Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Indy area toasts the great bard
with inaugural festival in Carmel

There is something going on in Carmel, Ind., this month -- Bard Fest 2015 -- that, as best as organizers know, is a first in all of Indiana -- a festival of performance and art in tribute to the great bard himself, William Shakespeare.

Several times in the years since I started photographing productions for Garfield Shakespeare Company, Joe Cook, GSC's artistic director, has mentioned aloud how he would like to see Indiana stage a Shakespeare festival. He has to be at least a little pleased with what is going on in Carmel this month, although knowing Joe, I'm sure the 74-year-old longtime theater enthusiast would have liked to have been a part of steering a festival honoring Shakespeare.

Since Oct. 1, Cook's GSC and two other theater troupes have been performing three Shakespeare plays on various days -- mostly weekends. The dramas are the focal point of Bard Fest 2015, which is staged at Carmel Theatre Company, 15 First Ave. N.E.

The Tragedy of Othello, Moor of Venice, directed by Chris Burton, was GSC's summer production this year, so it seemed natural that GSC would contribute that performance to the festival.

Also participating are First Folio Productions, which is performing As You Like It (directed by Lauren Briggeman), and Casey Ross Productions, which is contributing a very rare presentation of Timon of Athens (directed by Casey Ross), the rise-and-fall story of a beloved and generous Athens citizen. The production of Timon is so rare that it is believed even Shakespeare never saw it produced. Shakespeare wrote the play in 1607-08 with the help of another individual (believed to be English playwright and poet Thomas Middleton). The bard died in 1616, but the play wasn't published until First Folio did so in 1623, and its first known production wasn't until 1674.

There will be multiple performances of each play; Othello anchors the festival -- it was the first to show on Oct. 1, and it will conclude the festival program on Sunday evening, Oct. 18, after which there will be a reception and closing ceremonies.

But Bard Fest 2015 is about more than just theater. The festival includes magic and hypnoses shows by the Amazing Barry, fire art by Jason Hardin, trivia contests, music, and comedy from Comedy Sportz Improv (a long-running Indianapolis improvisational troupe). The lineup for Saturday, Oct. 17, is particularly eclectic -- music (including acoustic performance by Othello director Burton), magic and fire art in front of Greek Pizzeria at 120 E. Main St., just a block from the theater. Also on the bill that day will be presentations of all three Shakespeare shows. Check the full Bard Fest schedule for times and details.

I photographed the dress rehearsal of GSC's Othello in August, and First Folio Productions' Glenn Dobbs, for whom I've shot three previous productions, asked me to shoot the play-acting of the two other shows when they had their dress rehearsals last week at CTC. Shooting one play is challenging enough; shooting two on successive nights is ... well ... let's just say it's harder.

The post leads off with a photo from an early scene in As You Like It, which features humor, color and a dab of music in addition to one of the altercations depicted in the lead photo. Tyler Gordon, the actor on the far left, also appears in Othello. He is one of a half-dozen Bard Fest thespians appearing in two of the three plays -- but he is the only one of that group using Othello as one of the pair. The others are in As You Like It and Timon of Athens.

Full galleries of my shoots of As You Like It and Timon of Athens are available at my site at SmugMug site.

Photo Geek info: I shot everything with a Canon 6D and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L lens. All of the acting shots were taken with available light, using the camera's auto white balance and shutter priority mode. Shutter ranged from a high of 1/400 for the fight/action scenes to as low as 1/80, depending on the lighting. Most of the lighting was good enough to support a 1/250 shutter with ISOs ranging from a high of 6400 (in rare, low-light situations) to about 2000 or 2500 for most of the play. For the group shots of the cast, I placed the camera on a tripod, lowered the ISO to 250, changed the white balance to tungsten, and went to aperture priority (f/10) on the camera to ensure sharpness throughout the width and depth of the rows of people. I mounted the 6D with a Canon 580EX II flash equipped with an amber Graslon Dome diffuser to coordinate with the color of the majority of stage lights. The flash was set on manual mode, zoomed to 70mm and the power intensity set to 1/2 for the As You Like It group shot and full power for the Timon of Athens group.