The Power of the Theater

I love that I am able to step back into the theater world once a month or so and photograph production images of the shows. I still get that tingly feeling when I walk into the place and always feel like I am returning home. Most people don’t realize what a magic playground theater actually can become. It basically starts with a dark empty space, where there is nothing, only a void. Through the collaboration of the creative teams it is transformed into a place that sparks your imagination, becoming a world where ideas and theories of human existence come together to be played out and shared. In Greek times this was one of the biggest and most social platforms for culture and people to merge. Perhaps the Facebook of its time. The ideas where often told in heroic tragedy or farcical parodies on what was current and reactions to whatever was happening at the time within that society and all without commercial interruption. Theater is able to transform us and give us a new perspective on the way we view ourselves. And since it is live, you feel the heartbeat and breath of the actors as they unfold and reveal life from their point of view. Good theater really captivates and makes us think about who we are and gives us a new view on our relationship to the world.

When you work in the theater you become immersed within the world of the play as you unlock the playwrights mind. Plays are often contained in their own reality and are told from the playwright’s perspective and can often be skewed to how they perceive and view the world. But when a talented director and creative team take hold, add their interpretation, the concept it was based on grows to become a collective of shared thought and meaning. Then ultimately the audience breathes in their interpretation and it grows to a universal consciousness. Many people out of the theater don’t realize how essential the audience is to the process of theater. They go to see a show and afterwards say, “I liked it” or “I didn’t care for that too much because… “, without really appreciating the experience they have just had. Though the actors may have rehearsed this play for six weeks to bring it to life, the element of the audience is still absorbed and impacts the show. You feel their presence, their mood, their discomfort, and their delight. I remember even as a stage manager, not necessarily on the stage, feeling the ebb and flow of the audience each night, as it became fresh and a totally different experience from the previous night, kind of like the moon and its pull on the earth’s tidal flow. This is why plays that run for years always remain fresh, making each night a new exploration.

I think it is this focused quality of my years in the theater that gives my images an interesting quality. Through the process of photography I am still able to create my own universe in a concept, thought or idea and transform into a visual representation that others can respond to. The stage must be set, the lighting balanced, the music added to create a world for the model to enter. Once they are there, the focus becomes about pulling from the subject the inner life they already posses. Helping them explore and relate to who they are and what has brought them to this moment. There is a moment then, when something very profound begins to happen as they begin to literally strip away and reveal what is hidden within. This too is theater in its purest form, to cut to the essence of humanity, with real ordinary people experiencing real honest emotions. This is the body of my existence as an artist in a secluded place like Montana. Sexual preference becomes irrelevant, as gender, age and physical deformity fade into the background. The essential emotional response becomes the essence of the ideal as we are drawn into the moment of revelation. I whole heartedly engage in the process of the theater when I view it and bring this sense of engagement into my studio as I work allowing the viewer to share and see the power of my experience.