Murder Ballad: Backstage at the Studio Theater

Studio Theater
Studio Theater

How do you build buzz around a new play? If you’re the Studio Theater, you invite InstagramDC to a behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming production of Murder Ballad. Studio Theater has been on 14th Street since 1980, in a large building (much expanded) that at one time was a hot dog stand warehouse. Murder Ballad is a rock musical about a love triangle that’s presented cabaret-style in a set that looks like a dive bar.

I was lucky enough to be a part of this exclusive tour. It was a small group (less than a dozen) of social photogs. We met in the lobby of the theater and then were taken on a rapid-fire tour of all four of Studio’s stages, through backstage spaces where they stored costumes and made sets and even up the perilous gantries above the stage. We were encouraged to take and share photos during tour using the hashtag #murderballad on Instagram and Twitter to help get the word out about the play.

Here are some highlights from the tour:

Behind the scenes at @studiotheatre The view from the stage #murderballad #IGDC
If you work at the Studio Theater, you see this stage every day. But for everyone else, standing on a stage is a very unique experience.
scenery construction shop
This is where they make the sets and is one of those rooms that they had a hard time getting us out of. Old tools, wood, sawdust, beautiful light – everyone found stuff to photograph.
in the rafters at Studio Theater
Watch your step! And your head! This is the gantry – about twenty feet above the stage.
looking down from the gantry
Looking down from the gantry at one of Studio Theater’s stages.
Jarrett celebrates surviving the gantry #IGDC #murderballad
Jarrett (IG: brilliantartistry) celebrates surviving the gantry.
A selfie moment #murderballad #IGDC
Photographers love mirrors.
silhouette at the Studio Theater
Studio has a lot of great windows facing 14th Street.

After the tour (we could’ve spent hours backstage, especially if they let us get into the costumes), they led us upstairs to the best part of all – the bar/set for Murder Ballad!

It looks just like a dive bar but is actually part of the play. There we were plied with drinks and bacon-wrapped figs while cast members sang a couple songs from the play. There were also giveaways and special surprises for this VIP event.

Murder Ballad set/bar at Studio Theater
The set/bar for Murder Ballad. I used Snapseed to give this photo a faded look.

Photographers love unique spaces that aren’t open to the public. At the Studio, everything was new and interesting to us – even collections of old props. So if you have something new to promote, consider inviting your fans behind the velvet curtain. Give them access to your hidden spaces. Share with them something special and they’ll do the marketing for you.

Friday Photo: Fringe Edition

What It Is - Capital Fringe Festival 2014
The Mount Vernon home of the Capital Fringe Festival.

The Capital Fringe Festival is moving from its home on New York Avenue to a new location in the Trinidad neighborhood. It’s a win for Fringe, which currently occupies a tumbledown collection of old buildings soon to make way for development. It’s a loss for Northwest DC, which will see funky theater replaced by boring condos.

I have many fond memories of Fort Fringe. I was an event photographer for Fringe one year and spent many hours snapping at the Baldacchino Tent Bar. This outdoor bar was where everyone met before and after shows, where you could find friends, photogs and performers mingling together under a big tent.

It’s not too late to experience the gritty magic of the Capital Fringe Festival. Check it out July 10-27.

Friday Photo: Capital Fringe Festival

I can’t believe it’s been a year since the last Fringe Festival. Walking up to Fort Fringe on New York Avenue, everything looked exactly the same – the big white tent, picnic tables, a DJ playing tunes, performers hyping their shows. Only the bar selection had changed (they now have prosecco on tap).

The Capital Fringe Festival runs from July 7-24. It’s an opportunity to see crazy performances in intimate spaces, some of which include nudity and/or puppets. The bar aka Fort Fringe offers a front-row seat to this bohemian spectacle.

I was an official photographer for last year’s festival – here are my favorite pics to give you a sense of what you’re in for. And here are the shows that won in 2010 – many of these performers have new shows for this year.

My Fringe Festival Picks – So Far

Romeo and Juliet, safely wed
Romeo and Juliet, safely wed

I’ve seen more theater in the past couple weeks than I have in ten years, thanks to being a photographer for the Capital Fringe Festival. My mission is to go and take pictures of the performances. While I’m focused on my job, it’s hard not to be moved, one way or another, by what I see. Sometimes, I’ve forgotten to hit the shutter because I’ve been laughing so hard.

These are the Fringe shows that I’ve really enjoyed.

Romeo and Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending
This got a great review in the Washington Post – and for good reason. The young cast performs their own version of this classic play with gusto. Plus, you can the tragedy into comedy. At various points during the performance, Romeo turns to the audience and asks what he should do. Should he pursue Juliet or Rosaline? There are eight possible endings to the play. The night I saw it, Romeo and Juliet ended up alive and married. One drawback: the venue for the play is a steamy one but you’ll probably forget the heat.

Ridgefield Middle School Talent Nite
A hilarious show, filled with delightfully gawky characters, performed by just two actors. They manage to capture all the torture and discomfort of perhaps the worst talent show you’ve ever seen. Like a true Fringe performance, the audience is drawn into the performance, clapping for the different talents and even singing and participating in the production.

(Snap)shots on a Greyhound Headed Home
I’m not a big fan of modern dance but this is a very sexy and intimate show, performed in one of Fringe’s smallest venues. It’s beautifully done and tells a sad and romantic story.

Writing and Taking Pictures at the Capital Fringe Festival

I’ve been busy for the past couple weeks as an official photographer for the Capital Fringe Festival. It’s been a great experience, giving me the chance to use my new camera, the Canon Rebel T2i, and the opportunity to take pictures of performers, which I really enjoy.

And I’ve gotten to see a lot of theater in tiny spaces, where you’re inches away from the actors – that’s part of what makes Fringe so special. From women in passionate embrace to remixed Shakespeare, it’s an intimate experience that can be uncomfortable, strange or delightful, depending on the performance. Sometimes you just can’t look away, try as you might.

But Fringe is more than just theater. It aims to create community in DC, striving to be a citywide celebration of the arts. Fringe wants everyone to be involved.

For people interested in creativity, it’s hard not to be drawn into the Fringe orbit. For example, I attended a discussion on Does Art Matter as a photographer but ended up writing about the workshop for the Pink Line Project.

The Capital Fringe Festival runs until July 25 in Washington, DC.

Capital Fringe Festival Preview

Fringe is fun. I went to the preview of the Capital Fringe Festival last week. I got to see sneak peeks of upcoming shows while enjoying my favorite beer (Bell’s Two-Hearted) all under the big tent of Fort Fringe. Singing Austrians, half-naked women, magic acts, rowdy bands – it was all there.

It’s hugely inspiring to be around so many fearless, creative people who have brought their visions to the stage. Plus, the festival is put on by my good friend Julianne Brienza, who I interviewed last year for the Pink Line Project.

The Capital Fringe Festival runs from June 8-25 across Washington. The shows are numerous and fast-paced so you’re bound to find something you’ll like. It’s not your typical theater experience.

Interview with Julianne Brienza, Executive Director of the Capital Fringe Festival

Julianne Brienza

Julianne Brienza

I’ve done another interview for the Pink Line Project, this time with Julianne Brienza, Executive Director of the Capital Fringe Festival.

I met Julianne several years ago, when Fringe was just starting out. It’s amazing and inspiring to see how far she’s come. Fringe is definitely something that way too serious DC needs. As she describes in the interview, Washington is very much a city on the rise in terms of the arts.