Griffin Theatre — The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee


Griffin Theatre “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”

Book by Rachel Sheinkin

Music and lyrics by William Finn

Directed by Scott Weinstein

Now playing through December 15, 2013 at Theatre Wit

get tickets here: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee





Here are some photos from my shoot with belmondos the other night.  They were kind enough to give me a spot of time before they went on to perform at The Tonic Room.

As usual with a shoot like this– we had no shot list or plan.  I appreciated in total that the belmondos trusted me as an artist.  For a setting, I used what we had within a 30 second walking distance from the stage they’d be performing on very shortly.  I arrived a few minutes early to have a look around– and found plenty of beautiful backdrops that I knew would provide some beautiful texture.  I was especially gleeful when I turned the corner from the bar and saw a wall I’d seen thousands of times before– a wall covered with a flaking mural of a quaint urban street.  Though in reality it’s rather faded– I knew I could bring back the color later (or of course leave it faded– or desaturate it even more).  There’s nothing like the happy accident.  If I’d planned the shoot– I would have probably chosen a socation I knew well in an attempt to be conservative with everyone’s time, but– having to shoot with unexpected circumstances almost always pays off with…the good unexpected.

These guys were so fun to work with. We all hit a comfortable stride at the first moment. These guys were focused and fun, open to all ideas– and it took us a half an hour from start to finish. And– I love their music.


“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


Rivendell Theatre Ensemble’s Falling: A Wake opens March 11

a few photos from my shoot with the fantastic Rivendell Theatre Ensemble a few weeks ago for their next show, Falling: A Wake– which is its Midwest Premiere.  the show is directed by Rivendell founding member Victoria Toy DeIorio and stars two Rivendell ensemble members Jane Baxter Miller and Mark Ulrich.  it opens March 11 and runs through April 14.

here’s a blurb about the show from the Rivendell website:

Harold and Elsie live quietly on an isolated farm outside an unnamed town. When a commercial jetliner explodes high above their land scattering wreckage and debris across the region, their lives are forever changed. A haunting and at times surprisingly funny play inspired by the actual events surrounding the 1988 Pan Am tragedy over Lockerbie, Scotland. Featuring Rivendell ensemble members Mark Ulrich and Jane Baxter Miller

for an interview with playwright Gary Kirkham.

and the official Falling: A Wake web page.

about the shoot

we had about 30 minutes from setup to shoot to breakdown and speedy egress.  these guys had to get to rehearsal in the next room– and the rehearsal for Rivendell’s Fresh Produce: Women at War was on its way in.    I had to get two to five people well lit and in focus– and wanted to light them beautifully– and make it seem they were lit with theatrical lighting– so in the seats, about 15 to 20 feet away, I set up a flashpoint 32oM at full power reflected into the belly of a giant 86″ white parabolic umbrella angled at about 35 degrees down.  I only used the 24-70mm.

as always– these guys were awesome.  besides being super focused– they’re super fun.  communication about what we needed to get done was effortless– and we laughed more than we did anything else.  can’t wait to see the show.

equipment used: canon 7d, canon 24-70mm f 2.8 L, flashpoint 320m, impact heavy duty stand, paul c buff 86′ white PLM