Friday, August 28, 2009

Shoot the Moon

Ever wonder where all those amazing pictures from the brochures, postcards, and posters come from?

Well that would be resident Moon photographer David Allen.

David has been taking pictures since his days at Miramonte High School, in the East Bay. In fact, he started working as a photojournalist right out of High School.

Now he does mostly public relations photography for art groups. He has worked with EVERYONE—from Cal Shakes, to the now defunct American Musical Theatre of San Jose, and just about every art organization in between!

He’s been working with Moon for well over a decade, taking all of our publicity shots and most of our “action” shots (production shots and gala pictures).

He enjoys our new intimate productions. “It’s more theatrical. It makes it more visually appealing as well, and the players can move more freely. That makes for a better image.”

If you can imagine, he takes somewhere between 500 and 600 of those images, which then get whittled down to just a couple of dozen for our use.

Artistic Director Greg MacKellan is the one who helms all the photo shoots, figuring out the shots, and consulting with costumer Louise Jarmilowicz on the "look" each show will need for publicity purposes.
Says MacKellan:

It's hard work - but fun work! - planning a photo shoot. It's a completely different animal from actually doing the show - in the case of the shoot, the number one priority is getting shots that will "sell" the show and also offer a bit of the flavor of what people will be seeing months later. We have to try to capture the spirit of the show in an hour or hour-and-a-half. In many cases, it's the first time the actors have actually gotten together as a group -- the first chance to see how the chemistry actually works. We were really lucky at the shoot for Jubilee and Destry, because there was an immediate working chemistry between actors in both.
For the actors, performing for a camera is also very different from stage performing. Sometimes we'll just set them up in a situation and ask them to improvise through it as David shoot continuously. That happens with a dance routine, too. Some of our best shots come out that way (as opposed to the "posed" shots, which are also effective).

(Dyan McBride, Andrew Willis-Woodard, and Alison Ewing in a candid moment,
one of the 500 pictures that won't make the cut onto a poster. Photo by David Allen)

So which shows has David enjoyed shooting the most?

One Touch of Venus was a great show to shoot. Red, Hot and Blue was also nice, really animated and a lot of energy. Plus, Klea Blackhurst is a blast; I love working with her, lots of energy!”

But from a visually artistic stand point, it’s Coco that he fancied the most. He used low-key lighting, which is “visually more creative and dramatic. I prefer that, but it takes more time so it's a luxury. It reflects more of the mood and more of the dramatic, you're dealing with shadows and light.”

(Alison Ewing helping demonstrate 'low-key lighting. Photo by David Allen)

His last photo shot was for our upcoming production of Cole Porter's Jubilee. Megan Cavanagh, Dyan McBride, C. J. Blankenship and Peter Budinger took part in the shoot. According to Peter, the actors have a ball doing it; "It was quite funny, while they were taking pictures, [Dyan] was running around creating dialogue – in character. Her character in Jubilee name drops and talks quickly, so she was doing that while posing."

C. J. recalls the shoot with a laugh, "It was pretty funny we [C. J. and Peter] were supposed to be these athletic guys. So David says, 'You guys wanna do some push ups or something?' Our egos' slightly bruised, we did it anyway. And he started taking pushup shots."

(C. J. Blankenship, Megan Cavanagh, and Peter Budinger gettin' pumped.
Photo by David Allen.)
That dovetailed into a series of shots between C. J. and Peter that reminded Peter of the gym scene from the film version of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. "We were staring at each other in these series of shots, on a lark, ignoring Megan completely."

(C. J. Blankenship, Megan Cavanagh, and Peter Budinger channeling Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Photo by David Allen.)

What of David’s work for Moon have you liked the best? Which posters or postcards still stick out in your mind? Tell us in our comments. Three of you that answer will be chosen for concession coupons and entered into our quarterly drawing.

Last week’s trivia answer: The first recording of Leave It to Me was from a production in Stuttgart and was recorded in German.

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