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!
“To be, or not to be, that is the question….” Ah yes, that quote that everyone knows – even those of you who didn’t spend an entire semester in college studying the works of Shakespeare! That, and the quintessential image of Hamlet, the mad prince of Denmark, holding the skull of poor Yorik. “I knew him well, Hortatio.”
We tried to put a slightly different spin on things…
I’m speaking, of course, of the New Vintage Ensemble’s upcoming production of “Hamlet,” which will appear on stage in Scranton this coming January. This will be NVE’s first mainstage production since their smash hit rendition of “Pride and Prejudice” in 2013, and I know that I’m not alone when I say that I am VERY curious to see what they’ve come up with this time.
A few weeks back I worked with the “Hamlet” production team to shoot a series of early promotional photos, and although that kind of access gives me a peek inside the production, I still don’t know all the details, except that it’s looking damn good!
Conor O’Brien is taking the lead as the mad prince himself, and he took to the stage for us during the photoshoot. The whole concept from the production team and director Casey Thomas was a series of images that emphasized darkness. Hamlet alone in blackness, seeming to come out of the darkness, with a little help from some well-considered props.
We had four concepts going in, and we used variations on the same overall setup to capture each of them. First, Conor in an antique high-back chair, almost lounging in it, both with and without some props. Then the three-hands image, which is featured at the top of this post, with Conor still in the chair, but three shadowy hands reaching out, one to each side and one above, holding props.
This was, by far, the biggest success of our shoot that day – a relatively complex scene that came together perfectly, and perhaps even better than we had imagined. Some fun facts: we weren’t able to find a crown that looked right, so we actually fashioned one out of materials we found on-site moments before taking these photos. And the liquid in the goblet? Yeah, it’s hot chocolate.
Our third concept was to get Conor up out of his chair and have him standing, screaming for the camera. This is more of a play on the “mad prince” aspect of the character, but it was a lot of fun to shoot, since Conor wasn’t able to fake a scream. So for each frame we shot, he actually screamed random words at the camera – including “dooooooooor!” – which usually left all of us dissolving into laughter.
We ended the day with the most unusual series, where we wrote the famous “to be or not to be” quote across Conor’s face and neck with a makeup pencil. We put him back on stage, standing, and coaxed some madness-inspired expressions from him before calling it a wrap.
We knew all along that the final photos would be in black & white, which gave us a lot of leeway in our setups. It’s really essential to know if you’re using color of black & white before you walk into a shoot; with color you have to really pay attention to the colors that are present, how they interact and contrast, and how they actually appear in the photos. With black & white, it’s all about tones – a half-dozen different colors may all produce the same shade of gray, so you can drop that factor out of the mental equation.
Working with the New Vintage Ensemble is always a pleasure, and I’ve come to expect that these folks will just hit it out of the park any time they step in front of my camera. I guess that sets the bar pretty high for them, but they keep meeting it!
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!
Scranton kicked off July with it’s monthly First Friday arts celebration, downtown businesses opening their doors to host local artists and art-admirers through the evening. This month’s timing blended the annual Independence Day festivities into the mix, which made for a fantastic event.
I spent the first hour or so at The Leonard, where the New Vintage Ensemble had scheduled two performances of “Color so Real,” a play written by local playwright and ensemble member Sara Regan, performed by ensemble members Kimmie Leff and Casey Thomas, and directed by Mandy Boyle, my lovely fiancee.Read More...
Another of my favorite weekends of the summer has come and gone, that trademark of June where the Historic Scranton Iron Furnaces are once more shimmering in the heat of molten metal. It’s Arts on Fire, a celebration of Scranton’s heritage and vibrant local arts culture.
The highlight of the event is always the live iron pouring demonstrations, which go for several hours each afternoon (and the night before during an incredible night-pour), courtesy of the Keystone College ironworks team.
Last week was the June First Friday here in downtown Scranton, and Mandy and I went down for a bit of a date night. Burgers, stops in a couple of venues, and then Mandy joined the Vintage Theater Ensemble for play the role of a living mannequin in the window of the vintage pop-up shop on Adams Ave.
The pop-up shop has done this once or twice before and it’s always a been a big hit. Last month it rained and I wasn’t able to go down to see, so I wanted to make a point to check it out this time around, cameras in-hand.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...
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...
Desmond & Ophelia are a young couple.
Desmond & Ophelia are throwing a cocktail party.
Desmond & Ophelia love mint juleps.
Desmond & Ophelia probably hate you.
You are invited to their cocktail party.
Break our your black dresses, ties, and jackets because on August 1oth The Vintage is presenting its latest production, “The Last Cocktail Party of Venus.” Written by Conor O’Brien, co-owner of The Vintage, this is more than a performance – it’s an experience. Presented as a semi-interactive experience, “The Last Cocktail Party of Venus” is part storytelling, part catharsis, and partly an intoxicated mess of secrets.Read More...
In remembrance of the original “rockets red glare,” here’s a few shots from Scranton’s fireworks show on Wednesday evening. We kicked Independence Day off a few hours early, with one of the best fireworks shows I can remember seeing. Even cooler that it took place right over the Courthouse Square in downtown. You know it’s a good show when the audience actually cheers for some of the displays.
Here’s wishing everyone a happy Independence Day, filled with family, friends, and good times!Read More...