So, after 21 years, our marriage is officially an adult. Four children, including three within the first two years of marriage, are enough to challenge anyone. But we've made it this far and now get to enjoy some precious time with each other, such as today's Nats game. It's wonderful to go through this life with someone you consider your best friend. I love you, Jill!
I watched the Tonys last night in my hotel room in New Orleans, where I'm starting a two-week trip that includes shooting conferences here and in San Francisco, with another trip to Texas in between. (Bonus: Nick is meeting me here tomorrow and will be with me through the Texas jaunt. Yay!)
It was wonderful to see so many people I've become acquainted with performing and being part of the ceremony, and you couldn't help but love the speeches of Ben Platt and the Divine Miss M.
I got here early yesterday and walked around the city, dodging the raindrops to take a few photos. In the afternoon, I went on a swamp tour (why not?) and then called it a night, sitting in my bed and happily watching the Tonys.
Based on all the noise I heard outside, it sounded like the streets of NOLA were viewing the show on a giant screen, but I decided not to be part of their fun. And given the marathon of the next two weeks, I'm happy with that.
In her role with the American School Counselor Association, my wife Jill has been fielding a number of calls about the ongoing controversy surrounding Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why,” the TV series about a teen girl’s suicide.
Earlier this week, she appeared on the National Public Radio show On Point, which you can stream here. Last week, Jill was part of a webinar that included representatives from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Association of School Psychologists.
The webinar, titled “A Teachable Moment: Using 13 Reasons Why to Initiate a Helpful Conversation about Suicide Prevention and Mental Health,” drew more than 1,500 participants. You can stream it here.
Very proud of my spouse and the work she is doing on this extremely important topic!
The Metropolitan School of the Arts Academy, which opened in 2013 with 15 high school freshmen and sophomores, graduates its second class this June. With the first class, I did a series of portraits at the Lorton Workhouse, incorporating the students’ chosen art form into the aesthetic of the former prison.
This set took a new, though somewhat familiar, path. In all but one instance, the students wanted to use the Workhouse, where the soon-to-be graduates spent three of their four high school years. The familiar setting, however, lent new opportunities for creativity.
The result is “Multiple Exposures.” I’m interested in hearing what you think.
To see the photos of all the MSA graduates, go to http://glenncook.virb.com/msa-grads.
Last week, I had the privilege of shooting the 28th annual Servant of Justice Awards Dinner for Legal Aid of the District of Columbia.
Legal Aid is Washington, D.C.’s oldest and largest general civil legal services organization serving low-income residents in our nation’s capital. This year’s dinner, with 775 guests and more than 40 sponsors, raised $1.2 million for the organization.
Honored with the Servant for Justice awards this year were Vanita Gupta, former head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and Donald B. Verrilli Jr., former U.S. Solicitor General. Gupta is incoming president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, while Verrilli is a partner with Munger, Tolles and Olson. David Young, an associate with Ropes & Gray, received the organization’s top honor for volunteer excellence.
For more photos from the dinner, go to my Facebook album here or visit www.legalaiddc.org.
Soggy conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of thousands of supporters who came to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to advocate for environmental causes and science research on Earth Day.
The set up for the March for Science was similar to the Women’s March on Washington, held just three months and one day earlier. I was hired by the Entomological Society of America, one of numerous science organizations that took part in the event, to shoot members getting ready for and participating in the rally.
Throughout the rally, a broad range of speakers were supported by entertainment and a series of short films and clips. Questlove, whose Grammy Award-winning group The Roots serves as the in-house band for The Tonight Show, was one of the co-hosts. Jon Batiste, music director and bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, led the house band.
The steady drizzle turned into a downpour by late morning, and I left before seeing Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) speak or Thomas Dolby perform. These photos, however, capture some of the spirit of the day, which was mirrored in more than 600 cities on more than six continents.
To see more photos from the March, go to my Facebook page here.
Last night, in a small, sweltering room on the 18th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School, I shot production photos for Metropolitan Youth Theater’s production of “columbinus,” a provocative and troubling play that that focuses on “the dark recesses of American adolescence.”
Suggested by the April 1999 Columbine shooting, with a script that includes excerpts from discussions with parents, survivors and community leaders in Littleton, Colo., the play was created by the United States Theatre project and performed Off-Broadway in 2006. It runs at 8:30 p.m. today and 7 p.m. Saturday in the Black Box Theatre at Metropolitan School of the Arts.
The cast of eight opens the show as teenage archetypes, without names but labels (Loner, Freak, AP (Advanced Placement), Rebel, Faith, Perfect, Prep, and Jock). Freak and Loner are bullied by their classmates and morph into Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold at the start of Act 2. The rest of the show, which takes its script from the journals and videos of Klebold and Harris, shows what happens in the days approaching Columbine and their subsequent suicides. An epilogue features survivors, parents, and townspeople reflecting on the events.
Warning: Given the subject matter and language, this is not a play for young or impressionable children. It is, however, a courageous step forward for Metropolitan Youth Theatre, which was founded in 2014 by three high school students who wanted area youth to perform in shows with adult themes. Past productions, all musicals put on entirely by high school and college students, have included “Rent” and “Spring Awakening.”
“columbinus,” is directed by Chad Vann, a Hayfield High School senior who is one of the group’s co-founders. Vann also is one of the eight cast members (Jock). The rest of the cast includes Brian Perry (Loner/Dylan Klebold), Danny Waldman (Freak/Eric Harris), AP (Joshua Mutterpearl), Rebel (Bridgette Saverine), Faith (Erin Claeys), Perfect (Hallie Friedman), and Prep (Jackson Miller). Madison Hite is the understudy for Faith.
Alyssa Denton is producing the show, with Hailey Parker-Combes serving as the costume designer and Delaney Claussen as the sound designer.
A limited number of tickets are available at the box office for the shows. MSA is located at 5775 Barclay Drive, Suite 4 in Alexandria, Va., 22315.
To see more photos from the production, go to my Facebook page here.
Roger Ailes' legacy with Fox News will be both derided and celebrated in our polarized nation, but I hope the death of Chris Cornell is not overlooked in our discussions.
Yes, Cornell was a musician who met an early and tragic end. But he also was a husband and dad who suffered from a terrible inner turmoil. He was found after an acclaimed concert; police are investigating it as a death by suicide.
Depression sucks, folks. The collateral damage is awful, too. #RIP #AFSP #suicidepreventionhotline
One challenging week: Computer craps out, Internet goes down (not related), and this year's post-50 doctoral round robin continues with with a hernia repair. So I'm behind, sore (not in the behind, fortunately), and frustrated.
On the good news front, the Internet is back up and the hernia is fixed, which means I can start (gingerly for the next day or so) to catch back up. My twins are loving their time together in NYC, Nick saw Oprah yesterday and Kate has a variety of exciting things coming over the next week. Oh, and my wife is a rock star.
All in all, despite the frustrations, it could be much worse.
The circle is complete, three years after Ben's first series of auditions. "Newsies" the movie is now available for purchase on iTunes and other digital services. (I'm waiting to see the trend post on the large number of musical theatre fans skipping school today...)
I've been trying to refrain from entering the Trump fray on Facebook, knowing that saying anything about the current shit show we live in will both alienate and embolden people. But this column by David Brooks — someone I don't always agree with, BTW — nails it on the head.
On a related note, I was fortunate to see "Come From Away" last week in New York. It tells the story of how a small Newfoundland community bound together to help airline passengers stranded in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Without being overly political, the show is beautiful, a salve on the wounds of history and a temporary respite from our current situation. It is a ray of hope in increasingly dark times.
In the summer of 1973, I split my time between my parents' house in Texas City and my grandparents' home in Longview. Most of that time was spent with my beloved grandmother, who sat glued to the television every day.
These were the days before cable/satellite/streaming, so daytime viewing options were largely limited to soap operas, game shows, and reruns of old black and white sitcoms and Westerns on the UHF channels. My grandparents' Zenith TV was noteworthy because it had a remote control, so you didn't have to get up and down to turn the channel, although the unreliable antenna meant you sometimes had to stand on one leg and hold your arm at a certain angle to watch a show.
Instead of the ubiquitous "I Love Lucy," "Beverly Hillbillies" and "Little Rascals" reruns, my 8-year-old self was decidedly bored watching a bunch of men in suits speaking into microphones. I asked my grandmother a bunch of questions about the presidents, which had become a fascination for me because my elementary school was named after not one, but two of our country's former leaders (FDR and Woodrow Wilson). She patiently answered and said we always have to respect the office, no matter whether we respect the person occupying the top seat at the time.
As my interest grew in the presidents, I took a minute to write a letter that summer to the White House. Normally I don't write fan letters, and my timing likely could not have been worse. But hey, I was 8 after all.
Soon after, I received a form letter and a black and white photograph of the White House. Not surprisingly, a photo of our then-president was not enclosed.
I thought about those summer days again this morning and wondered whether it's a case of history repeating itself. One thing is for sure, there will be no fan letters sent from my address anytime soon.
The six Cook-McFarland cousins have not all been together in more than four years, so it was great to have everyone (including Conner, Nick's significant other) in the same place this past weekend in Boone for Jill's family reunion. These pics show they were quick to pick up where they left off...
To see more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
The Hodges-Love family reunion drew about 50 people to Oak Grove Baptist Church in Boone over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. It brought together family members from Jill's maternal grandparents, many of whom we haven't seen in years. Here are a few photos; the rest can be seen in my Facebook album here.
Meanwhile, as part of the event, I took a series of shots of old family photos to display in the room. Below is one; you can see the rest by going to this link in the VIsual Storytelling section of the website.
I've had the kids on the brain this morning, particularly thinking about the pyramid picture I took of the six first cousins in Boone over Memorial Day. I wanted to recreate the pyramids the kids did in their youth and (after much cajoling/negotiation) managed to get them to recreate this one from Memorial Day weekend nine years earlier.
Early morning at Arlington Cemetery — March 2017
Al's pal — Washington, D.C., April 2017
For the second time this year, I was fortunate to go to Boston to shoot a show at the Wheelock Family Theatre, a small regional Equity house on the campus of Wheelock College. Last Wednesday and Thursday, the cast of “Charlotte’s Web” conducted their final two dress rehearsals before opening on Friday night.
As with many shows that focus on kids, the children in the cast were split into two companies, with the adults doing all the performances. I especially appreciated Wheelock’s total sense of inclusion in casting both the children and the adults. It gave this classic children’s story an even greater sense of universality.
Also fascinating was the aerial silk choreography, which used fabric suspended from the ceiling to transport Charlotte (played by Caroline Lawton) around her web as she writes various words about Wilbur the pig (Michael Keita Hisamoto). It really is something to see.
“Charlotte’s Web” runs through May 14. For tickets and information on the theatre, its classes and its mission, visit http://wheelockfamilytheatre.org.
For more photos from the show, go to my Facebook album here.
Some of my favorite people in this world celebrate their birthdays today, but one in particular stands out. I love you, Jill Cook, with all my heart and soul. Thank you for being the centerpiece of life's greatest adventure: our family.
The best part is that we're celebrating it — along with our 20th anniversary — in Venice, Italy!
#anniversarytour #whodathunkit #grownkidsyay
The Virginia Dance Coalition recently held DanceFest 2017 in Alexandria, a weekend event featuring master classes for students and performances by 13 area companies/studios. I was the official photographer for the event, which featured 20 performances in a two-hour show at the end of the festival.
These photos were taken during the dress rehearsal, where I could walk around and look for different angles, and the performance. Companies performing, in alphabetical order, were:
Ballet Arts Ensemble, Ballet Nova Center for Dance, Classical Ballet Theatre, DanceArt Theater, Encore Theatrical Arts Project, Fairfax Ballet Company, Kalavaridhi Center, Kista Tucker Insights, Metropolitan Youth Ballet, Nrityanjali, Play Time Tap, Virginia Ballet Company, and Xuejuan Dance Ensemble.
A new gallery is up in the Performances: Theater & Cabaret section of the website. To see more photos from the event, go to my e-store at http://glenncookphotos.smugmug.com. If you are interested in purchasing photos that are not watermarked, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two more photographs that appear in "Road Show," my exhibit at the Workhouse Arts Center that ends with the Collector's Showcase fundraiser this Saturday. Both photos have appeared here before.
The first, taken in October in Paris, is what you see when you look up from the ground at the Eiffel Tower. The second, "Congregation of Bees," was taken during a visit to Durham, N.C., last summer.
I hope you'll consider going to the exhibit before it closes. If you're interested in the Collectors Showcase event, go towww.workhousearts.org.
The first two months of 2017 have been as much of an adventure as the previous year was, and it’s showing no signs of letting up. In the new year alone, I’ve been to Boston twice, Asheville and Durham, N.C., once, set up two photo exhibits, photographed the Women’s March, finished headshots for 10 people, had two corporate shoots, completed three freelance stories, and taken pictures of a regional production of “Billy Elliot.”
Combine that with Jill’s job responsibilities, which included First Lady Michelle Obama’s last official function and the National School Counselor of the Year event, and some busy kids and … whew.
All of this is to say that it's been an extremely exciting year for the business, thanks to your support and words of encouragement. I also have a large ongoing project, several conferences already lined up for later in 2017, and a variety of other irons in the fire.
Unfortunately, I did get behind in keeping the website updated, so I’ve spent a couple of days trying to catch up. I've made some tweaks, and added some new content. Here’s what you’ll see if you decide to look around:
• New index pages for the Events & Performances section, with categories dedicated now to Meetings & Conferences, News & Feature Photography, Concerts, and Theater/Cabarets. This provides a better description of some of the types of photography I am doing.
• An updated Art & Dance section, with photos from a shoot last week.
• A completely updated blog, with more photos and videos.
Thanks, as always, for your interest. I hope you’ll come back and visit again soon!
My poster for "Road Show," now in building 16 at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton through March 4. Exhibit hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
So, in addition to this being Valentine's Day, we are marking the official kickoff of "Ben Cook Week" in the family. Last night started with Emma accompanying the boy to the Newsies movie premiere in New York.
Tomorrow it's Law & Order: SVU (check local listings) and then Newsies opens in movie theaters. Jill, Kate and I will see the movie with a bunch of family, extended family and friends at the Regal Springfield Town Center. Nick and Conner will see it in Durham and the Cook/Ghirardi clan are going in Clear Lake.
The movie, which received great reviews from those who saw the New York premiere, also is showing on Saturday and next Wednesday. Hope you get to see it!
My son, Ben, is performing tonight and Saturday as "Older Billy" in a special guest appearance as part of Wheelock Family Theatre's regional production of "Billy Elliot: The Musical."
I went to Boston during Thursday's blizzard to spend time with my 19-year-old and took a few shots at this morning's rehearsal with Seth Judice, who is playing the title role.
With appearances in "Law & Order: SVU" and the "Newsies" movie next week, the boy is well on his way to an adult career. But for a brief time at least, it's nice to see Ben return to the show that dominated much of his childhood.
Bonus photos: I took the photo below of Ben and Salma Hayek after she saw the show in Boston during the national tour in 2012. Right: Caught this picture of the boy with the “Newsies” poster during a lunch break today in Boston.
Given our family’s lengthy history with “Billy Elliot: The Musical,” it felt a little strange to see — and photograph — the show after three-plus years away. But anyone who has read my blog knows that being part of a theatre community means you will inevitably encounter circle backs, in which a show returns to your life in an unexpected way.
Circle back is what I did for two nights last week, watching from behind the lens while shooting “Billy Elliot” production photos for Boston’s Wheelock Family Theatre. On Feb. 10 and 11, our son Ben will have a circle back of his own when he teaches master classes and plays the role of Older Billy.
Moving any large show into a smaller regional house can be a challenging logistical task, but the cast and crew have done a terrific job. Thanks to Linda Chin Workman for bringing me in to photograph the show — I also took headshots for several cast members — and to everyone for making me feel welcome.
Here’s a taste of what I saw — and shot — over the two nights. Some of these photos are being used in reviews in local newspapers and online, a nice bonus.
If you are in the Boston area, you can see the show through Feb. 26. Buy your tickets by visiting www.wheelockfamilytheatre.org. Ben will perform as Older Billy at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, and 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11. He also is teaching master classes for youth ages 8 to 16 at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 11.
At last weekend's Women's March on Washington, I was drawn to the vast variety of signs and messages directed at our nation's new president. To commemorate the historic day, I decided to create a collage of the various messages and make it available to anyone interested in purchasing it.
Titled "Signs of the Times," the print also is available with a foam core backing. If you are interested, send me an email to email@example.com. A portion of any profits will be given to one or more nonprofits that served as "Partners" on the march.
In 2011, while walking to our apartment in New York from Penn Station, I happened upon the annual Broadway Barks event in Shubert Alley and was happily surprised to see two of my favorite actresses — Bernadette Peters and Mary Tyler Moore — up close. The two co-founded the animal adopt-a-thon in 1999 to promote animal adoption and make New York a no-kill city.
Moore, who won seven Emmys mostly for two classic shows that were a staple of my childhood, was known for her charitable endeavors. Her death on Tuesday at the age of 80 did not come as a huge surprise, but still caught me and I’m sure many of her fans off guard.
Thanks to syndication and streaming, we can continue to see Moore’s Laura Petrie and Mary Richards characters for ever. And I’m thankful that, for a few minutes at least, I had a chance to see one of my favorite comediennes do something she loved.
It's hard to imagine, on a sunny yet breezy and brisk morning, that this was the scene just one year ago today when Winter Storm Jonas (aka "Snowzilla) slammed the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area.
The storm, one of the largest in the area's history, brought more than 2 feet of snow to the region. Schools were closed for more than a week and remnants from the storm could still be seen when the next snowfall hit a month later.
As the storm moved into the area, longtime friend Joe Frey and I embarked on a trip into the District of Columbia with plans to take pictures. The conditions rapidly deteriorated, however, and all of these photos were taken from inside the truck with the windows rolled down.
What’s memorable about this storm, which brought as much with it in one push as the back-to-back “Snowmageddon” that dropped 30 inches on the area within a six-week period in 2009-10, were the people who were walking around a mostly deserted D.C. At times, it felt like an episode of the “Walking Dead.”
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here or over to the Visual Storytelling section of the website.
An estimated 500,000 people descended on Washington, D.C., Saturday to show their support for women’s rights the day after the presidential inauguration. The march, which started with speeches and performances at 10 a.m. and did not finish until late afternoon, was an incredible demonstration of support for women as well as traditionally marginalized groups.
The large number — organizers had originally predicted 200,000 — of people overwhelmed cell towers. The Metro system set a record with more than 1 million riders on Saturday alone.
That said, the event was peaceful and largely positive. More important, no arrests were reported the day after 230 were jailed during protests by self-described anarchists in D.C. for the inauguration. #WomensMarch #WomensMarchOnWashington
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
The Women's March was an incredible event, one in which people came from all over the country to, in Jill's words, show "what democracy looks like."
Peaceful, yet firm and assertive protests for the rights of women and traditionally marginalized groups made this a day to remember. Say what you will, and vote your conscience. But know also that a large coalition of people who took the November election for granted has had a wake-up call they will never forget.
And I hope and pray the country is all the better for it.
In my 30-year career, I've been fortunate to see — and photograph — the last five presidents at various events in Texas, North Carolina, New York City, and Washington, D.C. The first four times I saw the nation's commander-in-chief are from the pre-digital days (Reagan at the Challenger Memorial Service, Bush I at NASA's Johnson Space Center and at a campaign stop in Tyler, Clinton at the 200th anniversary of UNC-Chapel Hill).
I don't have any photos from those events scanned, but here are a few selections from others — Teacher of the Year ceremonies, NBC's Education Nation — dating back to 2003 and featuring Bush II, Clinton, and Obama.
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
Blast of Water — New York City, November 2016
This is the last week of "Road Show," my photography exhibit at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton. This piece, one of 12 on display and today's "Daily Photo," was taken at a fountain near City Hall in Lower Manhattan last fall.
To see the other photos in the exhibit, all of which are for sale, go to the second floor of Building 16 at the Workhouse.
This is cool. The movie will be shown in theatres on Feb. 16, 18 and 22. The list of places showing it has grown quite a bit, and you can get tickets now.
To say I'm overwhelmed by the birthday wishes is a great understatement. Thank you one and all for your nice words and messages. 52 may not be the new 25, but between the kindness of my family (biological and extended) and friends far and wide, I am humbled that you took a moment to acknowledge the fact that another year in this crazy thing I call life has passed.
The boy singing "Top of the World" from Tuck last week at 54 Below. The "Not At This Performance" cabaret featured understudies who never had the chance to perform on stage.
At today's School Counselor of the Year event, in her final public event as First Lady, Michelle Obama finished with these powerful words for the youth in our country:
"I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong ... Don't be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise. Lead by example with hope, never fear."
Jill is quoted in this Time.com piece promoting the ASCA School Counselor of the Year event that will take place tomorrow at the White House. So very proud of her and the much deserved recognition school counselors are receiving.
Another promo for the movie: Two weeks away!
Fourteen photos from my "Art & Dance" series are on display and for sale at Breathe Body and Mind, a small yoga studio in West Springfield, Va. All of the prints, which range in size from 8x12 to 20x30, have a 3/16-inch foam core backing and are suitable for framing.
The studio is located at 6350 Rolling Mill Place, Suite 103. You can learn more by visiting the Breathe Body and Mind website at www.breathebodymind.com.
Jill has long kidded that Ben would be a legitimate actor when he appears on an episode of "Law and Order." Well, at the end of tonight's episode, we finally got confirmation that next Wednesday is the date. (Check your local listings for air times.)
Last week, I posted photos shot during the final dress rehearsals for Wheelock Family Theatre's production of "Billy Elliot" in Boston. While there, I also took headshots of five cast members in a series of mini-sessions.
Tomorrow, I'm returning to Boston and Wheelock to take various photos and see our son, Ben, play Older Billy. If you've read my Stage Dad posts, you may recall the long journey that Ben took with the show on Broadway and the national tour. This weekend, he will play his fourth different role in the show.
If you're in the area and interested, go to www.wheelockfamilytheatre.org to get your tickets. Ben will perform as Older Billy at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, and 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11. He also is teaching master classes for youth ages 8 to 16 at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 11.
This from Jill: "It has been a great National School Counseling Week! A big thanks to Connie Britton, Glenn Cook's celebrity crush, for her support. #NSCW17"
Apprentice Approach, a freelance story that looks at how schools in Colorado are adopting facets of the Swiss apprenticeship model, appears in the new issue of American School Board Journal. You can read the story the story I wrote here and see a slideshow of photos from my trip with the delegation in the Events section of my website.
Market Square after the tree lighting ceremony — Alexandria, Va., November 2016
Ready to meet — Las Vegas, December 2016
Metropolitan Youth Theatre concluded its second year with a sold-out winter concert, “Let the Sunshine In: The Music of Hair,” Friday at MSA’s Alexandria studio. The show, directed by MYT co-founder Chad Vann, featured the work of 12 area high school and college students and a three-piece band led by MYT co-founder James Woods.
MYT was founded in 2015 by high school students Vann, Woods and Sam Cornbrooks (now in college in Manhattan) to give area youth the opportunity to create and perform in shows while learning all aspects of theater. The group, which has drawn student performers from both Northern Virginia and Maryland, has already done “The Last 5 Years,” “Rent,” “Songs for a New World,” and “Spring Awakening” in its brief existence.
Two more shows, including a production of the Tony Award-winning musical “Chicago,” are planned in 2017. For more information, visit www.metroyoutharts.org or follow the group on Twitter @metroyoutharts.
For more photos from the concert, visit my Facebook page here.
Last week, I shot a half-day Capture & Business Development Conference for APMP, a Washington, D.C.-based organization for professionals dedicated to the process of winning business through proposals, bids, tenders, and presentations. The association then posted the photos to its Flickr site for attendees to download
This past week, I photographed a conference in Las Vegas and stayed at the Westgate Hotel, which is best known by its former names and a famous occupant: Elvis Presley.
Built in 1969 by Kirk Kerkorian, the International Hotel was the largest in the world when it opened. Barbra Streisand was the opening-night performer, but Elvis made the hotel’s reputation. He performed there twice a year from July 1969 to December 1976, eight months before he died at age 42.
Kerkorian sold the International to Hilton in 1970 and went on to build the MGM Grand Hotel in 1973 and the MGM Grand 20 years later. Hilton owned the property until 2012 and it was sold again to the Westgate in 2014.
Known now for its race and sports book, which is the largest in Las Vegas, the Westgate is showing some signs of age. But it still is a huge draw for visitors, and the statue of Elvis remains in the lobby.
The first day of tech on any show is a challenge. After weeks of rehearsing in a studio, the cast and crew move into the theater to incorporate the other, necessary aspects of the production — set, lights, sound, costumes, and anything else that comes up during the last week before the show premieres.
The hurry up and wait effect can be trying for the cast, the staff and volunteers, and parents, especially first-timers who have not seen a show develop before their eyes.
Monday night’s rehearsal for “The Nutcracker” was no exception. A water line burst at the Ernst Cultural Center, where the show will be performed this weekend, which delayed the installation of the set. Plans to run all of Act I with the different casts had to be adjusted on the spot, and it took some time to start finding the rhythms that will become familiar for everyone by week’s end.
But by the time the five-hour rehearsal ended, you could see the signs of what will be an excellent show. As one parent said, “Long night, but it’s starting to come together.”
A limited number of tickets remain available for the shows Friday and Saturday. Go to www.metropolitanarts.org to get yours. To see more photos from the dress rehearsal, go to my Facebook album here.
Further evidence that our cat is Opus' spirit animal.
We could not be happier for Ginno and Elie, two members of our extended family who got married Sunday evening in New York with Ben and Casey Whyland serving as their witnesses. It's times like this when I'm reminded yet again that there is much to be thankful for...
In just under the wire, here's a video I made 7 years ago to commemorate Ben's Broadway debut in Ragtime. Ahh, the memories.
During the lunchtime hour yesterday, Jill and I volunteered at our local polls. We saw people who were voting for the first time and a lovely woman who cast her first ballot in 1944. They were proud and honored to have that right.
The crowd was steady but not overwhelming, a surprise given the rhetoric and passion we've seen on both sides for months now. It hinted at what I feared: People on the fence about their choices did not bother.
Last month, I talked to a man in Denver whose anger and disgust at everything taking place with this race rivaled my own. The difference? I knew his vote and mine would cancel each other's out.
Yesterday, I thought long and hard about that conversation. I also thought long and hard about how polarized our nation has become during my lifetime, and the stress we all have seemed to be under since this whole race began.
If this election cycle has taught us anything, it's that anger more often than not trumps love. It is much easier to hate others for their flaws than to love despite them. And history is quick to repeat itself if we don't do something about it.
Ben and Josh Burrage performing "Unemployed" to the music of "I'm Alive" from Next to Normal during Sunday's variety show at 54 Below in New York. The boys, who are roommates, wrote the lyrics to the tune.
Take a look. You might see someone you know...
It's December (aka "birthday month") at our house, so here's a flashback to one of my favorite photos of the four kids holding hands in a brief moment of solidarity. Every time I see this photo, it makes me smile.
The death of astronaut and former U.S. Senator John Glenn brought attention to the fact that my legal name is the same as his. Born three years after Glenn's space flight, I've spent much of my life explaining that I'm named after my dad and grandfather, not the astronaut.
Here, I went into more detail...
Surprised the oldest on his birthday yesterday in Durham. It's the first birthday we've spent together since 2009.
Birthday Month, Parts 2 & 3: Wishing the happiest 19th to Ben and Emma, separated by distance in body but always together in spirit. We love you both so much!
Highlights from the Association for Career & Technical Education's "Vision 2016" conference, held Nov. 30-Dec. 3 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. This slideshow of my photos was shown at the final general session.
Last week, while taking a break from photographing a conference in Las Vegas, a news story from my hometown caught my attention: A high school senior had committed suicide in front of her parents. She had been the victim of relentless cyberbullying over her weight and her appearance.
Immediately, I flashed back to Blocker Middle School and the late 1970s. When you've been bullied, your emotions are on constant standby for time travel.
I was bullied as a child. What people thought were innocent pranks about my appearance, lack of style, poor social graces, and general athletic ineptitude left scars that have taken decades to heal.
Then, when you see something like this, something that happened in the hometown you left long ago, those scars are exposed again. You time travel back to the days when you were that fat child, that pimply, awkward, uncoordinated teenager who liked books, movies, drama, and writing. It comes back like it was yesterday.
You are thankful for your loving parents, who were dealing with boatloads of crap of their own. You are thankful for your few close friends who accepted you for who you were. You are thankful for teachers like John C. Martin, for neighbors who became your extended family. You are thankful for those who, even if they didn't understand you, didn't judge. You are thankful that, no matter how bad things got at times, you had the inner strength to go on.
You hope that your children did not have to endure the same things you did, knowing that bullies now hide behind their thumbs and their glare-free screens. You try to treat people with kindness, holding on to the manners you were taught. You try to look at issues and events from both sides — and there are two sides to every story — and respect others' right to their opinions, no matter how different they may be from yours.
I appreciate the steps Texas City ISD took (making counselors available, sending a letter home to parents with other resources) in the wake of the girl’s suicide and pray that no copycat incidents — always a risk with this age group — occur.
But don’t bury your head in the sand. The temptation some have to prey on others because of their own insecurity and inadequacy has never gone away. It's part of our history that, despite twists like social media, repeats itself again and again.
When something like this happens, we feel the need to take action, but it always seems to be too little, too late. In Texas, two state legislators filed a bill last month that would require school districts to have cyberbullying policies. The law would require schools to notify parents when children are bullied. Anyone who electronically harasses or bullies another person under the age of 18 would face misdemeanor charges.
Why these types of policies are not already in place in every school district in America boggles my mind. Why bullying is tolerated, by adults and children alike, simply makes no sense. And yet it is.
The wounds heal. But the scars remain. #SuicideAwareness — 1-800-273-8255.
The essay above, posted to Facebook on Friday, generated a series of heartfelt, thoughtful, and affirming responses. A number of friends shared it, more than 70 (and counting) took the time to comment publicly, and a few sent private messages. (Read the thread here.)
Here are some of my thoughts, based on what others had to say:
• 2016, more than any other, has been the "Year of the Trolls." I spend a lot of time on the Internet and try my best to keep things positive, but I've noticed repeatedly that people pick up on a single word you say and use it as an excuse to rip. That is terrible for us as a society.
• School districts and state legislators have hesitated to push policies and laws through on this topic out of fear of liability. I understand why, but a policy that requires schools to notify parents when they receive a report of bullying should be a responsibility that districts are willing to take on. In the grand scheme, doing everything you can to keep parents in the loop and invested in the well-being of their children is a baby step.
• We’ve got to stop looking for simple, knee jerk answers (zero tolerance policies, banning all cellphones) to these types of problems. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this type of behavior, which has been perpetuated for generations.
• No place is immune from bullying, whether you’re in an industrial town in Texas, a rural community in North Carolina, or the hallowed suburbs of Washington, D.C. It won’t go away without a concentrated effort on everyone’s part, and that means support from schools, parents, classmates, community leaders, and politicians who have the chutzpah to stand up for changes. The problem sits in all our laps.
• For many young people, compassion is not innate; if anything, the exact opposite is, especially when you're trying to find your way. It truly is heartbreaking to see a kid who's obviously struggling socially, because you know how others have the capacity to be so cruel in those types of situations.
• Late elementary school and middle school is where so much of this damaging behavior begins. (Middle school was my personal “American Horror Story.”) Like many kids, I thought I could handle it myself, not knowing the damage I was doing to my psyche. I wish I had felt comfortable enough to talk to someone; I would have been much better off.
• As an average, run-of-the-mill teenage boy who was a barking seal when it came to girls, the power they had was fierce. For the most part, I saw it for what it was and didn't let it bother me. But there were a couple of cruel heartbreaks along the way, where I thought, hoped and prayed that someone was different and was severely disappointed. That's why so much of this cuts so deep and so hard. I realize how much of my life I wasted trying to get the approval of people who didn't give a shit.
• At times, I feel like we’ve thrown bullying into the same category as poverty — “Can’t do anything about it. Those people just need to step up.” We all need to step up.
Reunions that include all four kids are far too rare these days, so it was great to come together briefly in New York this past weekend. Ostensibly, the reason was to formally (and belatedly) celebrate Ben’s high school graduation, which we did with a small gathering of family (biological, extended, extensions of extended) on Saturday evening.
Nick and Conner came from Durham on Thursday night and, given that she had only visited the city a couple of times, we hit the sites hard on Friday. Nick took Conner to her first Broadway show (“Waitress”) and a friend gave them a backstage tour. Once the day was done, we had walked more than 10 miles.
On Saturday, Jill and Kate came in by train from Virginia and Emma flew in from Pittsburgh. At that point, we had all four children together for the first time since Emma’s graduation in July. Thanks to Ginno, Casey, Bernadette, and everyone else who took the time to stop by, say hello, give a hug, and catch up. It was great seeing all of you.
On Sunday, Emma and I stuck around and went to The Newsboys Variety Show at 54 Below to see Ben perform a song (“Unemployed”) with his roommate Josh. Again, I was struck by how kind and (obviously) talented the cast of this show is, and by how warm and friendly they are. They are a family unto themselves.
Before you knew it, the long weekend was over and it will be Christmas before the four are together again. But it was nice — very nice — while it lasted.
French take on the U.S. presidential election — Paris, October 2016
CareerWise Colorado, a statewide initiative that aims to place 20,000 high school students in apprenticeships by 2027, led a delegation of educators, state government and nonprofit leaders, and workforce development officials on a five-day tour to Zurich, Switzerland, last week to study the country’s apprenticeship programs.
Led by officials from CEMETS, a division of the KOF Swiss Economic Institute, the tour included site visits to Libs, CYP, Zurich Business School, Swisscom, and EWH-Zurich, which provide a variety of training programs to Swiss students. In Switzerland, 70 percent of students choose to do apprenticeships in more than 200 occupations.
CareerWise, a nonprofit that formally launched in September with the support of the state’s governor and several large Colorado companies, is inspired by the Swiss model for connecting employers and educational institutions.
CareerWise Colorado’s goal is to serve about 10 percent of eligible high school students in the state within 10 years. Starting in 2017-18, businesses and corporations in the fields of information technology, financial and professional services, advanced manufacturing, and hospitality will offer high school juniors and seniors paid, on-the-job learning experiences in high-demand fields.
One highlight of the trip was a visit to the Bern home of U.S. Ambassador Suzi Levine, a leader in the initiative to implement Swiss-style apprenticeship programs in the U.S.
Ambassador Levine and her husband, Eric, were gracious hosts and described in detail their passion for bringing the model to K-12 schools and community colleges in the U.S.
I've written about my love for Lori McKenna's music, most recently about her concert here and specifically about this song. So imagine my surprise when, in the middle of game 7 of the World Series, I logged on and discovered McKenna won the CMA Song of the Year for "Humble & Kind."
In a just world, this would be the news of the day. Either way, I'm happy to share it again. #CMA50
P.S. Congrats to the Cubs, too! Great to see their comeback and for the curse to finally be broken.
A quick collage of photos from a terrific trip to Europe. The Daily Photo is back...
I recoiled the first time I saw the video of Chris Stapleton’s “Fire Away.”
One of the best songs off of one of the best albums I’ve heard in years, the video tells the story of a couple who becomes entangled in the throes of the woman’s mental illness. It ends, as do too many of these stories, tragically, leaving the survivors to cope with unspeakable grief.
“The song is about loving someone unconditionally through not so easy times. The concept of the video came to me as that would be the hardest possible space in which to love somebody,” Stapleton says in an interview on the Campaign to Change Direction website.
Stapleton’s debut album, “Traveller,” has sold more than 1.5 million copies in the U.S. It won two Grammys and drew attention for its mix of old-school country and Southern rock. The video for “Fire Away” has been viewed almost 15 million times, creating awareness around an issue — mental illness — that is too rarely mentioned or not seen at all.
Until it’s too late.
I’m a lucky man.
I’ve known two people — one a close friend; the other the daughter of family friends — who have died by suicide. I have a daughter who is ADHD/bipolar and struggles to maintain her equilibrium at times. An uncle and an aunt also have suffered from severe mental illness.
Their experiences have helped shape me as a person and as a father. I feel fortunate to have known these people, and lucky to have a daughter as kind at heart as Kate is. And I’m committed to sharing our family’s struggles in an effort to draw some attention to mental health issues.
Hearing that Stapleton would be performing in D.C., I noted the show was scheduled during an intense period of travel and was unsure if I could make it on a Sunday night after returning from a second trip to Pittsburgh in two weeks. Then, when I went to buy a ticket, all that was left was a single seat in the upper nosebleed section.
Jill had a dinner to attend that night, so she told me to go ahead. The cause is the right one, and that’s what’s most important.
The Campaign to Change Direction is a national initiative designed “change the culture of mental health in America.” Its goal is to get people to learn and share the five signs of emotional suffering — change in personality; agitation; withdrawal; decline in personal care; and hopelessness — so that we can prevent tragedies and help others to heal.
When Stapleton had the idea for the video, he didn’t work with a specific charity on mental health issues. Actor Ben Foster, who is in the video, suggested the campaign, which has received the support of Prince William, First Lady Michelle Obama, and actor Richard Gere, among others.
Stapleton agreed to work with the organization, although he had no idea about the video’s potential impact on his audience. He also had to get his record company to buy into the project, noting that label executives “looked at me like I had three heads” when he told them the idea.
“I didn’t want to be in the video. I wanted to make it with these actors because it felt more artful and meaningful,” Stapleton says. “It was just a notion, but then we made it and it became real and useful and something that hopefully can make the world a better place. … That notion became a good thing.”
The DAR Constitution Hall is a great place to hear a show, but a tough venue to maneuver. The lines are long. The bathrooms are in inconvenient places. The seats, especially in the upper reaches, have extremely limited legroom.
Having driven more than 500 miles over the previous two days, I had to get up midway through the show and walk around a bit, so I went down to the restroom and saw an usher I had talked to while waiting in line earlier. Listening to the music, we made momentary small talk about the show and I mentioned my connections to the cause, then told him I had to go back up. I didn’t want to miss “Fire Away.”
At that point, the usher opened the door and said, “Go on in,” pointing me to an empty seat in the orchestra section. “Wait a few minutes,” this random stranger said, “and I’ll take you up a little further if I can.”
After standing in the back of the orchestra for a few minutes — by this point no one was sitting — the usher tapped me on the arm and escorted me up toward the front, just five rows from the stage. “Stand here,” he said. “You won’t have a problem.”
And then he left without a trace. Two minutes later, Stapleton started playing “Fire Away,” just in time for me to pull out my phone and record it. At the end, he asked the boisterous crowd to repeat the last chorus, holding up their phones to shine a light on issues that are underreported and often unseen.
The audience complied. Here is the video I took of the performance.
On Saturday, Lindsay’s family will participate — as they do every year — in one of the Out of the Darkness walks sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. If you would like to help, go to the team page here.
Pay it forward. It's the least we can do.
I think I may have found the official theme song of the 2016 election.
Two more election-related items:
• I turned on the TV last night during the debate and heard someone say, "Look at those hands!" Fortunately, the channel was ESPN.
• The "Well, duh" headline I saw last week: "Election is turning out to be unhealthy source of stress for many Americans."
This story is about life lessons, not giving up, the kindness of strangers, and a purse.
Yes, a purse.
Earlier this month, Jill, Emma and I were fortunate to attend the Pittsburgh Steelers-Kansas City Chiefs game at Heinz Field. Chris Ballard, who grew up across the street from my family in Texas City, now works for the Chiefs and arranged the tickets, complete with a pregame pass to stand on the sidelines.
Things started smoothly. Traffic was light for once on the trip from Virginia to Pittsburgh — a rare occasion indeed — and we had a nice time with Emma, who we had not seen since she started her freshman year at Point Park University. Emma gathered a group of her friends — new and old — for an Art & Dance shoot at Point State Park.
All in all, a very nice day leading up to the main event — a nationally televised Sunday Night Football game.
I hoped to bring my camera to the game, but Chris told me to look at the venue rules beforehand to make sure, and professional cameras were on the don’t list. Security crackdowns have been in force at major events around the country for the past several years, so it came as no surprise. We’ve been to several games at Nationals Park, and know the search-before-entry drill all too well.
But we didn’t realize that purses were on the banned list, too. Only small clear bags are allowed in the stadium and even if you dump your purse’s contents into an accepted clear bag, you can’t carry the purse in.
“Sorry, those are the rules,” the security guard said, pointing to a number of purses and bags residing in a nearby trash can.
Suddenly the nice day was turning almost as dark as the skies above.
I always tell my kids, "Don't be afraid to ask for something worthwhile, no matter how outlandish the request may seem." The worst thing a person can say is “no,” and rejection is part of life.
Occasionally, if you’re courteous and polite, people will surprise you with the same in return.
We didn’t have much time, but I decided to embark on a “Save the Purse” quest. I went to the box office and the customer service desk, asking if someone could hold on to it until after the game, but I was summarily rebuffed.
Finally, I walked over to the Don’s Appliances truck. Not being from the area, I didn’t know that Don’s is a luxury manufacturer of fancy kitchens, or that the gentleman handing out free samples of food is actually a master chef named Anthony Marino.
I explained the situation about the purse, the fact we were from out of town, in Pittsburgh to see our daughter, meeting a friend at the game, etc. Could I stash the purse with them and pick it up later?
Unfortunately, the truck left at kickoff, so that was out of the question.
Fortunately, Chef Marino is also married — “I understand,” he said with a smile when I told him my story — and an extremely nice person. He offered to ship the purse to us when he went to work the next day.
Three days later, the package arrived via UPS. All we had to do was mail a check to Don’s Appliances for the shipping.
So there’s your happy ending, affirmation that even in these most contentious of times, there are still some kind people in this world. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask, and when things work out in your favor, offer a grateful thank you.
Remember, you never know unless you try.
Seven performing arts students from Point Park University, including three Metropolitan School of the Arts alums, went with me on a cloudy, breezy Sunday afternoon earlier this month for a dance shoot. The intent was to go to a variety of locations, but the shoot ended up taking place in and around Point State Park across the river from Heinz Field.
I'm sure there will be other shoots in Pittsburgh, but for now, enjoy these and others on my Facebook album here.
elan Magazine, a monthly publication devoted to the fine arts in Northern Virginia, has published a very flattering story on my "Art & Dance" series in its October issue, accompanied by several images from the various shoots I've been doing since August 2014. You can read a PDF of the feature here.
I'm grateful to the writer, Donna Cedar-Southworth, who spent a long time culling through the images for the magazine, which is mailed to homes and real estate agents serving the Greater Washington, D.C., area.
My only wish is that the article mentioned my association with the Arches Gallery Artists, which is where Donna found my work in the first place. Exposure of this type is critical to anyone trying to make a living in the fine arts, and I've been blessed to work with — and learn from — many of the terrific photographers, painters, and designers in this area.
This past weekend, Jill, Emma and I were fortunate to attend the Pittsburgh Steelers-Kansas City Chiefs game courtesy of Chris Ballard, a childhood friend from Texas who now works for the Chiefs organization. Also, thanks to Chris' kindness and generousity, we were able to stand on the sidelines during the pregame before going to our seats.
I did not take my regular camera to the game due to restrictions set by Heinz Field, but used the iPhone as an experiment to see what I could get. (And fortunately, due to the steady rain we faced after kickoff, I'm glad I didn't bring the good camera for once.)
As I've mentioned before, an iPhone is no substitute for a regular DSLR, but I've learned a few tricks along the way that can result in some good images. So here's a look at Sunday Night Football from a slightly different point of view, with a story of good fortune to follow in due time.
To see more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
Congratulations to everyone involved with the national tour of "Newsies," which concludes its run today after 2 years and more than 750 performances on the road. Thanks to everyone who taught our son so much and for being so kind to us along the way. You are part of our hearts forever.
A huge thanks to the staff, students, and parents at Sonya's Dance Academy who took part in a weekend-long series of photo shoots, master classes, and workshops recently in Hickory, N.C.
My son, Ben, taught two hour-long dance classes and talked to the students about his evolution from child to adult actor/performer. Meanwhile, I scheduled a series of mini-sessions with students for headshots, and spent more than an hour with parents talking about raising a young professional in the performing arts. Finally, we did a series of "Art & Dance" shoots, for which the photos will be coming shortly.
If your studio or group is interested in putting together this type of package, please contact me via Facebook message or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flying home yesterday from LA, with a brief stop to drop off my mom in Houston, I realized yet again how wonderful it is to have so many special friends and extended family members as a result of the boy's adventures. I saw people who have been part of our lives for the past eight or nine years and just shook my head in wonder at the community that surrounds him and us.
Watching the filming of "Newsies" could have been better only if Jill was there. It truly was a remarkable evening filled with memories and hope. Now, after a frenetic past few weeks of work and wonder, things briefly slow down to "normal."
Whatever that is.
Random ramble while sitting in a JiffyLube on a Saturday...
Over the past 5 weeks, I've been out of town more than I've been at home. Work and family have taken us to Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, and California, plus drive-thrus of Maryland (east and west), Delaware and New Jersey.
One kid went to college. One filmed a movie. One went on the road for his job and the other started a new one. Jill and I spent great time together and more than a full week apart.
The next couple of months bring the same level of intensity, as the situation flips and Jill embarks on a series of fall trips for work.
Lots of stories and memories will find their way onto my website and Facebook business page in the coming days. Ironically, I now have 1986 likes on that page.
1986 is the year I turned 21, never imagining for a moment I'd live this kind of life. To everyone who has made a contribution to that life, especially my family biological and extended, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Several years ago, Ben and I attended the Helen Hayes Awards, where the Kennedy Center’s production of “Ragtime” was up for multiple honors and legendary playwright Edward Albee was receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award. If was an opportunity — a year after the Kennedy Center run ended and four months after “Ragtime” on Broadway closed — for Ben to briefly reunite with the theatre family he had come to love.
Terrence McNally (author of the book for “Ragtime”) introduced Albee, a longtime friend and writer of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “A Delicate Balance,” among other classic shows. At the after party, we were celebrating with “Ragtime” alums Sarah Rosenthal and Laurie Ascoli when I noticed Terrence and Albee talking.
Not wanting to miss out on a chance to have Ben’s picture taken with two of the great playwrights of the 20th century, I convinced him to ask Terrence, an incredibly kind man who generously agreed. Laurie, Sarah and some unidentified woman (unceremoniously excised from this photo during the editing) joined in and we got this.
Upon hearing of Albee’s death last night, I immediately thought of this special moment as well as one dating back to my time at University of Houston, where he taught playwriting starting in the late 1980s. I was taking an acting class in pursuit of a minor for my long-gestating degree, and we were asked to read some of the students’ work for Albee.
The character I read was the villain of this noir-ish piece, which needed some work, and I had no idea what the hell I was doing. (I am not, repeat NOT, an actor.) I remember only one part of the scene, where my character asks a prospective victim, “Do you know how long it takes to watch a person drown? … Seven minutes … I timed it on my watch.”
At that point, Albee nodded, looked at the writer and us, and said, “Thank you. Not bad.”
Best review of my life.
I’ve been fortunate to know Zach Manske and his family for the past five years, ever since he and our son, Ben, shared the title role in the national tour of “Billy Elliot: The Musical.” Zach, who lives in Woodbury, Minn., was named “2016 National Senior Male Outstanding Dancer” last month by the New York City Dance Alliance.
A couple of weeks ago, Zach was completing a summer intensive at Julliard when I had the long-awaited opportunity to take his headshots and add to my “Art & Dance” portfolio. Ben, who is auditioning in New York, came along for the shoot, which took place in front of Lincoln Center and at Central Park.
As you might expect when you have not one, but two excellent dancers, the shoot was great fun. But the best part of the day was seeing these two young men, who became friends during a high pressure and intense time as kids, pick up right where they left off, urging each other on and enjoying a chance to perform.
For more photos, go to http://glenncook.virb.com/new-york-zach--ben.
Highlights from Friday’s 2016 Fly performance, featuring MSA students performing more than 20 tap, hip hop, jazz and contemporary numbers at the end of the annual two-week summer camp. More than 90 attended this year’s dance intensive, which featured the work of 11 professional choreographers under the direction of Christie Sirota. Five performances also featured student choreography.
For more photos, visit my Facebook page here.
Last week, while in Salt Lake City, I had an opportunity to see Ryan Adams & The Shining with opener Amanda Shires on tour at the Red Butte Canyon outdoor amphitheatre. The setting just outside the University of Utah campus was beautiful, complete with an almost full moon.
Adams, one of the most prolific and diverse musicians of the past two decades, has been dipping into his extensive catalogue for the past couple of years. A lovely highlight from the show was his duet with Shires on "Oh My Sweet Carolina."
Shires, the wife of Jason Isbell (another favorite), has a new CD scheduled for release in mid-September. Nothing has been forthcoming — yet — on Adams' next project.
In honor of the National Park Service's centennial celebration (#nps100), here are a few of the hundreds of photos taken during a recent trip to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. Several are from the scenic route en route to the park, a beautiful site itself that follows along the Colorado River. The National Park Service was created on Aug. 25, 1916.
To see more photos from this album, go to my Facebook page here.
A few random thoughts en route to dropping Emma off at Point Park University:
• This past weekend, as a farewell of sorts, our longtime friend Tom Pratt gave the girls, Nicholas and his girlfriend Conner a tour of the West Wing and the White House. Ginno and Elie came from New York, and we had a lovely time.
The best part of this story, however, occurred before the tour. I had mentioned to Ginno and Elie that “business casual” dress was required, but failed to let Nick know. My son has to wear a suit to work every day, so he likes to be as casual — but stylish — as possible on the weekends.
I guess it should not have come as a surprise that he came downstairs in shorts, but he didn’t even bring pants on the trip up from North Carolina. So he and Conner had to make a mad dash to get pants at the last minute just to get through security.
As Jill said, “That’s totally something you would do.” I could only reply with, “Yep, he’s my son.”
• In honor of our last child's college orientation, my forehead is the recipient of an enormous stress zit, proving yet again that you're never too far away from your inner 18-year-old.
• Jill says she can’t go anywhere without me bumping into someone I know. It happened on our honeymoon 20 years ago, when I saw a couple I knew from Texas while hiking at Mount Rainier. And it occurred again on our vacation to Utah.
Lynne Barnes, a good friend whose daughter was on the Billy Elliot tour with Ben, and I bumped into each other at a restaurant in Moab. I had gone to get dinner and went to the restroom when Lynne sent me a text saying she had seen my “twin.” I didn’t think anything of it until I got a tap on the shoulder and there she was. Small world…
• A recent study said intelligent people tend to be messy, stay awake longer and swear more. If this is the case, I’m a genius.
Continuing what has suddenly become a music thread….
Billy Joel became the first performer to play three times at Nationals Stadium on Saturday, and he did so despite a torrential downpour that delayed the start of the concert by more than an hour.
You can't carry a "professional camera" into events like this without a press pass. (I would not have brought my camera in anyway, given the rain.) However, this is one of those times when iPhone photos usually come nowhere close to the images you can get with a regular camera.
Still, if you're lucky and recognize the shutter delays, you can occasionally get a decent image.
Let me know what you think of these and the ones on my Facebook page here.
Joel, as usual, was terrific in concert. He hasn’t written new music since the early 1990s, but embraces one of the best and most popular catalogues with enthusiasm. In turn, the rain-soaked crowd embraced him.
“What’s it like sitting there with a wet ass?” Joel asked the cheering crowd.
Fortunately, after seeing the Piano Man multiple times in multiple places (North Carolina, Madison Square Garden), we splurged and bought tickets on the stadium turf. No wet butts for us.
Unfortunately, we were among the large contingent of the 40,000-plus fans who came to the concert via Metro and were left stranded due to the storms, which delayed the show by more than an hour. Thanks (or not) to “SafeTrack” maintenance, the subway system closed at midnight, and there was no way we could see the encore and make it to the last train.
Joel even made a joke about the troubled transit system — “Is the Metro running tonight? … So basically, you’re (expletive).”
With no warnings in advance from stadium officials or Metro — a transit worker at the Navy Yard said they had not even been told about the heavily promoted concert (cough) — we were stuck with a long wait and a very expensive Uber ride.
The show was still worth it, though.
One of my "Art and Dance" photos has been selected to hang outside the office of Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, for the next year. I was asked by the Workhouse Arts Center to provide the photo after winning Best in Show at the 2016 Collectors Showcase earlier this year. I've been a member of the Arches Gallery Artists at the workhouse since 2014.
Lori McKenna started her “Wreck You” tour to promote her new CD a week before it was released, and was surprised to learn she could sell copies of “The Bird & The Rifle” before it becomes available to the general public.
“I didn’t know you could do that,” she said during her show at Jammin’ Java just outside Washington, D.C.
Such is the state of the music business, where release dates have been moved from Tuesdays to Fridays and smaller labels (such as McKenna’s) operate much differently than the now shrunken behemoths. Today, however, you and anyone else with an iTunes account can purchase “The Bird & The Rifle,” the latest in a series of gems from this mother of five who lives with her husband of 28 years outside Boston.
In a just world, McKenna’s music would get the same level of promotion — and subsequent sales — as the increasing number of artists who cover her richly detailed songs. One of those songs, “Humble and Kind,” topped the charts when Tim McGraw — whose wife, Faith Hill, helped McKenna get her big break as a songwriter in 2005 — released it last year.
McGraw’s mainstream sincerity (and video with connections to Oprah Winfrey) made the song a hit, but McKenna reclaims it on her new album. At the Jammin’ Java concert, she talked about writing the song at her dining room table between dropping off and picking up her kids from school. When you hear it on the CD, you can almost see her writing in longhand.
Hold the door say please say thank you
Don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie
I know you got mountains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind
When the dreams you're dreamin' come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind
Don’t expect a free ride from no one
Don’t hold a grudge or a chip and here’s why
Bitterness keeps you from flyin’
Always stay humble and kind
As a longtime fan — I have all 10 of McKenna’s albums — I’ve always appreciated her eye for life’s little details and ability to capture with grace and empathy the struggles of people just trying to get by. In concert, she almost apologizes for writing so many sad songs — the first single on the new CD is titled “Wreck You” — and while it’s true that none of her work qualifies as summer beach music, what she manages to capture is much more real instead.
“The Bird & The Rifle,” however, has a new wrinkle: Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb, who has worked wonders for Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton. Cobb and a host of Nashville’s top musicians compliment McKenna’s words in a way I haven’t heard before. It is, without question, the best sounding record she has made.
So, if you can, try to catch McKenna live sometime this summer. And stick around for the encore, where she performs “Girl Crush,” a song co-written with Liz Rose and Hillary Lindsey and recorded by Little Big Town. That one won McKenna a Grammy, and long overdue recognition that her words speak volumes.
The Metropolitan Youth Theatre, a company run completely by high school and college students, will present the Tony Award-winning musical "Spring Awakening" this weekend at 1st Stage Tysons in McLean, Va. The musical is the fourth presented by the company since it was founded by three then-high school students (Sam Cornbrooks, Chad Vann, and James Woods).
All of these photos were shot live during the final dress rehearsal on Thursday. No set ups and no retakes.
It has been a pleasure to serve as the company's photographer for all four shows, all of which have been interesting, contemporary, and challenging fare. "Spring Awakening" is suitable for mature audiences only.
Elementary, middle and high school students from Northern Virginia performed scenes from four Broadway musicals Friday at the end of Metropolitan School of the Arts' annual summer musical theatre camp. The first show was "Hands on a Hardbody" (above); the second was from "All Shook Up" (below).
The students learned scenes, songs, and dances during the two week camp and then performed the pieces in a two-hour finale at Northern Virginia Community College's Ernst Cultural Center.
The cast of Metropolitan Youth Theatre's upcoming production of "Spring Awakening" performed in a fundraising cabaret and pot luck dinner Saturday in Alexandria. The cast showcased several group numbers from the Tony Award-winning show and several performed solo pop numbers.
The event, held at Metropolitan School of the Arts' studio in Alexandria, was a showcase for an incredibly talented ensemble of high school and college students ranging in age from 15 to 20.
"Spring Awakening" is the fourth MYT production since the student-run company was founded in 2014. Performances will be July 29-31 at 1st Stage Tysons in McLean, Va. (Note: The show has mature language and themes that are not suited for young audiences.)
Given the heightened surrealism caused by everything else going on in the world, last night's debacle feels like the cherry on top. Joke writers are falling over themselves cracking wise today, but this entire political process has been so bizarre that comedians will need gluttony rehab before it's all over.
Plagiarism is a serious issue (and a difficult word to spell, if you think about it). As an editor, I've caught staff who've stolen the work of others and fired them with out guilt. However, I take no pleasure in saying "You're fired" to anyone, unlike some I know or have heard speak.
For me, this whole thing ceased to be funny a long time ago, when it became probable — not just conceivable — that we were about to be overtaken by the largest reality show in American history. One that doesn't end until at least November, and one that likely won't conclude even then, no matter which side "wins."
And that's the news from the 100-acre wood.
Metropolitan Youth Theatre, a student-run nonprofit company formed two years ago in Northern Virginia, will present the Tony Award-winning musical “Spring Awakening” in July.
Featuring a cast of 17 high school and college students, the show is the fourth MYT production since the company was founded in 2014 by Fairfax County students Sam Cornbrooks, Chad Vann, and James Woods. Students run all aspects of the productions, fulfilling the company’s mission of educating young actors and technicians about the challenges they soon will face in the professional theatre world.
Cornbrooks, who graduated this month from Lee High School, is the producer and technical director of “Spring Awakening,” which won eight Tony Awards in its first run on Broadway and was nominated for Best Musical Revival this year. Vann, a rising senior at Hayfield Secondary School, is the show’s director. The music director is Woods, a rising senior at Metropolitan School of the Arts.
Since the company started, I have served as MYT’s photographer, taking publicity photos to promote each show and then of the performances. Because the show’s themes focus on the sexual awakening of teens in 19th century Germany and the struggles they face with adults, we used the Lorton Workhouse as the setting for the promo photos. The gritty nature of the former prison — a place where I shoot frequently — served as a terrific backdrop for a series of mostly somber portraits of the cast.
Performances will be July 29-31 at 1st Stage Tysons in McLean, Va. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $15 and available at www.metroyoutharts.com.
To see more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
Good big brother that he is, Nicholas surprised Emma following the matinee of "Alice in Wonderland" on Saturday. Nick had said he could not make it to the show, but he and Conner had been making plans all along to come from Durham to Northern Virginia for Emma's last recital performance.
And with Ben, Kate, and other family members supporting our youngest daughter, the end-of-high school cycle is almost complete.
Emma has danced with her siblings (“Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep” — 2004), played an orphan (“Hard Knock Life” — 2009), and ends her time at Metroplitan School of the Arts this weekend with two performances as the March Hare in “Alice in Wonderland.”
At MSA, she is literally the last Cook standing, the only one of our kids to perform in every show since first grade.
Earlier this week, someone asked me if it was difficult to see our last child finish high school. And it’s not, not really. The harder part is watching Emma in her last role, because the studio has been (literally, it seems) her second home.
We love you, sweetheart, and are so proud of you! Break a leg!
"Elvis Presley wouldn't have been Elvis Presley without Scotty Moore."
Of all the musicians who've died this year, this may be the toughest one yet. Scotty Moore, who played lead guitar on all of Presley’s biggest hits of the 1950s and early 1960s, died yesterday In Nashville at age 84.
Moore and bassist Bill Black were part of Presley’s original band that started on Sun Records and moved over to RCA in 1956 after cutting a string of singles that are now considered the foundation of rock and roll. Even though the two left in a money dispute in 1958, Moore returned after Presley’s Army stint ended in 1960 and continued to play for him all the way through to Elvis’ comeback special in 1968.
The following year, Presley (without Moore) recorded “From Elvis in Memphis” and started touring again regularly for the first time in almost a decade. Ironically, his “From Elvis in Memphis” producer, Chips Moman, also died earlier this year.
The list of musicians that Moore influenced and the genre he helped develop is staggering. Among the guitarists who cite him as a direct influence: Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, and the White Stripes’ Jack White.
Take a moment and watch Presley perform “Trying to Get to You” with Moore in this clip from the 68 Comeback Special. Presley started off acoustic, then traded guitars with Moore and lit the place on fire.
Each year around this time, I spend hours shooting and editing photos of the Metropolitan School of the Arts spring show. I had other work commitments this year during the dress rehearsals for "Alice in Wonderland," so I was able to take photos of the Saturday and Sunday casts once.
The first set (above) is of the ensemble from the Saturday show. You can see more from this shoot by going to my Facebook album here.
The second set is of class dance photos taken, primarily, of the Saturday matinee cast. I was able to go to the dress rehearsal briefly for the evening cast and took a few from different angles. You can see the rest of the class dance photos on Facebook here.
As many of you know, I have taken photos of Metropolitan School of the Arts productions since my kids were little. It is always a challenge to find new ways to capture a live performance, but I think these offer a glimpse of the quality and commitment everyone had to the show.
BTW, the reason I’m calling these albums “Alternate” is because another photographer (Laura Mann) has been capturing rehearsals since they started. Typically, I shoot only the performances and the promo photos. This year, I did more than 140(!) headshots of the ensemble.
Photos of the ensemble and principal cast members from the final Sunday performance of Metropolitan School of the Arts' "Alice in Wonderland."
All of the photos were taken during the performance. Unllike previous years, I could not shoot all of the dress rehearsals, so this was my one and only take on the Sunday cast. It was made even more special because our daughter, Emma, finished her 13th and final MSA show on that day with a host of her fellow high school graduates.
To see more photos from this performance, go to my Facebook album here.
A final set of photos from Metropolitan School of the Arts' production of "Alice in Wonderland." These are of class dances and were taken during the Sunday evening show. For more, visit my Facebook album here.
Our last child graduated from high school today as Ben finished the online program he's been in for the past two years. Since there was no formal ceremony — just sighs of relief from parents, relatives, friends, casual acquaintances and others — I decided to post his other "graduation" photo. (Kindergarten, 2004)
Congrats, Ben! We are proud of you!
Here is a 3-minute slideshow of photos I took at the Graduate Management Admissions Council's annual conference last week in Washington, D.C. The slideshow aired at the beginning of the conference's final general session.
GMAC has been an outstanding client. I've shot the council's last three annual meetings as well as other events and staff portraits.
Send me an email or give me a call if you are interested in having me shoot your conference or event. Hourly, half-day, daily, and multiple day rates are available.
Ten graduates from the first class at the Metropolitan School of the Arts Academy participated in commencement ceremonies Friday at the Workhouse Arts Center.
Having taken pictures when the school first opened in September 2013, it was a pleasure to do so again as parents and family members celebrated the accomplishments of the class.
There were plenty of laughs, a few tears, and — befitting the performance nature of the school — a number of opportunities for the students to show off their music and acting skills. Congratulations to all!
To see more photos from the event, go to my Facebook photo album here.
Prior to Thursday's commencement ceremonies, Emma participated in several activities during her last week at Lake Braddock Secondary School. Among them: the school's senior awards ceremony on Tuesday, where she was recognized as one of 145 of the 659 graduates to finish with a GPA above 4.0. Then, on Wednesday with her grandmother in attendance, Emma and longtime friend Julia Speranzo danced to kickoff the school's baccalaureate ceremony. It's been a busy week...
Emma graduated from Lake Braddock Secondary School during a ceremony honoring 659 seniors at the Patriot Center at George Mason University. It was the first time all four of our kids have been together since Kate graduated from Mount Vernon last year, and we were fortunate to be joined by other family members (including my mom) and close friends. Congratulations to our youngest daughter!
The past 10 days included our 20th wedding anniversary, a prom, awards ceremony, baccalaureate service, graduation, graduation parties, Jill's 2+ day trip to Colorado, three roundtrips to National Airport in a 24-hour period, family members coming in from out of town and state, Orlando, the Tony Awards, the NBA Finals (wow, game 7), shooting MSA's graduation, finishing two freelance pieces, and putting up a small exhibit in the Associate Artists gallery.
Oh, and there was this thing called Father's Day, too.
Normally, I would get all sentimental around this time, in part because I truly wish my father was here to see all that our kids have accomplished in their (relatively) short time on this planet. Not a day goes by that I don't think of what he's missing by not being here.
I can't help but think he would marvel at the swirl of activity that envelops our lives, just as Jill's parents would. He would tell us to slow down, if even for a second, because he never seemed to like moving quickly.
At different times during this past week, I took a moment to look at each of my four kids who, because of circumstances, were all together for the first time in a year. In every case, I saw bits and pieces of my dad in each of them. It was a comforting reminder that, even though he's not here in physical form, his legacy lives on.
Love and miss you, Dad.
ex•trem•ist (n): a person who holds extreme or fanatical political or religious views, especially one who resorts to or advocates extreme action.
This term has taken on new meaning in 2016. Just look around you. Visit your news feed on Facebook. Look at the vitriol on the campaign trail. For every good moment that we witness, for every proud graduate that we watch crossing the stage, for every small victory that someone has when he or she manages to get out of bed in the morning, we watch helplessly as extremists take over the conversation.
Sunday morning’s tragedy in Orlando shows us yet again the best and worst in people. It brings the same outpouring of grief and compassion that we saw in the wake of Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Paris, and too many others to count. It brings the same number of talking head “experts” onto cable television to fill the airwaves. It brings out the writers (me included) and so-called analysts who feel compelled to weigh in.
With what? Opinions. Conjecture. Speculation about motives. The why, why why.
The extremists show no signs of letting go, willing to use isolation and intolerance as their comfort food. Extremists thrive on attention. That’s why it takes a mass shooting to temporarily lift us out of our self-imposed food comas and look at the world around us.
The first word that came to mind when I saw the news this morning was “Horrible.” I saw the horrible tweet that came from Dan Patrick’s Twitter feed, followed by the wave of condemnation. I saw Donald Trump’s narcissistic “I was right” statement, still in shock that he has a one-in-two chance of being the leader of our country. I’ve seen God’s name used to justify beliefs from all sides — the pro-gun community, the anti-gun community, the LGBT community, the Fundamentalist community, the Muslim community.
That’s part of the problem. We’ve become so strongly identified with our niches, our think-alike communities, that we can’t seem to take a step back in our day-to-day lives and look at the bigger picture.
I don’t disagree with a person’s right to bear arms, but I don’t understand why anyone believes it should be easier to get a gun than a driver’s license.
I don’t understand why someone who identifies as transgender, and is willing to be above board and brave in the face of bigotry and misunderstanding, can’t go to the damn bathroom of his/her choice.
You can agree or disagree with me on those issues and countless others, but can't we do so in a civil manner? Or is that impossible in today's extremist world?
Come on, folks. We’re better than this. We can’t let the extremists on either side win.
Twenty-one high school seniors affiliated with Metropolitan School of the Arts will graduate later this month. Most also will perform in a special senior showcase scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the MSA studio in Alexandria.
Our daughter, Emma, has been a part of the studio since early elementary school, so this will be one of the last opportunities she has to perform in a MSA show. As a parent, I’ve been fortunate to watch many of these kids — now young adults — grow up and flourish as performers and people. As a photographer, I’ve also been fortunate to take many of their headshots and senior pictures as they get ready to go to college.
Late last month, on a drizzly Saturday morning, we went out for a shoot with the seniors that will be featured in a video to start the show. You can see some here. Come back next week to look at what I take at the senior speeches scheduled after the showcase.
Congratulations to Nick for completing a 28.3 mile walk and raising more than $3,300 as part of the Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge. It took him 13 hours to finish the walk in what was "by far, the most exhilarating and rewarding (and exhausting) experience." Thanks to all who donated.
Photos from "Rhythm & Sole," the annual dance showcase featuring students from Fairfax Academy for Communications & the Arts. Our daughter, Emma, performed the dance she choreographed as a trio with her friends Georgia Monroe and Kelsey Kaufman. Congratulations to all the dancers, a number of whom had not performed on stage for an audience prior to the event.
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
A mini-exhibit of my photos of the first graduating class of the Metropolitan School of the Arts Academy is on display this month in Gallery W-9 at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton. Stop by the workhouse from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays to check them out, along with other works by the Associate Artists group.
20 years. Where has the time gone? It has flown by so fast, and today, our last child finishes her last day of high school and goes to prom.
20 years of memories, travels, adventures, happy times and (a few) heartbreaks. Four young adults we've worked to raise.
20 years. Happy anniversary to the great love of my life. Here's to many more adventures together.
I took pictures of you on your first day of kindergarten (top left), first grade and many other first days since. This morning, I had the chance to take a photo on your last day of high school.
Two schools, 13 years, more late nights than anyone cares to count. Your mom and I could not be prouder of you and all you have done. We can't wait to see what happens in the next chapter of your life.
Here is one of my favorite photos, and one that never ran anywhere, all because I could not get the little boy’s name at the time. I was assigned to take photos and write a story about an appearance by Muhammad Ali at a Texas City hotel, where he spoke briefly and signed copies of “Prayer and Al-Islam” in 1985.
Ali, who had been diagnosed the previous year with Parkinson’s Disease, was starting to show signs of the disease that would rob him of his rapid-fire speech. But he shook hands, visited and listened to everyone who was there, in awe of his aura. He also kissed a few babies, including this one.
Running around taking pictures, I didn’t think to get the name of the baby, and went back to the newspaper to develop the film. When I I knew who the police officer was (Willie Mitchell) and figured that I wouldn’t need it. My boss disagreed and refused to run it, choosing instead what I still consider to be an inferior photo.
Several days later, I took a copy of the photo to Mitchell and told him I was sad that it hadn’t run. “I wish you’d called me,” he said. “I could have told you who that was. It’s Thomas Carter’s grandson.”
Carter was a city commissioner in my hometown and an English teacher at College of the Mainland. I took him a copy of the photo when I went to a commissioners’ meeting later that year. At some point, I went by his office at COM and saw it on his desk.
So I guess it went where it was supposed to go.
RIP: Muhammad Ali, “The Greatest.”
Jill's cousin, Brian Hodges, received his MBA Friday from Georgetown University with his wife, Elise, son Parker and parents Gerald and Susan in attendance. Brian, Elise and Parker are moving to Chicago later this summer as he takes a position with S.C. Johnson. Congrats to Brian on this fantastic achievement!
Emma is one of a number of dancers performing this Friday and Saturday in Rhythm & Sole at Fairfax High School's Dance Academy. In addition to the trio she choreographed, Emma is part of a number of dances at the free show, which will be held at 7:30 both nights. Go Emma!
Graduation season began this past weekend with our niece, Elisabeth, receiving her bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We participated in Saturday's ceremony at the School of Journalism, followed by a lovely dinner at the Carolina Inn.
Elisabeth is the second in the McFarland/Cook clan to graduate from college this year, following on the heels of Nicholas. Margaret graduates from high school later this month, followed by Emma and Ben in June. Busy time of year...