If you've made your way to this website, you know by now that I am a photographer. However, what you may not know is that my bachelors degree is actually in vocal music, and I taught chorus and drama at the middle school level for three years before diving Into photography full-time. While I obviously LOVE my life as a photographer, a musician always needs an outlet to scratch the performance itch. For me, that release has been found in community theatre.
I began photographing for Mauldin Cultural Center's theatrical productions earlier this year, adding shows like Cats, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, and Hunchback of Notre Dame to my portfolio of images. I love the challenge of telling the story of each show through its photos, capturing the drama, humor, conflict, energy, and every other component that the audience sees in one frozen image. For their "Holiday Spectacular" Music Revue this year, I got to embark on a new journey with added challenges: not only would I photograph the show (with the help of my incredible wife), but I'd also serve as music director AND perform as part of the cast!
I can't describe how fun, rewarding, and musically fulfilling the production has been since the very first production meeting. Our director, the incomparable Meg Jones, wrote a moving, challenging, energetic show to highlight all of the holidays from numerous cultures that take place in December. When an audience enters our theatre, they are treated to two hours of music celebrating St. Nicholas Day, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Years Eve to name a few. We get a brief peek into how people from other walks of life celebrate or cope with the holiday season. As the photographer, it was my job to represent this during our three stages of shooting.
So, for the remainder of this post, I thought it could be fun to walk through the photographic journey that we take with each show. During the production process, we have three different photo days, all with their own unique purpose.
Cast and Crew headshots
At Mauldin Cultural Center, the entire cast and crew gets a headshot so that the playbill looks well-organized. It's also a bit of a gift to each person working on the show because every actor loves to keep their headshot up to date for auditions! We try to knock these photos out during the first week or so of rehearsals.
Marketing Photo Shoot
No one will know how great the show is if it is never advertised! Early on in the production process, we like to do a staged photoshoot of the cast. While these are not a visual representation what is seen on stage, we do plan shots that will capture the overall vibe of the show and entice patrons to go buy their ticket. For our holiday spectacular, it was important to me that we incorporate symbols from the various holidays we were presenting in the show.
Our final photoshoot day comes right before the show opens. Once costumes are assembled, the set is up and painted, the props are all in place, the script and music are memorized, and the lighting queues are just right, we photograph a full run of the show. This is when the photos directly represent what the audience can expect, a sort of freeze-frame preview for the production. For this particular show, we faced a certain challenge: how would the house photographer (me) photograph a show that he was on stage for? Luckily there was an easy solution. For the songs I sang, my beautiful and extremely talented wife photographed our scenes. Any time I would typically be backstage, I came out into the house to supplement her photos with mine. Not to toot our own horn, but I believe the teamwork effort really captured the heart of our production.
Thank you for reading about our production and the makings of a show's marketing campaign. If you're reading this, no matter where you are, I beg you to support your local theatre. Go to their shows, share their posts, compliment the actors afterwards. Theatre is such an important part of our culture, and the show can't go on without an audience!
Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for more!