From the dress rehearsal at La MaMa! last night
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Just back from a few hours of shooting. The play is a blend of Beckett and the Three Stooges. I don’t expect you want a review here, but let’s just say that it was difficult to find moments when all three actors were at a fiery pitch at the same time.
There’s also a fair amount of farce.
I met up with the lighting woman (in the old days they were always grizzled guys) and she was easy to work with, bringing up a few cues so that I could do a bit of preparation and see how much light I’d have to work with. It’s never really enough, though here it was so long as I could shoot with a short lens.
I was thinking that after the lighting is set, the person who is doing the cues must get pretty bored. I guess it’s fairly automated in the fancy houses, but I don’t know about off-broadway. Is she sitting there waiting for so-and-so to hit a mark or say something so she can do the music cue and hit a button that brings down the house lights and brings up the opening lights. I don’t know.
But anyway, I’m at this dress rehearsal before the opening on the following day – Weds.
The director (Adam Seelig) was somewhat anxious about my disturbing the actors with the clickity-click of the shutter (Canon T1i) – and I did try to explain to him that it wouldn’t be a problem; but when he heard me click the shutter a few times in the empty theater, while he stood nearby, he wanted me to start my shooting from the back of the theater.
So I did the beginning shots with the long lens, but I knew that wasn’t going to work. Not enough light, even at 3200ASA (it’s a slow lens) and so I slowly moved down towards the stage, one step at a time and took shots whenever something emotional (noisy) was going on.
Let’s just say that by the time the 2 hour show was over, I was practically sitting on the stage clicking away with the 30mm Sigma lens; and that after the rehearsal I asked all the actors if they were bothered by me, or heard the shutter, and they all said no.
The main photographic point was to get all three actors in the same shot, hopefully all having some sort of visual moment.
* * * Writing continues the next day
The first three shots in the gallery were shot during the rehearsal. The last three shots I had a chance to direct the actors a bit, and took one part from the play and embellished it so that the guy was also at the table (he’s not during that part of the play). Lighting – well it’s pretty flat – and there wasn’t much to be done with that – it was a naturalistic (except for the paintings) set.
And if you can’t get them all during the rehearsal, then spend a few minutes while they’re still in costume and just ask them to do things that may not have been exactly in the play. Who cares about whether that moment actually happened or not if it makes you want to see the play. Those were probably the best shots (last 2 at the table) and then the shot of the guy carrying the painting with the hole for his head to stick through. That was my idea and I kept waiting during the play for it to happen, but it never did. Turns out that in some versions of the play the older sister had stuck her head through the opening. Anyway – it was tricky to get them all in the shot, and to give a sense of movement to the guy, and have his face lit… etc. We were all sweating at the point because it was hot in the theater and management didn’t want to use the air-conditioning for the rehearsal.
So I had the poor guy go back and forth a few times until I thought I must’ve got something, and then that was pretty much it. I think we were all in a hurry to get outside and breathe some cool air. It was pouring when I went out, which was fine.
This morning, I touched these shots up, and got them off to the PR guy and the director who liked them very much.
I took 300 shots of the play. I expect the PR person will use one or two from the shots above. And all-in-all, it was fun. As I said in the first part of this, I enjoy being around actors. There are many things that come easy for me in the arts, but acting isn’t one of them. I don’t have the memory for lines. If there were no lines, and just improv, then I wasn’t bad. And I can usually talk to actors easily. That’s something I’ve always enjoyed.
Shots 2 and 3 were done during the rehearsal. Shots 1 and 4 were setup by me after the rehearsal while we were all hot and waiting to get out. I wonder which shot will be used for the newspapers and websites for PR. I think I’d use the last one.
Okay – enough about me. Just for the record:
Ritter, Dene, Voss by Thomas Bernhard, Sept 23 – Oct 10 at La MaMa
Director: Adam Selig
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