Project type: personal photo-reporting project
A cliché of backstage photography consists in capturing, and often glamorizing, the prep work—the makeup process, the quaint fabrics and costumes, the mirrors and reflections, and so on.
But anyone who has spent some time in the wings of a theater or musical production has witnessed other scenes, so spontaneous and short-lived that it may seem difficult to isolate them from the busy current of backstage life. This might explain why they are rarely, if ever, documented.
I am referring to the delirious playlets that cast (and sometimes crew) members often drift into and out of in a split second, while awaiting their turn at the makeup station or the water cooler, or while waiting to jump on the “real” stage—the one facing the paying audience. It is these ephemeral, improbable yet actually-occurring scenes that I started trying to capture a few years ago.
The official text onstage may be “Fiddler on the Roof”, “My Fair Lady” or Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore”. But backstage, the naked walls become the set of a new, protean and transient play, where the subtext and the subconscious take the stage as the main text. Fellow cast members—and the camera—are both the partners and the audience of this moment in which one’s “real” identity is suspended, or redefined, and the boundary between person and character disappears. (The meaning of each scene is also open to interpretation, and the titles I propose add yet other facets to the identity to the subjects.)
Is this ‘backstage theater’ essentially different from the islets of theatricality surfacing in our day-to-day interactions with close friends and family? Or is it simply a beefed up version of it, reaping the benefits of the costumes, the makeup and the rich creative environment?
In any case, these scenes allow the subjects to step, for an instant, into portraits of themselves which magnify latent identities that might otherwise remain unknown.
All productions in this series: Encore! Educational Theatre Company (Robert Binder / Paul Salter / Arlene Chertoff), Jerusalem.
Costumes: Robert Binder.
Makeup Mistress: Susan Schwartz Lazinger.