Assignment: Evil (Dead – The Musical)

As I mentioned last week in Getting your foot in the door I’ve been pushing for more creative opportunity with Red Branch Theatre Company. Back in the early Spring I started talking to them about creating new photography for their Heathers: The Musical production.

Unfortunately, scheduling and budget didn’t work out for that and we decided we would make something happen for Evil Dead: The Musical opening in October.

While not really a horror fan, I love the comedic horror of the original Evil Dead movies. I wanted the shoot to honor those movies and their original posters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As is typical with this kind of collaborative effort, you start with some pretty grandiose ideas and the reality of coordinating schedules, location and (yes, again) budget quickly bring you down to earth.

I had hoped to spend the time scouting looking for an actual cabin in the woods that we could shoot at. We did drive around Howard County a bit looking for a suitably creepy spot.

The location was actually in a neighborhood and the, apparently, abandoned house might have been an opportunity for getting arrested for trespassing more than a photo op.

The day before we were scheduled to shoot, I scouted around the theatre. When I saw there was one of Columbia’s ubiquitous path’s leading into the woods down the street

I decided to explore back in the woods there, not even a quarter mile from the theatre… and look what I found. A creepy old fence in the middle of the woods. Not a cabin, but decent enough window dressing.

 

 

 

 

So, we now had a location and we just needed to get our models.

Originally, RBTC production staff had thought about providing me with one or two leads for the shoot. In the end they provided me with the entire cast and took the hit in the rehearsal schedule, which was amazing. We also got the services of their makeup artist, Hannah Fogler, and their costume designer, Andrew Malone, to make the Deadites look awesome for the shoot. My assistant, Allie Press, who is also a trained makeup artist helped Hannah get through the large number of cast members in a timely manner.

 

 

 

 

While the cast was getting made up, I sacrificed my assistant to that process and went to set up lighting in the woods. It was my hope that by shoot time, around 7pm, it would be cool in the woods. However, this was still early September in Maryland. It was hot and ridiculously humid. You wouldn’t know it by how fantastic the cast looked or behaved.

Photo credit: Allie Press

Lighting was an interesting affair and there was a bit of trial and error getting our setup. My concerns were having enough light from the front so I could see good detail in the actors’ faces, so I used my pretty powerful Godox AD360II with a small Godox portable Octabox as my key light and a Godox Ving V860 with a shoot through umbrella for fill. This still left the need to provide some light to separate the subjects from the background. This was accomplished by two more speedlights, one back about 20 feet shooting directly at the back of the actors and one off camera left.

Photo Credit: Allie Press

This didn’t work out as well as I would have liked. The Deadites behind Ash were kind of lost in shadow. So, I took the mid-light and modded it with the Magsphere from MagnetMod. This was placed behind Ash in the midst of the Deadites coming behind him.

Photo Credit: Allie Press

In the end, I’m really happy with how the images turned out. The cast completely got what we were going for. A little post-processing and I think we did credit to the original movie images.

In order to get the look I wanted, I added a ton of local contrast, blue to the background and magenta to the highlights. Here, you can see the before/after:

As always, I want to thank the folks at Red Branch for their trust in me and their enthusiasm for creating art of so many flavors. Thank you to Jenny Male, the director, for giving up some very precious rehearsal time and Dana Medford, stage manager, for making this all come together. This cast was great fun to work with an I think you are going to love their take on Evil Dead. Get out and support local theatre!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

“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.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Peter Rabbit Headshots at Red Branch Theatre Company

I like opportunities to stretch my skills and make some creative decisions in studio sessions. This doesn’t always happen when I am taking cast headshots for theatrical productions. They are often fit into a very small window of time before a rehearsal and at times the casts are quite large. Like 28 people large. In a window of about 90 minutes. That’s OK, it’s the job and I’ve gotten more adept at it over the years.

For RBTC’s “Peter Rabbit” they asked for character shots. So, I knew this could be a little different than the usual white background setup. I arrived early enough to talk to the costumer prior to setup. I found out the color scheme leaned toward earth tones and oranges. So, I quickly ditched the white or grey backdrops and went with a very pale brown.

Peter Rabbit Headshot SetupThis didn’t seem interesting enough, so I gelled a flash rust color to punch that up. (Turned out, after white balancing, it ended up pretty close to the wall color. Ha!)

I went with a shoot-through umbrella for a soft and forgiving key light, since I didn’t really know what the costumes would be like and a 1/4 CTO gel to keep the subject from ending up too pasty.

A reflector to balance out the shadows and I was ready to go after setting a custom white balance. I also took a selfie with the X-Rite Colorchecker Passport to double down on the color correction just in case the walls caused a weird cast.BFPPHOTO-_BFP4356

 

Here’s a preview of images straight out of the camera (with only a little tonal correction).

Cory Jones

Katie Ganem

Stephanie Williams

Jennie Phelps

Gavin Shown

 

Tierra Strickland

I think the choices worked out well for these images and I’m really looking forward to shooting production stills next week and getting a preview of this world premiere show.

Peter Rabbit at Red Branch Theatre Company | December 11-19, 2015

Music and Lyrics by Dustin Merrell | Based on the classic tale by Beatrix Potter

What happens when an impish bunny disobeys his mother’s command to hop through a big, scary vegetable garden? Find out as the rabbit we all know from our childhood collides head on with a rag tag group of new friends that set off on unforgettable adventures. This exciting new musical adaptation by local composer and Red Branch Company Member Dustin Merrell marks Red Branch’s first ever world premiere.

Tickets Available Here

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

A Knight in Harman Hall

The stage at Harman Hall in Washington, D.C. was graced by a towering presence last night (10/29/2009).  Sir Ian McKellan performed a one man show to benefit the Shakespeare Theatre of Washington D.C. and it was brilliant.

IanMcKellan-1-scaled

Sir Ian strode to the stage from the back of the theater, much as the President does for a state of the union, to rapturous applause and many, many smiles.  As things calmed down, he began by saying that Shakespeare wrote 37 plays, could we recount them.  People yelled from the audience the names of the plays, as he ticked them off  McKellan would tell an anecdote of an experience or some comment on the characters of the play.  Establishing a personal connection with the audience, Sir Ian assured that we would be right there with him as he proceeded through almost two hours of “something he’s trying for the first time”.

There’s an expression I’m sure we’ve all heard, “He could read from the phone book and I would be enraptured”.  Or something like that.

In those two hours McKellan took us through his life by anecdote, poem, scene, jingle, children’s song, dirty limerick  and even an entry from Roget’s Thesaurus.  He engaged the audience with humor and pathos.  We never thought we were incidental to what he was doing on stage, as you might for a play, we felt like this was very much a conversation even if it was a very one-sided conversation.

IanMcKellan-Seated-scaled

[Did you know that McKellan is the last actor alive to have been the first to perform one of Shakespeare’s characters?   The play, Sir Thomas Moore, was written by Anthony Munday but three pages of the single manuscript that survive are written in Shakespeare’s hand.  So, he is credited with some part of it, at least.  Since it was censored in Elizabethan times, it went unperformed until 1964 with Sir Ian in the title role.]

I’m trying to piece together all the individual pieces he performed like Sonnet 59 (which he performed as one side of an emotional telephone conversation which segued into the spoken lyrics of ‘Hard Days Night’, Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2.. I particularly enjoyed a poem written by his favorite poet which was meant to be part of a play.

At the end of the evening, he invited anyone in the audience who wished to join him on stage for a little acting exercise.   Being in the balcony, I hesistated, STUPID STUPID!! for by the time I made it down to the floor the ushers were turning people away.  Each person clambering onto the stage was greeted by Sir Ian with a warm handshake and a smile.  He gathered his group of new protege’s on stage with him at the center to give his instructions.  The group spread out across the stage and as he began to speak, the players fell dead to the stage.

IanMcKellan-AllFallDown-scaled

Each and every one of them could now state, quite truthfully, that they once performed on stage with the great Ian McKellan.

IanMcKellan-GroupBow-scaled

There is so much I would like to etch perfectly on the fabric of my mind, but that is not the way of things for me.  I’ll carry away some pictures, and fragments will resurrect at times, but I’ll not be there again.  This was an evening I’ll carry with me in my person, if not perfectly in memory then in feeling.

IanMckellan-man-scaledHe, only, in a general honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them.
His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, ‘This was a man!’

— William Shakespeare, (Julius Caesar)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail