“Absolute Hell” opens at The Gift Theatre, Chicago

Monday night was crack’n-busy (though Tuesday night was crack’n-busier– and ended in a total of 5 shoots in 2 days).  after shooting some process shots for The Neo-Futurists– I flew home to pick up Susan (cause I knew I was going to need help setting up for this next one) and we winged over to The Gift Theatre to do some publicity photos for their show “Absolute Hell”  (which is Jeff Recommended by the way!) and– wow– what a welcome.  Maggie Andersen (founding ensemble member of The Gift)— and then a crew of other awesome folks greeted us with a wall of smiles, pulled whatever we needed down from the sky, and then gave us the room.

about the shoot

in a spoonful of time I had to get some press photos that the folks at The Gift Theatre would be sending out the next morning.  my favorite kind of shoot– one that’s full of a happy kind of terror.  your energy and talents must rise to the occasion– and there is no room for error.  you can’t very well walk into this kind of shoot with a sense of timidity– or hubris.  and– you can’t say after the shoot when everyone’s gone home…can we do that just one more time?

when we entered the theatre, the performance had just gotten out and there was a giddy show-crowd that had thickened around the corners– and the middle of the stage.  (the place had a good post-performance crackle that makes my ears tingle.)  with a stentorian, “I love everyone– and could I love you all from over there instead?” we’d made enough room for some shots…

the play takes place in a bar just after WWII.  so, mood of shots should be…moody. one studio strobe angled at 45 degrees down and a shoot through umbrella– perfect.  I set up my portable-everything studio bag amongst a sea of legs– fumbled with lenses, batteries, flashes, cords (oh so many cords), stands, reflectors, more cords– and settings.  I set the camera to custom white balance (as it’s already set for this particular flash), set it to f10 (I’d be shooting only 1 to 3 people and was aiming to keep them as much on the same focal plane as possible, so depth of field wasn’t a worry) and 1/250s, and had Susan (who’d been furiously setting up all else) turn the flash to full.

so why didn’t I just use the speedlight, or two of them?  short answer– too little power (even times two) and most importantly way too long a recycle time.  I wanted to get everyone photographed and on their way to the party before they even had a chance to say, “oh– we’re done already?!”

when we were done and the other performers were off to celebrate, Michael Patrick Thornton– the nonpareil of post-show grace and artistc director/co-founder of The Gift Theatre– and I worked on a two minute portrait. though he’d just finished performing in a demanding show– and most likely wanted to be elsewhere– he relented to my supplication with a giggle.  (those photos up on a later post…)

broke down, drove home, worked until dawn.  fell into bed shoes (and glasses) still on.  it was great to wake up (sometime in the afternoon– I won’t say how late for the chagrin) to see the photos already published in the Chicago Tribune, and the like.

these guys were awesome.  I was amazed at our warm welcome– and we’ll hopefully all meet again…maybe in a bar after WWII.

info below– now go see the show…

more anon.


Linda Newton in The Gift Theatre's production of Absolute Hell

Linda Newton in The Gift Theatre's production of Absolute Hell

go to The Gift Theatre

go to The Gift ensemble bios 

go to some reviews of the show: Sun Times, Chicago Tribune, TimeOut Chicago

some info directly from The Gift Theatre’s site:

Directed by ensemble member Sheldon Patinkin

Featuring Gift Ensemble Members Brittany Burch, John Connolly, Paul D’Addario, Gabriel Franken, Alexandra Main, Kenny Mihlfried, Lynda Newton, Michael Patrick Thornton and Jay Worthington with guest artists Alexis Atwill, Harter Clingman, Kurt Conroyd, Patrick DeNicola, Joanne Dubach, Marssie Mencotti, Donna McGough, Justine Serino, Amy Speckien, Maria Stephens, Dylan Stuckey and Adam Welsh.

London. One month after World War II has ended. An important election on the horizon…Welcome to the members-only club “La Vie En Rose” and its colorful cast of bohemian lovers, losers, soldiers, and dreamers who prepare to repair both country & self. Big, bold, and haunting, Absolute Hell was nearly lost forever until a rediscovery led to a revival & inclusion in The Royal National Theatre’s “Top 100 Plays of The Twentieth Century.” The U.S. premiere comes to The Gift in an ensemble-packed production.

Previews: March 1, 2 & 4
Showtimes: Thursday and Friday at 7:30 P.M., Sunday at 2:00 and 7:30 PM

Press Opening: March 5 at 7:30

Runs: March 8 – April 29
Showtimes: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 P.M., Sundays at 2:30 PM

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