Sunday, September 2, 2012

Shakespeare troupe tackles 'Midsummer'

Word-of-mouth support is appreciated and welcomed by anyone in need of promoting a cause, product or event, but everybody understands how visual impressions -- pictures or video -- can do so much more to accomplish that objective.

Which is why I was excited when the Garfield Shakespeare Company indicated recently that it wanted some photographs of its fall production, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," in advance of the Sept. 21-22/28-29 show dates at the MacAllister Center for the Performing Arts in Garfield Park, Indianapolis. In the past, the company has traditionally had me just shoot live peformances so they had pictures for its website. To do photos this far in advance, of course, the cast and crew directed by Joe Cook had to get into costume, and for a costumer like Bradley A. Jones, who's done a masterful job handling that task for the all-volunteer troupe, it means a lot of time and repeated work.

So the troupe did the promotional shoot in stages -- the fairy scenes last Wednesday, and the lead "lovers" -- Demetrius and Helena, and Lysander and Hermia -- on Thursday. It was a little odd seeing some cast members in costume, and others in plain clothes, going through their routines. I could have asked that we simply do posed shots to make the job simpler, but you can't get "natural" expressions on actors' faces the way you can during a performance, so the show went on both days.

I had some beautiful conditions for photography, as it turned out, on the first day, the shoot devoted to the play's costumed fairies. We were able to use the outdoor MacAllister venue for the backdrop; this is where the play will be staged later this month. Until the sun went down, the shade lighting was constant, with an occasional solitary splash of tree-filtered, sun-setting highlight that I exploited when possible, but nothing I couldn't work around. As long as I could frame my compositions using the amphitheater's black background -- and avoid the elevated, colorful Indy Parks banner stripped across the top part of the stage -- I was getting splendid images.

Lighting for the shoot the following day, the one devoted to the play's "lovers," was not nearly as grand. The amphitheater was not available, so the cast moved inside to the nearby Garfield Park Arts Center's main exhibit hall, whose space in late afternoon is spotted -- literally -- with blinding sun-setting light through the west windows. With actors darting constantly into and out of the various light spots right in the heart of the performance area, my shot options were extremely limited. I should have asked Cook that we halt performances and just do posed shots where I could pick spots without the sunlight interference; in the future, I'll know better. But I also noticed that much of the cast was still not "off book." Cast members who are not off book have not mastered their lines yet and move around rehearsals with manuscript in hand to cue or even read from when doing their lines. So I didn't want to deny the cast another chance to get familiar with their parts.

Today's post is devoted to the shoots at those rehearsals. On a side note, one of the cast members of GSC's "Midsummer" is my son Ben. He plays Theseus, Duke of Athens, whose impending marriage to Amazon queen Hippolyta, whom Theseus had recently conquered in battle, is the storyline that opens the performance in one of Shakespeare's most charming plays. Ben was not one of the cast members included for the costumed publicity photos, but I include a shot of him (above, left) at the second of the two rehearsals during a walk-through of a scene in the final act. The photo also helps illustrate the challenges a volunteer troupe like GSC faces while preparing a production: Ben is pictured with Susan Yeaw standing in for the role of Hippolyta because Alexis Brown, the actress who will play Hippolyta for the live shows, was absent that day. Yeaw is in the cast, too; her role is Titania, queen of the fairies, and she appears in some of the publicity shots you see in today's post, including the one at the top, leading off the post. With her (and again immediately below) is Stephen Foxworthy, who portrays Oberon, king of the fairies.

Many other photos from the shoots can be found at my Facebook page.

Above and below: Brad Jones' costuming and makeup stands out in these shots of "Midsummer" characters Puck and Oberon. Puck, the mischievous fairy and servant of Oberon, is played by J.D. Bonitz; Oberon by Stephen Foxworthy. Bonitz and Foxworthy capture their roles masterfully.

Above: Another frame from the scene involving Bonitz as Puck (left) and Foxworthy as Oberon.

Above: Playing the role of the No. 1 fairy is Gabby Sandefer, a Perry Meridian High School junior. She and Bonitz also appeared in the GSC's production of "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark" last fall.

Above: The four costumed cast members hammed it up for a posed shot during a break in the Wednesday rehearsal at the amphitheater. From left: Susan Yeaw as Titania, queen of the fairies; J.D. Bonitz, the mischievous fairy Puck, servant of Oberon; Gabby Sandefer as No. 1 fairy; and Stephen Foxworthy as Oberon, king of the fairies.

Above: Bonitz and Sandefer, the two fairies costumed for the PR shoot. 

Above: My usable shots (for publicity purposes) from the shoot Thursday inside the Garfield Park Arts Center were limited to chance catches outside the blinding spotty sunlight from windows or via creative crops in post-processing. This shot of Ashley Chase (left), who plays Helena, and Spencer Elliott, who plays Demetrius, illustrates the latter: A blast of sunlight hit this couple right below the mark where you see the bottom crop line. But, the crop did turn out to be kind of interesting; it added intrigue to Chase's hand, and her expression helps a lot, too, I thought. 

Above: Chase (left) with Christy Walker, who plays Hermia. 

Above and below: The two "lovers" couples who dressed in costume for Thursday's rehearsal. Above are Chase and Elliott again; below, Walker and Andy Sturm, who plays Lysander. As for use in any publicity, the bottom photo is questionable' as you can see, Sturm is still not "off book." 

1 comment:

  1. It looks as though this production will be a hit, and Puck? Puck is amazing; love the colours and costumes!