Meet the cast of “The Fourth Wall,” one of this summer’s productions by the New Vintage Ensemble. The fourth wall, for those of you who may not be familiar with the phrase, is a performance term for the space between the performance and the viewers. If a set has three physical walls, then the the fourth wall is what separates the actors from the “real world,” a fourth wall that is usually ignored, but is sometimes broken to good dramatic or comedic effect.
When I met with director Kimmie Leff and her cast last week for the promotional photo shoot, we had already decided to shoot the photos in a play off the idea of a fourth wall. So when we began with the group promotional photos, we arranged the case in a series of setups that included an actual wall.
Facing the wall, peering around the wall, against the wall – that last one is a little cliche, perhaps, but it’s repeated time and time again because it does work. With these photos, when the cast is done with the show, they could start a band and have their first album cover!
The real highlight of this shoot, however, is the actor headshots. As a quick aside, headshots can be a bit formulaic sometimes; a lot of productions just want a nice, clean portrait of their actors against a while or colored backdrop. Crisp and classic, and always a good look.
But sometimes you get to play and do something a bit more fun…
This is what happens when you run into the fourth wall face-first!
As much as I’d love to take credit for this concept, it was Director Kimmie Leff’s idea, and it played out perfectly. We were able to find a glass door for the actors to smush their faces against, and we had a lot of fun in the process. It’s a fresh, creative take on the idea of headshots, and I love it.
“The Fourth Wall” will open for a one-day engagement at The Cooperage Project in Honesdale, PA, on 10 July.
“My college roommate was an owl, and now I’m dating him.”
It’s a twisted take on “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,”, and so begins the New Vintage Ensemble’s latest production, “The Trouble with Sketch Shows,” an original piece written, directed, and performed by members of the Ensemble as part of their 2016 season.
In the hijinks that follow, we meet a self-absorbed newscaster who never actually gets to her program, a school cook, a spelling bee nerd, an Indiana Jones escapade gone wrong, and a truly disgruntled senior citizen, among others.
I was invited to cover one of NVE’s dress rehearsals in order to provide promotional and archival images for the ensemble – it’s pretty cool to get a look at a show before the general public, and I don’t think NVE will have any trouble filling seats for this one.
My favorite part of this whole process is the originality – every skit in the show came from the minds of people I know, people I’ve hung out with, had brunch with, had drinks with, never knowing that this kind of twisted genius was lurking inside. I am hugely impressed by their individual contributions, and by the quality of the New Vintage Ensemble’s original works overall.
“The Trouble with Sketch Shows” opens tonight, with two performances Friday night and one on Saturday at the Scranton Cultural Center.
The New Vintage Ensemble’s production of Hamlet took to the stage this past January and played to full houses for each of its two series of weekend performances. Well-acted, engaging, and visually stunning, the show was everything that the Ensemble had hoped it would be, and was a great kickoff to their year as the artists-in-residence at the Scranton Cultural Center.
NVE was kind enough to invite me to their final dress rehearsal to capture some images directly from the show itself. Dress rehearsals are ideal for this, as there usually isn’t anyone in the audience, and as a photographer I have free reign of the theater and am able to move around at will to best capture the action, all without having to worry about disrupting the experience for paying customers.
So without further ado, here’s a selection of images from the show, highlighting all the depth, moodiness, and tragedy that is Hamlet:
NVE is preparing for the rest of their 2016 season, with a variety of shows spread between June and December. Be sure to check out their website and events pages for more information!
The New Vintage Ensemble’s winter production of “Hamlet” is fast approaching, and it’s been announced that they will be holding it at the amazing Scranton Cultural Center. But amid an increasingly hectic rehearsal schedule, the cast took a few minutes out for another photoshoot with me.
We began our session with a group photo, which is a combination of promotional cast shot and a holiday greeting. Conor is back in the center chair in his role as Hamlet, with the rest of the cast around him. I’m not sure if the “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” concept at top was planned from the start, or if it was a spur-of-the-moment idea, but either way I absolutely love it! “Hamlet” is a pretty serious story and there’s plenty of evil to go around, so the juxtaposition of the cast’s seeming innocence versus Conor’s nonchalance in the middle of it all is just amazing.
After the group photos, the cast began their nightly briefing session and I changed my setup for some headshots. Everyone cycled through in the span of about fifteen minutes – I made the headshots short and painless, and am very pleased with how they came out:
As with the first batch of promotional photography, we knew starting out that everything would be processed in black & white. It’s vital to know this ahead of time, so you can focus on tonalities instead of colors. You’d never know that the backdrop wall in the headshots is actually a lovely blue that translated very well as a neutral gray.
The next time I see this cast, they’ll be on stage. After almost three months of rehearsals, I can’t wait to see what they’ve come up with. Break a leg guys!
I had the distinct pleasure of being asked to photograph the Scranton Fringe Festival’s Thank You party last week. Conor and Liz, the geniuses behind the festival, hosted a special party for the folks who did so much to help support Fringe throughout their first year. Best of all, the Scranton Children’s Library kindly offered their space for the reception; it’s a truly beautiful and magical space that really helped make this celebration extra special.
My main mission that night was to setup a sort of interactive photobooth. The Children’s Library has the ideal setup, with an extensive built-in puppet theater and risers. They were very generous in letting us pull a selection of hand and stick puppets from their (very large!) collection to use as props. With a couple of studio lights setup, we were in business!
These photobooth sessions have become quite popular over the past few years, and I’ve done a few of them for different organizations. What I enjoy most is seeing folks relax their inhibitions and partake in the props – many of them silly – for the sake of making a few fun photos.
This evening also served as the official announcement that the Scranton Fringe Festival will be moving forward for a second year! The details are still to come, but the Festival had such a stellar first year, and garnered a lot of attention both nationally and even internationally, that they are well on track for 2016.
My hat goes off to Scranton Fringe and it’s leadership – building a festival from the ground up is hard to begin with, and all the more so when you factor in all the moving pieces of a performance arts festival. Frings was an unparalleled success in its first year, and they’ve set the bar high – I can’t wait to see what they come up with for the next one!
It’s that time of year again – my favorite season is upon us and, with the changing leaves, shortened days, and falling temperatures, there is no denying that autumn is here. Of course despite all those natural changes, it wouldn’t really be autumn without that annual rite of passage, the Bonfire Festival at the Scranton Iron Furnaces.
I’ve been attending the bonfire since 2012 and, as I think I say each year, it’s one of my favorite events of the year. The Iron Furnaces are such a cool site to begin with, and I am always grateful to see the city and county using them as an events space in general. But the bonfire is the ultimate party there, and in my mind it harkens back to the days when the furnaces were active with their own hellfires burning.
The Bonfire Festival is really a multicultural celebration, with informational displays and an exhibit test on-site to highlight the harvest festival traditions of many cultures. The number seems to grow each year, and this year even included the ancient Egyptians. It’s cool stuff! Then add in theatrical and musical performances, food and drink vendors, and even some fortune tellers, and you can see why it’s a heck of a good time.
But of course the bonfire itself is the centerpiece, and this year in particular the crowd was anxious for the lighting ceremony. It was a cold night, one of the first we’ve had this year, and the temperature was down in the 40s with a just enough of a breeze to cut through your jacket. And as much as that pile of sculpture and timber is a symbol of ancient tradition, it was a symbol of warmth!
I got a prime spot for the lighting and was able to enjoy the fire for several minutes, soaking in the heat, before it crossed the threshold. That’s the funny thing about the bonfire – as much as you want to see it lit and warm up next to it, only minutes later it’s a raging inferno that’s much TOO hot to be near, and the same crowd that was pressing in against the barriers is now hurrying away before their eyebrows singe!
We came, we rejoiced. We ate and drank. We saw friends and reveled. And when we left, we made our usual stop atop the furnaces, so we could look down on the festival and the bonfire itself, already beginning to burn itself out.
So here’s to the harvest season, to the summer passed and to the spring that awaits us on the far side of winter. And here’s to the Bonfire Festival and the fine folks at the county who organize it each year – long may this be a Scranton tradition!
Although I only just got around to sharing the photos from last year’s Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces, this year’s event has already passed and the photos have been shared elsewhere, so it’s high time they appear here.
This was the bonfire’s fourth year and, for me, a bit of a change in that I was no longer just a festive party-goer with a camera, but actually on assignment for the Vintage Theater Ensemble, who were performing at the Bonfire and asked me to provide coverage.Read More...
This past August I was privileged to join The Vintage to document their annual “24 Hours of Art” event, which brings together a large number of community artists to celebrate and share their craft non-stop from noon on Saturday through to noon on Sunday. This year the arts community was well-represented by a wide range of visual artists, musicians, poets, performers, and actors.Read More...
On 11 October, I joined the indefatigable Mandy Boyle, Karla Porter, and Michelle Davies at Misericordia University for the third annual NEPA BlogCon, the regions premier – and to my knowledge, only – blogging and social media conference.
Approximately 170 people came out and spent their Saturday engaged with a wide range of local professionals, entrepreneurs, and successful bloggers who made presentations of topics ranging from social media engagement, to photography, to monetization. The common theme? Speakers sharing freely of their knowledge and experience to educated an audience that was clearly there to learn.Read More...
Although a couple of months have passed, I wanted to finally share some photos from this past summer’s “Arts on Fire” festival, held by Lackawanna County at the historic Iron Furnaces. This year, the festival opened on Friday evening with a dinner-and-drinks party that culminated in a nighttime iron-pour by the Keystone College ironworks students.Read More...