Two photos taken during Ben’s final weekend of Mean Girls, a two-year journey that concluded on Sunday night. The photo on the left was taken by a fan (Lauren Smith) and posted to Flickr; the one on the right is of the men’s ensemble on stage. Look for an announcement soon about the boy’s next project.
On Saturday, Emma performed in her last show at Point Park before she graduates in three weeks. On Sunday, Ben finished his run in Mean Girls with two shows. Very proud of all my children but leave it to my twins to face large and yet different milestones on the same weekend.
The boy announced that he's leaving the show on April 7. On to new adventures!
On February 18, after getting back from the weekend festivities in Durham, Ben taught a “Mean Girls” workshop in Lorton before heading back to New York. Broadway World ran a press announcement as well as these photos that were taken by the class organizers.
So the Mathletes did a video for National School Counseling Week. When worlds collide…
Between my birthday, the crazy winter weather, the ongoing government shutdown, and the anger over students taunting and harrassing a Native American veteran who served in Vietnam, it’s been a heckuva a week. (And that’s not counting a trip to South Carolina and a shoot at the Library of Congress.)
• Monday: Dipping a toe into the Toddler in Chief cesspool that now has kept portions of the government closed for more than three weeks: HTF (TF being exactly what you'd expect) can he justify using the phrase "humanitarian crisis" to justify his call for a border wall? Especially when it relates to anyone who is disadvantaged? Come on, even my GOP friends can see the lack of sincerity in that.
I'll just leave it there. No further explanation necessary.
Pause. Pause. Beat. Beat.
Nah. Not worth it.
• Tuesday: Quote from Hayes Carll: “I take stock of myself and the world around me and write about it. ... I understand a lot of people look to music as an escape, and it can be really upsetting when it feels like that’s disrupted. But I have a really low tolerance for the people who say ‘shut up and sing.’ It minimizes everybody’s voice. We are citizens, and we are artists.”
• Wednesday: The Mathletes are at it again, this time at last weekend’s BroadwayCon.
• Thursday: I’m now 54. Great notes and posts from family and friends far and wide. It’s enough to make someone in his early 50s feel like the cool kid from elementary school.
• Friday: Reblogged from @alicexblog, on the topic of whether it’s OK to platonically say “I love you” to your friends: “I think it’s incredibly important to express when you love someone. Tell your parents if you love them. Tell your friend who helped you through every bad break up since you were 14. Tell your fat cat. Tell them.”
• Saturday: I hope the smug looks have been wiped off the faces of the students from a Catholic school in Northern Kentucky who verbally harassed a Native American elder and other activists at the Lincoln Memorial. The students, who were wearing red Make American Great Again hats, were shown in a video that went viral mocking the elder, a Vietnam War veteran who was chanting as part of the Indigenous Peoples March.
Postscript: As always, there are two sides ot every story, and additional video has been released that shows both adults and the youth did nothing to de-escalate the situation. It's sad all around, and yet another example of how divided we've become as a country. Everyone has a position and no one is willing to listen to the other side. That's difficult to swallow.
Our family — all seven of us — went to a frigid New York City for Thanksgiving this year, the first time we’ve been there for the parade since 2011. (Our son, Ben, was performing in the parade for the first time as part of the cast of Mean Girls.)
Before sunrise on Thursday, with temperatures in the low 20s, we trekked down to midtown Manhattan to grab a spot close by and catch some of the action.
Streets were closed off, so my daughter Emma and I had to wind our way to meet other family members on the parade route. We walked in zig-zag fashion from 8th Avenue and 34th Street to 6th Avenue and 37th as the sun rose.
Once we found our spot, I didn’t take many photos of the parade because the temperature dropped to 19 degrees with a cold and bitter wind. We later learned it was the coldest parade on record.
Soon, I will post photos from the parade and from the blowing up of the balloons just west of Central Park. For now, enjoy these images of a stunningly beautiful sunrise.
Over the years, I’ve shot a number of parades, from small-town community events to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day spectacle in New York. But I’ve never been part of something like last week.
Looking back at what I shot in New York, I decided the best way to display it was to combine the two events — the balloons being blown up and the parade itself. It's an attempt to provide a different view on the spectacle many of us know only on television.
Thursday’s parade in Manhattan was the coldest in the history of the Macy’s event, as temperatures plunged into the upper teens with a biting wind. Despite multiple layers of clothing, I could not take more than a handful of photos — it was THAT cold — because I simply could not grip the camera.
It was warmer, but not much, on Wednesday afternoon, when I walked through the Upper West Side area with my oldest son and his fiancee to see the balloons being inflated.
If you’ve never been to the parade and plan to go, get there a day early and go see the balloons being blown up in the area near the Museum of Natural History. Viewing winds around Columbus Avenue, 77th Street, Central Park South and 81st Streets.
The best part is that it’s all free. But be sure to take hand warmers.
To see more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
The cast of "Mean Girls" performed the song "Fearless" during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade amid record low temperatures — 17 degrees with a strong windchill, to be exact. Here is the performance.
And right after, we all found our way to a bar. Because, of course, this is how our family rolls on a frigid Thanksgiving morning.
Oct. 3 is big in Mean Girls lore, so the show had a number of things lined up to celebrate the day, starting on Monday with the appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers and continuing with a supersized media blitz.
First up: My son can certainly tap a pencil.
A feature was posted on Broadway.com featuring photos and biographical information on the show's 15-member ensemble. The idea behind the feature was "a take on OG mean girl, Marie Antoinette."
Here is a behind-the-scenes video that includes a brief interview with the boy toward the end:
Meanwhile, another video from the MathLit trio was posted in honor of the Oct. 3 celebration, featuring a special guest appearance. It's hysterical.
And finally, before last night's show, the cast was joined by Tina Fey and Jonathan Bennett, who played Aaron Samuels in the 2004 movie to unveil West Fetch Street to the world.
A few notes from the weekend:
• Insomniac/DVR alert: Members of the Mean Girls cast are scheduled to be on Late Night with Seth Myers tonight. You might see someone you know...
• Thanks to Gary Vorwald for taking these photos at the Broadway Flea Market on Sunday. After shooting a festival at Forest Hills Stadium Saturday, I was there briefly before leaving for home.
• The Broadway Flea is an annual fall tradition that raises money for a wonderful cause — Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. It also is, excuse the expression, the Stage Door from Hell. Ben and I spent 45 minutes walking to get coffee at a Starbucks that was just two blocks from the Mean Girls booth.
• Jill and I saw an early screening of “A Star is Born,” which will be released on Friday. Lady Gaga is a revelation and Bradley Cooper (writer/director/producer/actor/singer-songwriter) creates a work of Hollywood art. Wow. Highly recommended. (Small world bonus: Jason Isbell, the artist I primarily went to shoot at Saturday’s festival, has written one of the best songs in the film — the lovely ballad “Maybe It’s Time.”)
The Mathletes are at it again.
As they were coming off stage at the Tony Awards, Ben photobombed Amy Schumer and Carey Mulligan with a "Hi, Mom" on our wedding anniversary. Surreal.
Four more photos from a remarkable weekend. Clockwise from bottom left: Ben at Sunday morning's rehearsal; Ben and Emma at the Tony Awards after-party; the Mean Girls performance; and with friends from Northern Virginia before the after-party.
Here's a screenshot from The Today Show, where the “Mean Girls” cast performed “Apex Predator” from the show today. Check out the performance below.
And things just keep getting more surreal. Congrats, son!
And in other family-related news, Jill co-hosted a Facebook live discussion today on the second season of "13 Reasons Why" for the American School Counselor Association. To see the video, go here.
I'm beginning to think "Our Reality Show" is a good name for this blog...
One of my favorite songs from the show. Great performance. (And yes, you can raise your right finger on late night TV.)
Congratulations to the Mean Girls ensemble, which tied with Carousel for best on Broadway at last night's Chita Rivera Awards! We are so thrilled that all of you received this special recognition for your hard work.
In that vein, The Ensemblist, an online advocate for Broadway ensemble actors, is working with the Actors’ Equity Association’s #EveryoneOnStage campaign to petition for two new categories for the 2019 season: Best Chorus in a Musical or Play, and Best Ensemble in a Musical or Play.
Last week, Mo Brady posted The Ensemblist’s nominees for “Best Actors Not Eligible for a Tony Award This Season." And a certain child of ours was one of them.
“Nobody on Broadway moves with as much unbridled energy as Ben Cook,” Brady writes. “When he dances, it’s us if every limb is working in harmony, transmitting the choreographic intention not only from his core but from his guts. In what has become his calling card, Cook flawlessly executes the high-octane choreography of Mean Girls with reliability, slaying from ‘It Roars’ to ‘Apex Predator.’”
Seeing our 20-year-old twins in performances this weekend, with a 400-mile road trip in between, was a real treat.
First up was Emma's performance at Point Park Connections show at the Pittsburgh Playhouse on campus. (I took only one of these photos, and it's the one of the program no less.)
The next day, Jill and I had breakfast with Emma before driving to Manhattan, where we stayed up WAAAY past our bedtime to watch HBO's "Paterno" with Ben and a group of his friends after the "Mean Girls" performance. 3 a.m. was totally worth it, as was the early wakeup call to finish a freelance project.
Then, on Sunday, we went to the opening of "Mean Girls" and to the after-party in SoHo.
Attending one of Ben’s opening nights has gotten easier over the years — I no longer want to drink the entire bar to calm my nerves before the curtain — but each evening is special in its own way as you see the hard work of your son and his fellow cast members pay off.
Now it’s on to Boston to shoot another show at Wheelock Family Theatre!
#ProudStageDad #lucky #Coffeebythegallon #NottoooldforthisstuffyetIthink
April 6: Very proud of Emma and her fellow dancers who performed at the Point Park Connections show last night. Our youngest daughter was great!
April 7: “Paterno” airs at 8 p.m. EST tonight on HBO (with repeats throughout the month). It's a NY Times Critic's Pick with a certain young man name checked in the lead of the review, which you can see here.
April 8: At some point, I'll stop, but this weekend has been a little overwhelming as the "Mean Girls" opening approaches. For example, check out this interview with Tina Fey on CBS Sunday morning. You can see the boy in some of the “behind the scenes” clips toward the end.
A fun weekend, complete with a several state tour is ahead to watch our twins in their natural habitat: The stage.
Today, we drive from VIrginia to Pittsburgh to watch Emma dance in a show at Point Park. Then, tomorrow, we head to Manhattan, where we'll see HBO's "Paterno" with Ben and his friends, and then stick around Sunday for the "Mean Girls" opening night show/activities.
Looking forward to it!!
The promotional ramp up to the Mean Girls opening has been in full swing this week with the release of production photos as well as the video "B-roll" for the show. (Shhh... I think it’s gonna be a hit.)
First, here is one of the promotional photos, given the boy’s attested love for math during his K-12 years, is proof that he’s a fine actor. The photo, by Joan Marcus, appeared on Playbill.com today.
And here is the B-roll. Hope you enjoy it.
In the midst of a crazy busy month, I managed to take a few days and recharge with my oldest son, Nicholas. During his spring break — he’s getting a master’s degree from Elon — we traveled to Pittsburgh so he could see Emma at her college. We then went to New York, where we met up with Jill and Ben and saw a preview of Mean Girls.
Of course, my camera was my constant companion. Here are a few shots I took while Nick and Jill saw another show, the wonderful Come from Away.
I've been in charge of magazine covers, have had photos I've taken on a couple, but never have I seen one of my kids on a cover — until now. Congratulations to Ben and the “Mean Girls” cast. You all deserve it!
Back to School: First day of rehearsals yesterday for Mean Girls. Previews begin March 12; show opens on April 8. Tickets selling fast. Very proud of the boy and his newest Broadway family.
Dance Spirit magazine is featuring ensemble members from the cast of Mean Girls in its current issue. In addition to the photos above, they also interviewed each cast member, including Ben. Here is what was published:
His dancing in three emojis: 🙆🕺🏿 🤸
Hidden talent: "I've loved photography since I was a little kid. My dad is a dance photographer himself, and he inspired me to pick up a camera when I was 10 years old. It's been one of my favorite hidden hobbies ever since."
If he were a superhero, his power would be: "Flying! Mainly so I wouldn't have to worry about the trains into midtown."
Dance idol: "Bob Fosse. I was initially inspired by the alley dance he did with Jack Lemmon in My Sister Eileen."
Weirdest thing in his dance bag: "My cupping set! It's a contraption designed to release the fascia around your muscles."
Favorite iconic Mean Girls quote: " 'She doesn't even go here!' "
Mean Girls character he most relates to: "Damian, because he's outgoing and positive and so genuine. I'd like to think I have some of those qualities, and I think we could all learn from Damian's positivity and open-mindedness."
Best cheese fries he's ever eaten: "I'd never eaten cheese fries until a press event we did last fall. I really liked them!"
Advice for kids dealing with bullying by their own "mean girls": "Know that whatever those bullies are saying to you is coming from their own insecurities. They feel the need to put others down because they're not comfortable in their own skin. Take whatever they say with a grain of salt and continue to be the beautiful person you are."
Also here's a behind-the-scenes video from the shoot.
Wow. "Paterno" premieres on HBO on April 7 and the Mean Girls formal Broadway opening is on April 8. The boy’s gonna have a big week. Check out this trailer.
Start of something new — Washington, D.C., October 2017
Unexpected surprise: Ben scored two extra tickets to last night’s "Mean Girls" premiere, so I get to see it with Emma — who is on break from Point Park — as my seat partner and all of my girls here in D.C.
A great evening. Saw the invited dress for Mean Girls — wow — and then watched the wild ending of Game 5 of the World Series that the Astros won 13-12. With Nick, Conner and Jill, no less. I’m feeling good.
Interesting factoid that proves something special is happening with the Astros: Kershaw's lifetime record in games where the Dodgers gave him a lead of four runs or more was 100-1.
It’s gonna be fun…
Also, the boy has finally made it to Netflix. Catch it while you can.
This is a beautiful performance by a lovely young man we are fortunate to know. Given everything from the past few days, take a moment to listen to DeMarius R. Copes cover this song by John Legend.
Ben made his Broadway debut in “Ragtime” at the Neil Simon Theatre in November 2009. On Monday, his roommate and fellow "Newsies" cast member, Josh Burrage, makes his Broadway debut in “Cats” at the same theatre. Adding to the small world aspect of professional theatre, the marquee for “Mean Girls” — Ben’s next show — went up today across the street at the August Wilson.
As Ben said when he posted this photo, “Honored to walk to work with my roommate and see this. Lots of love for 52nd Street.”
After a day filled with depressing news (the shooting in Las Vegas, the death of Tom Petty), this was nice to see. The boy is taking over the @playbill Instagram account tomorrow.
And in other news, this announcement also came out today. Very proud of Ben, who has been cast in the Broadway-bound "Mean Girls," written by Tina Fey and produced by Lorne Michaels. The show opens on Oct. 31 at The National Theatre in Washington, D.C., with a run planned for New York in the spring.