Friday
  • Drive back to Maryland sometime on Saturday morning (1am or after a nap)
  • Drive up to the wedding about an hour from home on Saturday
  • Drive back to Bethlehem on Sunday as planned
  • Drive home again on Monday

The Weekend

Friday arrived and I arrived up in Bethlehem around 4:30 in the afternoon. I caught up with George at his place to discuss the plan. While Gary is technically the “owner” of the band and handles the bookings, George handles much of the day-to-day leadership activities. The plan is to shoot a group photo in the “green room” and then out on the floor at their show Friday night I would grab some shots of the band in front of an audience.

I leave George to his pre-show ritual (whatever that is) and head out into Musikfest to grab some food and meet up with my friend Todd. A gyro, roasted corn and baked beans later, I’m heading off to meet George and over to the venue.

Group Shots

The green room at the venue was broken up into a couple of rooms. Two of them were bathrooms. No good. One has a TV, fridge, tables, doors and one wall. No good. Another is a tiny dressing room. No good. So, we were left with a lounge that’s pretty small. Just enough room for me to get the group shot with a 24-70 on a tripod jammed into the corner.

I’m not done with the group shots at this time, but I’ll share a setup shot with George and an Easter egg or two

I was pretty happy with the lighting on this test. Good fill and pretty soft using the Godox AD360IIN and Phottix Mitros bounced high off the wall to camera left to counter the recessed cans in the ceiling. You’ll just have to wait to see what image we choose and how it gets processed.

Concert Photography

I was pretty daunted by the lighting in the concert hall. To say it was a little backlit is something of an understatement.

Definitely cool for the audience, but a bit challenging for the photographer in the crowd. My goal was to get a few decent shots of the new(er) members of the band and get more shots at the well-lit stage at their show on Sunday.

Here’s the wonderful Raysa Michelle who worked really well with the veteran Jillian Rhys

, Matt Asti who has a deceptively chill demeanor onstage, but he’s a monster on the keyboard

and Neil Wetzel who holds up the sax end of the Authority Horns with… um… authority.

I’m still editing shots, so that’s it for now. It was a great weekend and beyond fulfilling my contractual obligations I really enjoyed spending time with the band and making some new friends.

Thanks, again, to PFA for the opportunity to work with them. Like the rest of their fans I can’t wait until the next time.

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Noises Off at Silhouette Stages

 Noises off is a wonderful farce of tax evasion, mistaken identity, theft, trysts and SARDINES!

This latest incarnation staged by Silhouette Stages at Slayton House in Columbia, MD is an amazing undertaking for a community theatre. The set is large and stately. The cast is tight and energetic. (Full Disclosure: My lovely wife, Julie, plays Belinda)

So, what was my involvement?

First of all, I shot all the separate headshots and created the poster you see to the left here. The challenges there probably deserve a blog post on their own.

 


There were also a couple of cast photos like the one here on the right.

 

 

 

 

I also spent a number of days helping out on the shop-filling monster of a set.


Then, I went in and got a great preview of the show by shooting production stills. Yes, you’ll see the set isn’t done and only two days before opening. Theatre people will understand, of course, this is not as rare as one would hope. The situation for this show was even worse as access to both stage and shop was limited by Slayton House as they had other commitments. So, the set did not see the stage until the Sunday before opening Friday.

The show is in three acts. The first act takes place on the front of the set, where our actors are in dress rehearsal the night before/morning of opening for their play.

Act two takes place back stage, weeks later. While the show goes on in front, our audience is treated to backstage shenanigans that are mostly silent but not at all quiet.

The final act is played in front on the final stop of the tour. Things have not exactly gone well and one might think the cast is a bit over the show at this point.

It really is a fun show. I’m hardly objective, but you needn’t take my word for it. The reviews have been stellar. 5 Stars from DC Metro Theater Arts! and from the Baltimore Sun. So, go out and support local theatre!

More production stills from the show: Noises Off Production Stills
More information and tickets: Silhouette Stages

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First Date at TYA Teen Professionals

Heading in for the headshot shoot, there was quite the captivating sunset.

I really enjoy my relationship with Red Branch Theatre Company/Drama Learning Center. A little theater buried in a non-descript industrial park on Red Branch Rd. in Columbia, Maryland.

They have a well-deserved reputation for both developing young talent and producing theatre that is out-sized for what would be expected by the size of their theater and budget. Beyond that, they are a now 501(c) non-profit with a socially conscious mission to tie their productions to important messages for their community.

My latest work with them was for the area premiere of the musical First Date. When I was asked to schedule headshots, the date conflicted with a planned trip to Atlanta for Imaging USA. So, we had to push that back to the same night as production stills. So, now, I’m shooting headshots and production stills less than two days before the show opens all on the same night. In an attempt to simplify things, I had their awesome stage manager, Dana, send me a couple of set pictures while I was away. It was enough to convince me that I wanted to try to shoot the headshots in the set, a bar/restaurant which is the setting for almost the entire show. This would, at least, alleviate the setup and lighting for a backdrop.

Since we were planning on shooting character headshots, I could shoot with a bit more edge than I usually do for teenage actors. I originally planned on a 3 light setup. But that ended up too cumbersome for moving around the set to get a different setting for each actor. Also, I had a bit less than 30 minutes to set up and test before shooting more than a dozen actors. So, my key light was one of my Phottix Mitros TTL Flash For Nikon with a 1/2 CTO Gel and the Rogue Photographic Design ROGUEXLPRO2 Flash Bender 2 XL Pro Lighting System (Black/White). For the fill I used a second Phottix Mitros TTL Flash For Nikon with a MagGrid and a blue gel to give some separation and tie it into the set motif.

Kendall Grove as Remedy Rose

Patrick Campbell as Aaron Goldfarb

Daniel A Joya as Reggie Knowles

Naomi Muwowo as Renee Lee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE HEADSHOTS

This lighting setup worked pretty much how I hoped it would. A nice separation from the background, some shape to their faces and yet they seem perfectly in place in the restaurant.  16 headshots, under an hour. *Phew*!

Now, I just have to shoot the production stills. I’ve talked about the challenges of shooting without knowing the show, the blocking or the lighting before. This was no different. I won some,







and I lost some… but, hopefully, you’ll never see those.
MORE PRODUCTION STILLS

I can’t think of a bad photographic experience I’ve had. Every one is an opportunity to learn, improve, meet people and make images.

I recommend making a trip out to Drama Learning Center and seeing what goes on in Columbia’s latest restaurant A New Leaf.

TYA Professional Training Program presents the AREA PREMIERE of FIRST DATE the Musical

Book by Austin Winsberg
Music & Lyrics by Alan Zachary & Michael Weiner

January 15, 16, 21, 22, 23 at 7:30 PM
January 17 at 2:00 PM

Tickets: $18 in advance, $20 at the door

FEATURING
Lauren Alberg, Flora Aubin, Patrick Campbell, Lila Cooper, Brittany George, Kendall Grove, Daniel Joya-Iglesias, Brandon Love, Aly Murphy, Naomi Muwowo, Ellie Parks, AJ Patel, Ava Pirie, Jason Quackenbush, Mark Quackenbush, Shannon Taylor

Directed by Stephanie Williams
Music Direction by Tiffany Underwood Holmes
Stage Managed by Lindsay Hopkins
Production Managed by Dana Fleischer
Lighting Design by Lynn Joslin
Props Design by Seth Julius Fallon
Costume Design by Shimra Fine
Set Design by Bush Greenbeck

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“It’s a Wonderful W.I.G.” Friday, Dec 11 at HCC’s Horowitz Center

This coming Friday, December 11th, the Horowitz Center at Howard Community College will host the What Improv Group? for their holiday-themed show, “It’s a Wonderful W.I.G.”

I’m treated very well by the various groups I’ve worked with in the HCC theatre community. Their is a little less “we’re doing our thing, please keep up” and a bit more “do you have all the shots you need” than other groups I work with. Which is both a gift and a burden. As someone who is more used to being a fly on the wall, it is a little disconcerting to have attention paid to my shutter, but I have a little more control to be sure to get the shots I need.


I was first introduced to W.I.G. just a few months ago, when I decided to see one of their shows. Their director asked if I would be willing to take some shots of the new cast since I was going to be in attendance. I was fine with this, although it did leave my wife alone for a chunk of the show.

We thoroughly enjoyed their hi-jinks and looked forward to the next show. Which will, unfortunately, occur while we are on vacation. However, I did get a preview last night while taking these shots.
I’ve never done improv, but I’ve watched both the good and the not so good. I’ve also talked to many performers about it. So, I feel I can safely say that improv is hard. Those that can both put themselves out there

and creatively be in the moment

Are rare. There is some really great talent in this group and I can comfortably recommend a fun evening out. So, why don’t you try a W.I.G. on for size? It just might be wonderful.

Friday, December 11, 2015
7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
(includes one intermission)
Studio Theatre
Directed by S.G. Kramer and Daniel Johnston

Donate a Children’s Picture Book & Receive a Treat in Return! Details below!

W.I.G. takes on the holiday season with jingley-jangley improv surprises for all! Take a break from the hustle-bustle, bring the whole family (ages 8 and up only please!) and join W.I.G. for improv holiday fun!

W.I.G.’s holiday improv show promises joyful, beyond hilarious and sentimental on-the-spot, interactive holiday storytelling, including audience participation for the kids! Ring in the holidays with W.I.G.!

Donate a Children’s Picture Book in Exchange for a Free Intermission Treat:  Get into the wonderful spirit of the season by bringing to the show a new or gently used hard-cover children’s picture book (books suitable for infants to five years old), which will be donated to Howard Community College’s Children’s Learning Center “Library for Little Readers,” and receive a free treat at intermission, courtesy of Arts Collective!

This performance is recommended for ages 8 and up!

WIG’s Cast: Douglas Beatty, Noah Bird, Diego Esmolo, Doug Goodin, Daniel Johnston, Autumn Kramer, Scott Lichtor, Thomas Matera, Apryl Motley, Shannon Willing, Sierra Young… and very special guests!

More Information and Tickets for “It’s a Wonderful W.I.G.”

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Argonautika – Howard Community College

One of the privileges of my job, such as it is, is to get to see lots of theatre. I have had a love of theatre since I was in elementary school and my mom would take us to shows at Storrowton Theater (a Summer theatre in-the-round under a tent in Springfield, Ma. during the 60s and 70s).

Last night I shot production stills for Argonautika at Howard Community College. This is a student production of Mary Zimmerman’s play depicting the voyages of Jason and The Argonauts (of Greek Mythology fame).

This play is a wonderful adaptation of the story with great comedic elements highlighted with, oh, a bit of anachronism.

A few costumes that one my consider. Ah, silly.

What else does this play have?

Are you kidding?

Fencing, fighting,

torture, revenge,

giants, monsters,

chases, escapes, true love, miracles…

and Goddesses!

The comparison to the Princess Bride is apt (did you get that reference?), this show has it all and it is lovely.

The set works very well and the cast clearly has a great time in the production.

“Argonautika” by Mary Zimmerman

Directed by Jenny Male

November 12 – 21 \ Studio Theatre
The HCC Theatre Program is proud to present Argonautika, written by Tony Award winner Mary Zimmerman. In this powerful story, the goddesses Hera and Athena weave together an epic tale about the adventures of Jason and the Argonauts and the fateful and haunting romance between Medea and Jason. Come see the dazzling sword fights and spectacles on this journey and share in the joys and heartbreaks of these well-loved mythological characters.

Buy Tickets Online

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