One afternoon. Two dancers. A black box and a chance to experiment with angles and light for something a little different. To see more, go to my Facebook album here.
"When it rains, it really pours... "
Two weeks ago: Headshots for the MSA Academy, Nutcracker promo shoot, photography for Motion X Dance DC, corporate headshots and a two-plus day retreat on the Pennsylvania-Maryland border.
Last week: Washington-Indianapolis game, three-day trip to Texas for a magazine feature, day-long conference photography in DC, engagement party for Nick and Conner in NC.
This week: Writing, editing and catching up.
Oh my. Feeling blessed.
The first of the three multiple week camps Metropolitan School of the Arts holds each year is Fly, a two-week dance intensive that ended with a performance at Northern Virginia Community College's Annandale campus. Here are some highlights from the dress rehearsal; see more here.
On Friday, students who participated in MSA’s two-week musical theatre camp performed two shows in the studio's black box theatre. The students performed selections from current and former Broadway shows, including "Pippin," "Mean Girls," "Once on This Island," and "My Fair Lady," with a 10th anniversary shout out to "High School Musical." Below are some highlights, with more in my Facebook album here.
Photos from every show I've shot for MSA are now available on the studio's SmugMug website. You can see my archive dating to 2013 here.
Anyone who knows me understands how much I enjoy shooting live theatre and dance. That said, photographing a live event — especially when it’s something you’ve never seen — can be daunting.
Even though my skills have certainly evolved since I started shooting our kids’ dance recitals almost a decade ago, I’ve seen time and again why some compare photography to golf. No matter what, there’s always room for improvement.
After a year away, I have greatly enjoyed shooting photos during the 2017-18 season for Metropolitan School of the Arts, which concluded last month with the annual spring production/recital. This year brought us four performances of “Wonka,” an adaptation of the famous children’s story.
Photographing a show this large is both a marathon and a fascinating challenge. Four dress rehearsals in four nights, with class dances mixed in with the narrative, make up the three-hour show, which is then performed over a weekend.
One goal I’ve always tried to meet is to photograph the director’s vision through my eyes (or eye, as the case may be). That means walking around and trying different shots from different parts of the auditorium, which is something you can do when shooting a dress rehearsal. At the same time, I work to be as inclusive as possible — taking photos of every dance and every group as they are on stage.
The result is a lot of photos — about 6,000 shot for this particular show. It’s both the blessing and curse of digital photography — shooting way more than you might need because you can delete the image rather than pay for a print.
Once the performance is over, that’s when the “job” part of this task truly begins: How do you take 1,500 photos from each of the four shows and present a selection in a way that:
• Is not overwhelming.
• Is fair to as many of the participants as you can capture.
• Presents the show — and studio — in a good light.
• Makes people want to come back for more.
So, as I start to post photos from the show, let me explain the process.
This year, MSA has purchased a license for a SmugMug website, where you can download watermarked photos for free and purchase prints/high-resolution downloads at a low cost. (The website is at http://metropolitanarts.smugmug.com). Parents and students can go here and download the photos for free (with our shared watermark), or purchase prints/downloads at a low cost.
As much as parents and their children want to relive the memories of the show, sorting through masses of pictures puts a huge strain on the eyes. I’ve tried to break it down in a way that makes sense and allows you to find the photos in an organized manner.
Sorting and cutting down the number of photos is the first phase. With double casting for many of the principal roles, I merged the ensembles from shows 1 and 4 and shows 2 and 3 to get the best possible representation of the narrative. Those are where these photos are from and they are the first albums you will see.
I’ve tried to make sure every class dance is represented by at least one photo (usually more). Class dances from each show will appear in separate albums in the coming days, except for the ones that were featured in all performances and will be separated into a fifth album.
Once the culling, sorting and organizing is complete, editing the photos (mostly cropping and color correction) begins. Each album is uploaded to the SmugMug site, and then I cull through the photos again so highlights can be shared on social media.
I’ve attempted to be as thorough and complete as possible. It’s not a perfect system, and chances are I’ve missed some things, but I hope I’ve captured the spirit and hard work that went into this show.
If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and enjoy the photos!
Shooting live theatre/dance is one of my favorite challenges as a photographer, and I have been fortunate to work this past year for Metropolitan School of the Arts in capturing various performances. These photos are from the Metropolitan Youth Ballet's performances of "Snow White" at the Ernst Cultural Center in Annandale.
The principal roles for the two performances were double cast, which meant I had only one chance to capture each group. The show is an original production developed and choreographed by the studio faculty, lead by Jackie Doherty.
To see more of my photos from MSA shows, go to http://metropolitanarts.smugmug.com.
The Academy at Metropolitan School of the Arts honored its third graduating class in a celebration at Old Town Hall in Fairfax. The celebration marked the end of the Academy's fifth year and featured performances by the graduates and students who attend the grades 6-12 school. For more photos, go to my Facebook page here.
It's been a busy past few days, with two shoots, a large D.C. banquet, family visits, a mini-reunion with longtime friends from North Carolina, and wrapping up our move from Lorton to Old Town Alexandria.
This week brings trips to New York (for another shoot) and Pittsburgh (for another family move) before returning home to take photos of Metropolitan School of the Arts' production of "Snow White."
More photos coming soon, I promise, but for now I'll leave you with a few from MSA's "10+1" show earlier this month.
Here are two samples of my work promoting upcoming Metropolitan School of the Arts events that will be held in May. The first is for Metropolitan Youth Ballet's spring production of "Snow White," scheduled for May 5. The second is for the fifth anniversary celebration/showcase for MSA's Academy students that will be held on May 21. Information is available at www.metropolitanarts.org.
Four of my photos are being used to promote Metropolitan School of the Arts' upcoming "10+1" show that will feature the iMpulse and Metropolitan Youth Tap Ensemble. The show will be held at 5 p.m. Sunday, April 15 at the Ernst Community Cultural Center. Tickets are available at www.metropolitanarts.org/tickets.
Earlier this week, I had an opportunity to shoot photos of the iMpulse company at Metropolitan School of the Arts. The purpose was to promote “10Plus1,” a show on April 15 that will mark the company’s 10th anniversary and be the spring performance of the Metropolitan Youth Tap Ensemble. Iconic movies will be one of the themes.
Of course, when a photographer has a number of talented dancers in a black box theatre, we had to take some additional shots, so I have a few “outtakes.” To see more, go to my "Art & Dance" gallery here.
For the past three years, I have taken concept photos of the graduating seniors at the Academy of Metropolitan School of the Arts, working with the students to develop concepts that combine their interests and talents. This year’s portrait series, taken in the black box theater at MSA’s studio in Alexandria, focused on shadows. I also shot cap and gown photos of the four seniors, who will complete their school work in June.
To see the entire gallery of MSA graduates — 19 in all — go here.
#photography #seniorphotos #dancephotos #performingartsphotography #capandgownphotos #MSA
Solo time — Arlington, Va., October 2017
Shooting "The Nutcracker" as well as senior photos for Metropolitan School of the Arts this week, then off to my third conference in five weeks on Monday. Back here soon.
This past weekend, I shot my first show in almost a year for Metropolitan School of the Arts, taking photos of "The Company Project | EVOLUTION."
The 90-minute show, focusing on the theme "Past, Present, and Future," featured innovative pieces designed by MSA faculty and guest artists. Members of MSA's pre-professional dance companies — iMpulse, Metropolitan Youth Ballet, Metropolitan Youth Tap Ensemble, and dynaMYTE — performed with local musicians to choreography by Tiffanie Carson, Jaqueline Doherty, Stephanie Dorrycott, Sara Hart, Jared Jenkins, Roxanne King, Charles Renato, Roger C. Jeffrey, and Caroline Frankil Warren.
It was a pleasure to be back shooting a show at MSA, and I'm looking forward to returning next month to work with them again on "The Nutcracker."
To see more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
It wouldn't be the holidays without an appearance from "The Nutcracker."
Earlier this month, Metropolitan School of the Arts presented its annual production at the Ernst Cultural Center in Annandale. I shot parts of two dress rehearsals and two of the four shows. Highlights are posted here and on my Facebook photography page.
As part of an arrangement with MSA, I have made photos from “The Nutcracker” and other shows dating to 2013 available for free download at http://metropolitanarts.smugmug.com. All you have to do is right click on the photo and drag it to your desktop. You also can share individual photos or entire galleries on social media by clicking on the share icon at the bottom of a photo.
Low-cost prints without the MSA watermark can be ordered from SmugMug and delivered to you via mail. Cost of prints is $1.50 for a 4x6, $3.50 for a 5x7, $6 for an 8x10 and $7 for an 8x12. To get prints larger than 8x12, contact me at email@example.com or via private message.
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 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.
Waiting to go on stage — Alexandria, Va., May 2017
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.
Headshots of James, a senior at Metropolitan School of the Arts, are now up on my website at http://glenncook.virb.com/james. It's not too late to get your headshots or senior photos done, but call soon!
Headshots of Brian, taken for his college auditions as he gets ready to graduate from Metropolitan School of the Arts in Northern Virginia, are now up on my website at http://glenncook.virb.com/brian. It's not too late for high school seniors to schedule a quick headshot session before the spring audition season.
Waiting for a show to start — Alexandria, Va., June 2011
Watching the elves — Alexandria, Va., November 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.
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.
As a photographer (and parent), I truly enjoy working with young actors, dancers and performers. My goal is to take photos that capture their personality in a professional way without losing the spirit of who they are.
Last year, while taking photos of Metropolitan School of the Arts' first graduating class, I took students to settings around the Workhouse Arts Center. The goal was to integrate their art with the workhouse surroundings, and the result was a very successful shoot.
Around that time, I mentioned to Brian Perry (then a junior whose focus is on acting) that I wanted to find a way to capture his many expressions for his senior photos. When the time came to do his headshots for college auditions, I asked him to sit against a wall and give me faces.
Here is the result from a very enjoyable afternoon.
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.
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.
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.)
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!
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.
Congratulations to Metropolitan School of the Arts for reaching its $60,000 fundraising goal to help fund a new black box theatre. An anonymous donor agreed to match any amount raised up to the $60,000 figure during the campaign, which ended on Friday.
The theatre, which will be located at MSA’s Alexandria studio, will be in place this fall. It will accommodate up to 200 patrons and will save the non-profit more than $50,000 a year in facilities rentals.
Proceeds from your purchases of my 2016 “Art & Dance” calendar helped make a $500 donation to the campaign. Several of my photos, including those in the graphic above, also were used in the fundraising materials.
Thank you again for your support of the arts!
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.
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.
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.
Emma is participating in her senior showcase from 4 to 6 p.m. today at MSA's Alexandria studio. Going through photos, I remembered this one from her second recital when she was 5. The kids didn't go to MSA until later that fall, but this remains one of my favorite photos, and a pretty nice summary of their relationship. We love you, Emma, and are very proud of you.
After Sunday's showcase featuring 16 high school seniors, Metropolitan School of the Arts hosted a reception for the soon-to-be graduates, a number of whom have been part of the studio for more than a decade.
Recognized were Ben Cherington, Sarah Christophersen, Emma Cook, Sam Cornbrooks, Nakya Fenderson, Sarah Kelly, Sophia Kleess, Biby Medrano, Georgia Monroe, Gabi Odom, Jeremiah Porter, Veronica Quezada, Lexi Rhem, Amber Supernor, Hank von Kolnitz, and Adia Walker.
To see more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
Emma and Sam Cornbrooks produced the showcase and developed, filmed and edited this video to introduce the event. Congratulations to both of these very talented kids and to all of the performers for their hard work.
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.
Senior photos and headshots of Lexi, a senior at the Metropolitan School of the Arts Academy, are now up on my website at http://glenncook.virb.com/lexi.
It's not too late to schedule a session for your high school senior or prospective performer. Send me a message on Facebook or give me a call!
Metropolitan School of the Arts’ iMpulse and MYTE groups were among seven area companies performing at “Convergence 2016 — The 30th Annual Jazz & Tap Dance Festival” this past weekend.
Produced in collaboration with Marilyn York, artistic director of the Dancin’ Unlimited Jazz Dance Company, the event featured iMpulse members in four numbers and MYTE (Metropolitan Youth Tap Ensemble) in three. Several MSA students also performed during a post-intermission homage to the festival’s history.
This year's festival, featuring performances on Saturday and Sunday, was held at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale. To see more photos, go to my Facebook page.
Portraits of soon-to-be high school graduates, many of them aspiring performers, are a large part of my business here in Northern Virginia. Working with dancers, singers, and actors, my goal is to combine aspects of their art with my eye to create images that are captivating, reflective, slightly edgy, and occasionally provocative.
As anyone who follows my work knows, I spend a great deal of time shooting for Metropolitan School of the Arts (MSA), which offers pre-professional training to performers from age 3 to adult. In September 2013, MSA opened a college preparatory performing arts academy at the Workhouse Arts Center for students who want to combine academics with intensive arts training.
The first class graduates this June, so I decided to work on a series of senior portraits for those who are enrolled and attend school at the Workhouse. Nine of the 12 seniors are in Lorton; two are already working as professional performers and are not on site, while one graduated at midyear.
As an associate artist at the Workhouse, a former adult reformatory that was reshaped into a complex for the visual and performing arts, I have long been fascinated by the elements that remain of the former prison. Combining the Workhouse’s physical elements with the students’ performing skills and passion presented an interesting artistic challenge.
The result is this series of portraits that were shot last week. Throughout the month of June, a number of these images will be displayed in gallery W-9, where the Associate Artists show their work.
I hope you enjoy these and others that are on my Facebook photography page.
Members of iMpulse made their annual winter trip to New York City this past weekend, taking a series of small and large group classes at Broadway Dance Center, seeing "An American in Paris," and posing for portraits at Columbus Circle before returning to Virginia on Saturday evening.
All but one member (Sophia Kleess, who was at a college audition) attended the photo session. A photo taken at a session locally is included here.
To see all of the portraits full size, visit my Facebook album here.
Most of the photos in the “Art & Dance” series are taken quickly. The shoots generally last no more than a couple of hours. But this particular series, captured in Central Park last weekend, was done in a hit-and-run fashion. We didn’t have much time — about 45 minutes to be exact — to take pictures of several iMpulse dancers. So we went to a section of the park near the entrance at Columbus Circle and got these.
There’s something to be said for working fast, I guess…
To see more from this shoot, go to my Facebook album here or check out the "Art & Dance" section on this website.
Photos of 26 events I shot for Metropolitan School of the Arts are now up at my e-store — http://glenncookphoto.smugmug.com. Prints start as low as $2.
Here are highlights from Metropolitan School of the Arts' recent production of "The Nutcracker," a holiday perennial performed Dec. 3-6 at the Ernst Cultural Center in Alexandria.
These photos are from the Thursday-Friday cast. Photos from the Saturday shows will be featured in a future album. For more, go to my Facebook album here.
More highlights from Metropolitan School of the Arts' recent production of "The Nutcracker," a holiday perennial performed Dec. 3-6 at the Ernst Cultural Center in Alexandria. These photos are from the Saturday shows. For more, go to my Facebook album here.
I shoot a lot of photos — my estimate for 2015 is around 10,000 — and often find myself scrambling to post them in a timely manner. This year, during a particularly busy period in June and July, I shot several Metropolitan School of the Arts events that I never managed to go through.
Before the year ends, I’ve pledged to post the best of what’s left. So let’s start with a series of photos from MSA’s annual musical theatre camp. The two-week camp ends with a performance for parents and interested attendees. Students perform excerpts — usually 20 to 30 minutes in length — from four shows.
These photos above are from the performances of “Secret Garden” and “Into the Woods.” Below are the performances of “PaJama Game” and “Bring It On.”
It really is remarkable to watch what all of these kids, ranging from elementary to high school age, learn in a very brief period of time.
Photos from Act 1 of the Sunday cast performance of "Toy Stories," an ambitious undertaking that combined all three of the Disney films into one show for the annual Metropolitan School of the Arts production. For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
The final edition of Untapped Archives for 2015 features Acts 2 and 3 of the final show of Toy Stories, Metropolitan School of the Arts’ annual recital. Twenty-six galleries featuring the work of MSA during the year have been posted to my photo store (http://glenncookphoto.smugmug.com/) with prints starting as low as $2.
Wednesday is the last day to order your 2016 "Art & Dance" calendar and receive it in time for the holidays. Cost is $20 (plus $6.95 for shipping outside Northern Virginia), with proceeds benefitting Metropolitan School of the Arts and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Each summer, just before students return to school, Metropolitan School of the Arts holds a two-week ballet intensive camp for elementary to high school age kids. From basic technique to partnering on pointe, the students become immersed in the world of ballet in an age- and talent-appropriate setting.
These photos were taken at the Alexandria studio during one of the sessions in late August. They make up the third installment of "Untapped Archives." Next up: Toy Stories, the Sunday shows.
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
On Cyber Monday, you can buy gifts online and support the arts at the same time. Pick up your 2016 "Art and Dance" calendar featuring pre-professional and professional dancers from across the U.S. on my website. Go to http://glenncook.virb.com/
2016-calendar and show your support for Metropolitan School of the Arts and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Metropolitan Youth Theatre will present “Songs for a New World,” its first show of the 2015-16 season, this weekend at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton. Jason Robert Brown’s 1995 musical is described as “a very theatrical song cycle” connected by a theme that focuses on “the moment of decision.”
The show features Madyson Hanton, Emmeline Jones, Jordan Sledd and Hank Von Kolnitz. It is directed by Chad Vann and produced by Sam Cornbrooks, with musical direction by James Woods, who leads a three-piece orchestra.
“Songs for a New World” is the third production by MYT, which was founded in 2014 by Cornbrooks, Vann, and Woods, all of whom are high school students in Fairfax County. The company is run entirely by high school and college students. I have been the group's photographer since its inception.
Tickets for this weekend’s shows, which will be performed in Building W-3 at the workhouse, are $20 each. Showtimes are at 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday.
To get tickets, go to www.metroyoutharts.com.
Over the past week, I have been taking a series of photos for The Company Project, a benefit performance for Metropolitan School of the Arts that will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Ernst Cultural Center in Alexandria.
The show will feature performances by MSA’s pre-professional dance companies. It will feature choreography by MSA faculty and guest artists Ginger Cox, Derek Mitchell and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards. The program will celebrate many facets of “Inspiration” in art and dance from classical origins to modern urban styles.
Tickets are $35 for a single seat; $25 each when purchasing two or more. Donors who give an additional $5 or more can also be part of a pre-performance VIP reception at 5 p.m. For tickets, go to www.metropolitanarts.org.
Metropolitan School of the Arts presented "The Company Project," a showcase featuring performances from its four pre-professional companies (ballet, jazz, tap, and hip-hop), on Sunday at the Ernst Cultural Center in Alexandria. These are highlights from the show.
Over the past two weeks, I was fortunate to see (and shoot) rehearsals for the groups, both to promote the show and for a slide presentation that set the stage for the event. Our children have been involved with MSA for more than a decade, and I continue to be impressed by the professionalism, dedication, and growth of the students and staff.
Kudos to all... You should be very proud.
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
New headshots of Ben, a senior at Metropolitan School of the Arts, are now up on my website at http://glenncook.virb.com/
ben. Schedule a session for your senior, performer, or family member today!
With classes starting this week, students from Metropolitan School of the Arts showed off their skills during a brief demonstration Saturday at the Lorton Workhouse.
The auditorium at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial is a fantastic place to see a performance, but it is not the easiest locale to shoot dancers. The theater’s horseshoe seating arrangement does not lend itself to capturing a performance on the floor.
For the past two years, Metropolitan School of the Arts has rented the facility to hold various events. Earlier this year, MSA’s Metropolitan Youth Ballet presented its annual end-of-year production, “La Fille Malle Gardee.” Two performances, with different students in the lead roles, were held back to back.
I took a different approach this time around, sticking around in the balcony for the first show and then wandering down to eye level at points during the second, standng in the pass throughs that narrowed my scope greatly. It made for interesting contrasts in composition, but both approaches seemed to work well.
These photos represent highlights from both shows. If you would like to see everything I shot, go to MSA’s Facebook page or to my SmugMug site (where you can purchase low-cost prints or high-resolution downloads).
In case you’re wondering, “La Fille Malle Gardee” is a comedic ballet for all ages that tells the story of Lise, who desperately wants to break away from the farmhouse where she lives with her mother, Widow Simone. Lise is in love with Colas, but her mother wants her to marry the rich vineyard owner’s son, Alain. Complications ensue, but as you will see in the photos, in the end all live happily ever after.
The ballet was first performed in 1789, the year of the French Revolution, and was the first to discuss the social status of the suitor. It was adapted and choreographed by MSA faculty member Jacqueline Doherty.
One of my largest freelance jobs is shooting photos for Metropolitan School of the Arts. Over the past two years, I've captured more than 50 galleries of performances and events that feature studio and Academy students. Those galleries are posted at my e-store (http://glenncookphoto.smugmug.com) and both prints and high-resolution downloads are available for purchase.
4x6 prints are only $2 and other sizes are available. Downloads range from $1 for a print suitable for use in social networking to $3 for a high-resolution image. Visit the site, browse, share, and purchase. A portion of the proceeds will be returned to MSA.
Dancing in the dark — Alexandria, Va., June 2015
The student-run Metropolitan Youth Theatre presents its second production this weekend — the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical "Rent."
Tickets are available at www.metroyoutharts.com for the show, which opened tonight and has three more performances — 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday — at 1st Stage, 1524 Spring Hill Road, Suite LL, in McLean.
Jonathan Larson’s rock opera, which ran for 12 years on Broadway, is an ambitious undertaking for the student-run company, which was founded in 2014 by two Northern Virginia high school students. Its mission is to educate young actors and technicians about the challenges they will soon face in the professional world of theatre.
Students, most in high school, run all aspects of the company’s productions. Hayfield student Chad Vann is the artistic director and Lee student Sam Cornbrooks is the company’s producer. James Woods, who attends Metropolitan School of the Arts, is the musical director.
MYT is supported by Metropolitan School of the Arts and DC Metro Theater Arts. “Rent” is the second show produced by the group, which presented “The Last Five Years” in a sold-out run in late January.
You also can follow the company on Twitter (@MetroArtsYouth).
For more photos, see my album on Facebook.
The final week of "Ragtime" included Ben's fourth and fifth performances as Little Boy, with friends from Virginia's Metropolitan Fine Arts Center in attendance. Also, below are photos of the show's last day, including an after party attended by the cast, crew, and producers.
I caught this cute photo of a little girl watching Metropolitan Fine Arts Center's performance of "Frosty Follies" at Reston Town Center last night. The kids did a great job despite the, uh, frosty temperatures.
The arrival of the Billy Elliot tour at the Kennedy Center has provided a number of opportunities for reunions for the boy and some of his fellow cast members from the Broadway company. First, Neil and Ruby came down and spent some time with their former cast mate, taking a backstage tour after the show. Then, more than 100 students and teachers from Metropolitan Fine Arts Center came to see Ben as Michael and show their support.
Emma is one of the Lost Children in Metropolitan Fine Arts Center's production of "Hook: An Original Musical," which runs June 30 and July 1 at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Center for the Arts in Alexandria, Va. These photos were taken during dress rehearsals.
This week: Finished reading the National Teacher of the Year applications (more than 800 pages in all); reported and wrote a story; held multiple meetings with advertising, communications, and marketing units; attended two holiday parties (and took pictures at one of them); and saw my daughter at Frosty Follies.
Next week (which starts in a couple of minutes): Celebrate the fact that 3 of my 4 children have birthdays (Nicholas tomorrow, Ben & Emma on Tuesday); see a Redskins game in person (tomorrow); participate in the NTOY judging (Monday); fly to Austin (Tuesday); watch Ben as Billy with various family and friends (Tuesday and Saturday nights); schlep him to interviews with four TV stations and the Austin NPR station (Wednesday); visit with my mom and said family (all week).
Congratulations to the casts and crew of Metropolitan School of the Arts' "Toy Stories" that will be performing in four sold out shows at the NOVA Alexandria campus this weekend. I took these two photos for the program as well as the headshots that will be used inside. Break legs, one and all!
This past weekend, I was tasked with taking promotional photos for the Metropolitan Youth Theatre Company’s upcoming production of “Rent,” which runs July 31 to August 2.
Jonathan Larson’s rock opera, which ran for 12 years on Broadway and won both the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize, is an ambitious undertaking for the student-run company, which was founded in 2014 by two Northern Virginia high school students. Its mission is to educate young actors and technicians about the challenges they will soon face in the professional world of theatre. Students, most of them in high school, run all aspects of the company’s productions.
Hayfield student Chad Vann is the artistic director and Lee student Sam Cornbrooks is the company’s producer. James Woods, who attends Metropolitan School of the Arts, is the musical director.
MYT is supported by Metropolitan School of the Arts and DC Metro Theater Arts. “Rent” will be the second show produced by the group, which presented “The Last Five Years” in a sold-out run in late January.
Tickets are available at www.metroyoutharts.com. You also can follow the company on Twitter (@MetroArtsYouth).
Another set of promotional photos I shot recently are helping to promote this Sunday’s showcase by Academy students from Metropolitan School of the Arts.
The special Mother’s Day performance of dance, music, and theatre pieces will reflect the progress the students have made in their arts studies at the Academy, which is concluding its second year.
The performance will be held at 5 p.m. in the theatre at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Tickets are $20. To purchase, visit www.metropolitanarts.org/tickets.
MSA Academy students are in dress rehearsals for Sunday's end-of-year showcase revue at the George Washington National Masonic Memorial theatre. The 75-minute revue features dance, theatre, and music selections that show the progress the students have made in their studies this year. The performance will be held at 5 p.m. Sunday, May 10.
Metropolitan School of the Arts threw a baby shower for its founder, Melissa Dobbs, and her husband, Matt Armstrong, on Sunday as the arrival of their newborn child — sex still not determined — nears. The event was held at the Alexandria studio with family, friends, dancers, and parents joining in. And as you might expect, it featured a couple of impromptu dances from many of the younger extraverts in attendance.
For more photos from the event, go to my Facebook photo page here.
John, a middle school student at Metropolitan School of the Arts Academy and a working actor in the D.C. area, posed for headshots recently. Take a look at http://glenncook.virb.com/john.
Tap is a challenging form of dance for me to shoot, because success is based as much on sound as it is the visual. However, when the two merge, it can be beautiful. These are photos from Metropolitan School of the Arts' MYTE and DynaMYTE groups performing earlier this week at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C. Imagine the sounds we heard.
For more photos from this event, go to my Facebook album here.
What do my kids do for a snow day? They dance. In the snow. And have their father take pictures...
For more of these photos, go to my Facebook album here.
I spent a large portion of the weekend putting the finishing touches on my first photo exhibit, which will be on display throughout March at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Va. I became a member of the Workhouse Associate Artists group last summer, and have had several photos on display, but this is my first time as a "Featured Artist."
The show, "Landscapes, Dancers (and other things I see)," features 17 of my photos ranging in size from 8x12 to 20x30. All are framed and for sale (see list below).
An opening reception will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, March 14, in Gallery 9. You can see my work then as well as pieces from the other Workhouse Associate Artists, or stop by the gallery from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and noon to 5 p.m. weekends.
The lights showcase the photos beautifully. Photographing the photos in this light, however, is another story.
In preparing the exhibit, I developed an "Artist's Statement" explaining what you'll see and what some of the motivation was behind the pictures. While regular readers of this blog (thanks, Jill and Mom) are familiar with the story, casual passers-by likely will wonder, "What the heck was he thinking?"
So here it is...
I still find it somewhat humorous to be called an “artist.” Working in journalism and communications, I know my way around a camera, especially when it came to photographing events. But I had never done what you would call “fine art” — landscapes, portraits, etc.
In my family, my father was the artist who could work in almost any medium except — ironically — photography. I can’t draw a stick figure, but it seems I managed to pick up his wandering eye for composition. After his death in Texas in 2007, my wife and I spent a great deal of time in New York, and I found myself wishing he could walk the streets of Manhattan with me. One day, I decided to pick up my camera and see if I could capture what he would have seen, those little mundane aspects of life that we rarely pay attention to each day.
I started shooting — a lot — and found that I enjoyed it.
Today, my camera is an almost constant companion, both as a passion and as a business. As a parent of four artistic (performing and visual) children, I started capturing their performances, which led to a series — some of which are in this exhibit — that I’ve started with Metropolitan School of the Arts. I’m fortunate that people outside my immediate family seem to like what I do, and I find that photography is a way to honor my dad and keep his memory alive.
Metropolitan Youth Arts Theatre's production of "The Last Five Years," Jason Robert Brown's acclaimed two-character musical about a five-year relationship between a rising novelist and a struggling actress, premieres tonight at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE, in Washington, D.C.
The 90-minute show, which stars Ben Cherington as Jamie and Kyra Smith as Cathy, uses a form of storytelling in which Cathy's story is told in reverse chronological order (starting at the end of the marriage), and Jamie's is told in chronological order (starting just after the couple have first met). The characters do not directly interact except for a wedding song in the middle as their timelines intersect.
This is the first production from MYAT, a student-led and run group that provides an opportunity for high school students to perform, direct, tech, and produce plays. The show is produced by Sam Cornbrooks, directed by Chad Vann, with musical direction provided by James Woods and a student orchestra.
I shot these and other photos at last night’s final dress rehearsal. It’s an excellent show, and everyone is to be commended for their efforts. We truly have some great talent in this area.
More photos added to the Art & Dance series, focusing on recent performances by Metropolitan School of the Arts students. To see more, go to my Facebook album here.
This is a poster concept I shot for the Metropolitan Youth Arts Theatre’s upcoming production of Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last Five Years.” The two-character show, which explores the ups and downs of a couple’s five-year relationship, is the theatre’s first entirely student-run production.
Shows will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 16, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 18 at The Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C. The show stars Kyra Smith and Ben Cherington.
The Metropolitan School of the Arts' annual holiday concert is a marathon four-show Saturday on the last weekend before Christmas. In addition to showcasing class dances, MSA's pre-professional companies (MYTE, MYB and iMpulse) perform in addition to senior solos. Leading off each show was Santa's Frosty Follies, which I captured while shooting the first two shows of the day.
To see more Frosty pictures, go to my Facebook album here.
I’ve always found the creative process fascinating, whether it’s reporting and writing a story, composing and taking photos, or watching a show develop from page to production.
The end result — the product — usually is less interesting, because it’s “done” and I’m on to the next thing. For years, I rarely looked back at stories I had written or photos I shot. Some find it interesting that I don’t go to every performance of every show that our kids do, or go to the theater every time I see Ben on the road. But I have no burning desire — or the cash flow — to do it.
Since my father died in 2007, I’ve found myself reflecting a lot on my childhood and what shaped me as I try to help in the shaping of my children. Today, almost eight years after his death, I am hyperaware of time and the opportunities we have to enjoy experiences or let them slip through our fingers. I understand that creating “art” — if you could call what I do that — allows me to keep his spirit alive.
Perhaps it’s a function of getting older, or being a freelancer for these past 19 months, but the creative process I’m engaged in now forces me to look back and revisit what I’ve done and where I’ve been on a consistent basis. The daily photos you see here and on my Facebook photo page are a function of reflecting on past work — “Why did I shoot THAT?!?” — even as I’m trying to promote getting more work. And the writing jobs I’m seeking require me to showcase the work I’ve done before.
As a lifelong fan of history (familial, cultural, and political), I enjoy analyzing and figuring out how past events have shaped and continue to affect us to this day and beyond. A number of the essays in this blog merge those interests, allowing me to be creative (I hope) and analytical at the same time. It’s my way of explaining how my parents, family and friends have affected my life and parenting style, or whether a significant cultural event or watershed moment has forced me to look at the world just a little bit differently.
When I had a “regular job,” I could easily point back to what I had produced, how I had managed a budget, or how many trips I had taken. When I opened my writing and photography business in July 2013, I started with nothing and was tasked with creating something from scratch.
The juggling act that represents a freelance life is no easier than juggling the parenting of multiple teenagers. In fact, the parallels are quite striking. You never are away from it completely. You are always looking toward the future while facing the present and — I hope — learning from past mistakes and victories. You alternately feel overwhelmed, grateful, and happy/sad/exhausted/indifferent/victorious — sometimes at the same time.
Both require you to be on your toes and constantly creative. And, I’ve got to say, I do enjoy that, even if my toes hurt more than they should on some days.
So, given that preamble, I recently decided to look back at what I accomplished as a professional freelancer during 2014. And I was surprised at how productive the year actually was.
Here’s a list:
• Wrote 30 feature length articles for state and national publications, several of which have come out early this year. At least one featured my photography as well.
• Regularly updated this blog with additional essays — including ones published on LinkedIn — and photographs.
• Shot two national conferences.
• Photographed multiple events in conjunction with Metropolitan School of the Arts (MSA).
• Had 20 portrait and family sessions.
• Developed a photo series that I've dubbed “Art & Dance," which led to MSA’s first-ever calendar featuring its own students. We sold more than 70 calendars and my business donated the net profit — $500 — to the school.
Meanwhile, the Facebook photography page (www.facebook.com/ourrealityshow) has grown to more than 1,300 followers. A website (http://glenncookphoto.smugmug.com) was set up to provide a reasonably priced method for selling prints and digital images of my MSA event pictures. More than 350 images have been sold, more than paying for the cost of the site and bringing in a small profit. I hope to expand the site to include more of my artwork in the near future.
There’s a lot more where that came from, I’m sure. And now that I’ve spent a few moments reflecting, it’s on to the next project.
The creative process demands it, as does the life of a freelancer.
Eight students from Metropolitan School of the Arts performed monologues from classic Greek tragedies earlier this week, each serving as The Messenger, a part Nicholas played in Elon's recent production of "Antigone." Here is a selection of photos I took at the event, which will later be used for MSA's promotional materials.
“Newsies” invaded Baltimore this week, bringing Ben close to home and enabling relatives and friends to come see the show. Baltimore, like Philadelphia and Louisville, was a repeat stop from the Billy Elliot tour, and is the closest the show will be to our house until it comes to Washington, D.C., next June.
It was a crazy week. My mom came up from Texas, seeing her grandson perform not once, but twice. The first time was with Kate, Nicholas, and his girlfriend, Katherine, in tow.
On Saturday, the ASCA staff saw the show as part of their annual Christmas party, and we bumped into some old dance friends afterward. After several families from Metropolitan School of the Arts saw the Sunday matinee, a group of 100 MSA students, teachers, and parents went to the final performance that evening.
By all accounts, everyone had a great time. And it was nice to have Ben at home for a couple of days afterward.
Next stop: Chicago for four weeks starting on Wednesday, Dec. 10.
Photos from the Sunday matinee performance of MSA's "The Nutcracker," held Nov. 23 at Northern Virginia Community College's Annandale campus and featuring an alternate principal and featured cast. For more photos, go to my Facebook album here. To purchase photos from the performance, go to the E-store link at the top of this page.
Featuring all-new choreography this year, Metropolitan School of the Arts' annual "Frosty Follies" production started its run of shows with a final dress rehearsal on Friday before heading to the official opening at Reston Town Center. There, a large crowd of parents, friends and holiday shoppers watched the revised and updated holiday show.
My kids have performed in Frosty for years, and it is always a challenge, tradition, and ultimately a treat to see this first show come off successfully. Held the day after Thanksgiving, it means that participants must return from traveling or push the leftovers aside. Families returned from Pennsylvania, New York, and North Carolina, among other places, to take part in the event.
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here. To purchase photos from the performance, go to the E-store link at the top of this page.
Frosty Follies made its first appearance before a giant crowd of holiday shoppers at the new Springfield Town Center on Saturday. The crowd was so large, in fact, that there was no good place to set up and shoot. So I took a different tack, walking around in a large circle and going up and down the escalators in an effort to capture the event. (And I still didn't exercise as much as the dancers...)
Frosty will conclude next Sunday, December 20 following two charity performances on Dec. 18 and Dec. 21 in Alexandria and Falls Church. The best place to catch this fun holiday revue will be at the Metropolitan School of the Arts Winter Concert. Four performances — at 10 a.m., 12:30, 3 and 5:30 p.m. — will be held at Woodson High School in Fairfax.
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here. To purchase photos from the performance, go to the E-store link at the top of this page.
Shooting "The Nutcracker" this year was a different experience than I've previously had. For one, I know my camera and the theater much better. Second, this year's version seemed much brighter and more buoyant than in the past.
Also, it helped that Emma and Ben weren't in the show — even though I missed seeing them do it and hope they will again — because I was able to be much more objective and wasn't always trying to ensure I captured their work first.
Finally, I spotted something I hadn't in the past that informed my choices of where to go and where to shoot. Much of the action this year seemed to be generated from the sides, rather than center stage, and by moving around a little bit I could get some fun angles. Also, during the dress rehearsal, I went directly to the stage and shot from there to get a different perspective.
Here are three images from the shoot. I'll have more from the Sunday performance soon, where I was able to build on the lessons I learned from this performance.
Live performance: It's never the same twice...
This past week, I shot a dress rehearsal and a performance of MSA's annual production of "The Nutcracker." Here are a few behind-the-scenes shots, including the warm up, a view from backstage right, and some hardworking, tired kids listening to notes after a long rehearsal.
For more, check out my Facebook album here.
I call them "circle backs," because in theatre, everything seems intertwined. You constantly experience situations where past meets present, whether it's the people, the show or the venue.
Today represents a big circle back for Ben. Five years ago tonight, he made his Broadway debut in "Ragtime." Today, he's performing in Louisville, Ky., with "Newsies," in the same theater where he debuted in "Billy Elliot."
It's a small, small world...
Tonight, Nicholas is performing in his final fall concert with Vital Signs at Elon University. Due to conflicts here, I'm not able to attend this one, but can't wait to see him perform again in the spring. Break a leg, son! We are extremely, extremely proud of you and all you have accomplished!
And to complete my trio of male performers — Emma and Kate are sitting this weekend out by comparison — we also have to say another "Break a Leg" to our "adopted" child Jeremiah, who is playing the Mouse King and understudying the Nutcracker in MSA's annual production this weekend.
For someone who hasn't been performing long, Jeremiah has made remarkable strides over the past several months. It's remarkable that when he came down here last year to see the show, he had not given thought to moving at all.
Congrats... and can't wait to see you (and Emma) in Frosty Follies starting next week!
The MSA Academy performed its award-winning version of the Holocaust drama "I Never Saw Another Butterfly" for parents and supporters Sunday at the Alexandria studio. The story of children relocated to Terezin, a Jewish ghetto established by the Nazi party, the show received five awards at the Virginia Theatre Association's annual conference last weekend. Congratulations to Matt Bassett (Academy theatre department chair) and the cast and crew for their excellent work.
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
The first shipment of "Art & Dance" calendars has arrived. Orders can be picked up at MSA's Alexandria studio and I will ship calendars to those of you from out-of-town soon. There's still time if you haven't purchased yours yet, and you can see a sample at either the Alexandria or Lorton studio.
Calendars are being sold for a suggested donation of $20. Click here to order yours today!
Why that title, you ask? It feels like it's been that long since I've had a moment to write, even though I've been writing steadily for the past two months. It's just not on Facebook or this blog, which I've made a commitment to keeping up to date.
However, keeping that commitment has been difficult amid one of the busiest falls I can remember, which is saying something given our ongoing reality show. So to catch you up, here are a few highlights from just the past month in the whirlwind.
• Jill was gone for nine days during the first three weeks of November, attending meetings in Atlanta and San Diego, a White House convening on school counseling and college admissions at San Diego State University, and then a presentation of the 2015 National School Counselor of the Year Award in Colorado.
• During that time, Jeremiah was in final rehearsals and starting tech for MSA’s production of “The Nutcracker,” understudying the title role and performing as the Mouse King. Performances were this past weekend.
• Emma finished her Lake Braddock dance team obligations just in time to jump into — in her words — a “buttload” of schoolwork that would make anyone drown. She also worked on the annual Frosty Follies with Jeremiah and her boyfriend, James. That premieres this Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
• Ben went from the “Newsies” opening in Philadelphia to Cleveland for two weeks and then Louisville. Last night they opened in Pittsburgh and move onto Baltimore next week. After making trips to upstate New York and Connecticut last month, I’m planning to drive Sunday to get him in Pittsburgh (weather permitting).
• Kate has worked her way through her senior year, doing her studies, part-time job five days a week, and frequent babysitting. Meanwhile, she and a friend have started making plans — and are actively looking — to get an apartment next summer.
• Nicholas, in the midst of his senior year, performed in his final fall concert with Vital Signs, among myriad other tasks that come with completing your final months in college. He also joined us in Philadelphia for the opening night, along with Ginno.
Just watching them makes me tired. But in the midst of this, I’ve been reporting, writing and editing on what seems like a 24/7 basis since the middle of September. Freelance is feast or famine, and I've been squirreling away assignments in anticipation of things getting (somewhat) quieter in December and January.
Clients during that period have been three national education associations (AASA, NASSP, and NSBA), the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, and the University of South Florida. I’m also starting work on two stories for ASCD, another client, that are due in mid-December. That does not include three photo shoots for clients, plus the dance team and MSA pictures.
Recently I saw a sign that read, “This Christmas I want my family and friends to be happy and healthy,” and immediately lowered my expectations a bit. After this busy fall, I just want to survive the fact that all four of my kids have birthdays in December.
More than 60 Metropolitan School of the Arts students who participated in the Royal Academy of Dance exams this past April took part in a short awards presentation Sunday with MSA's Ballet Department. After students received their certificates, several youth performed in a brief demonstration, followed by a reception at the Alexandria studio.
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
Here are more photos from my "Art & Dance" series. You can check out some of the newest ones in my Facebook album here, or by visiting the Visual Storytelling section.
Hi, everyone... Consider this a blatant bid for your business. I am available for headshots, portraits, family events, conferences, etc. All you have to do is send me an email at email@example.com and we'll get something on the books!
Meanwhile, now through October 31, I'm having a special sale on prints and downloads from all of my Metropolitan School of the Arts photos. You can check them out at http://glenncookphoto.smugmug.com. More than 4,000 photos taken since May 2013 are on the site.
Prints are $2 for a 4x6, $5 for a 5x7, $8 for an 8x10 and $10 for an 8x12. High-resolution downloads are only $3. A portion of the proceeds will be given to MSA.
Thanks for stopping by for this Photographer's PSA. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...
Two new entries in the "Art & Dance" series — "Finding Art in Performance."
Today's Daily Photo is actually a set of three pictures from my "Finding Art in Performance" series focusing on "Art & Dance."
My second photo assignment Friday — it’s been a very busy few days around here — was to shoot the final week demonstration for Metropolitan School of the Arts' summer ballet intensive. I took pictures at the first week demonstration the previous Friday, and many were your standard performance photos that try to capture what happened.
This time, I decided to go for something a little different, focusing instead on close ups of the dancers' faces as much as possible to capture their concentration, preparation, and emotion. You can see the hard work that many of these kids put into this camp and training while having fun at the same time. It really is inspiring.
You can see the rest of the album here.
Students participating in Metropolitan School of the Arts' summer ballet intensive camp performed in a 45-minute showcase for parents and friends at the end of the first week of classes on Friday, August 15. The students performed several excerpts from famous works as well as some lesser-known numbers.
You can see more photos by visiting my Facebook album here. You also can purchase any of the photos from the event by visiting my E-store. Just click on the link at the top right corner of this page.
It's been a hectic, busy couple of weeks as we steamroll through the summer and toward the fall. Last weekend was full of photo shoots, a massive yard project, and this past week featured freelance work on several different projects.
Today, Jill and I saw two of our kids in performances — Jeremiah in a ballet showcase this afternoon, followed by Emma in opening night of "Legally Blonde" with Kate, Ben, and Jeremiah in attendance.
"Legally Blonde," the annual show for teens that is sponsored by the Metropolitan Performing Arts Theatre, was really terrific. Cast 1 — the principals are double cast — was spot on and the show moved well. It was a lot of fun, and we're looking forward to seeing the other cast on closing night next weekend. If you get the chance, see this show at the Workhouse Arts Center before the run ends; you won't regret it.
Unfortunately, the running and schlepping meant that it's now after midnight and I didn't get the chance to say "Happy Birthday" to my mom, who turned 73 yesterday. But since I know she checks Facebook on her iPhone or iPad before going to bed, I did send her this message:
"I'm very fortunate. I know that. And I'm extremely fortunate to have a mom I love and admire so much. She has spunk (in this case, I don't hate spunk), chutzpah, and a love for life as she goes into her next year on this earth. It's a little belated on the East Coast, just under the wire on CST, but HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!"
This next week has three photo projects on tap, including a child's baptism on Sunday afternoon, plus more freelance writing and work for the publisher's company I represent in the D.C. area.
It's never boring, that's for sure... And I'm reminded daily of the blessings I have been given.
Fly 2014, the two-week Metropolitan School of the Arts summer intensive showcasing the work of three levels of dancers in multiple genres, concluded with a spirited show and demonstration on Friday, August 8 at the Northern Virginia Community College's Alexandria campus. More than 30 numbers were featured in the show, which ran almost two hours.
Students participating in Fly auditioned for a chance to perform self-choreographed solos, duos and trios during the showcase. This year, for the first time, a separate student showcase was held prior to the main performance, with the top vote getters receiving a chance to perform in the main show.
The quality of this video isn't great, but the content is. It's a final duet by Ben and his frequent dance partner, Courtney Lapenta, during Fly last month.
The two choreographed and performed to "Mercy" by the Dave Matthews Band. It was a tribute to Melissa Dobbs — the founder of the dance studio my kids attend — and her husband, Matt Armstrong.
Melissa and Matt celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary this past month. "Mercy" was the song performed at their wedding. At summer's end, Ben and Courtney left Metropolitan School of the Arts — he's off to do the "Newsies" tour and she's going to college in California — and Fly was their last opportunity to perform together.
Melissa asked the kids to do the duet as a surprise to her husband. This is what they came up with. Think of it as scenes from a relationship, set to dance.
You can see one of the photos I took during the performance in my Art & Dance 3.3 post.
More photos from the Art & Dance series — "Finding Art in Performance."
One last plug for "Footloose." This was a huge undertaking — shooting and editing more than 2,500 photos taken over four days. The pictures are available for purchase and/or download in low- and high-res format at my e-store.
If you'd like to take a visual tour, check out this video that I compiled of stills from the Sunday performances. I think you'll enjoy it...
Metropolitan School of the Arts' production of "Footloose" had an unprecedented number of boys participating in the annual production. These stills, set to a video slideshow, pay tribute to their performance.
You can purchase these photos at my e-store. Photos are priced at a reasonable $2 each for 4x6 images, plus shipping, and 5x7, 8x10, and 8x12 prints are also available. You also can download low-res images suitable for sharing on social media as well as high-resolution images.
A huge editing project is complete: More than 2,500 photos from the recent Metropolitan School of the Arts production of "Footloose" are available for purchase and/or download on at my e-store. Take a look!
Last week, I spent three days photographing dress rehearsals for Metropolitan School of the Arts' production of "Footloose." Over the next several weeks, I'll be editing more than 2,500 images that will be available for sale at my e-store.
Photos are priced at a reasonable $2 each for 4x6 images, plus shipping, and 5x7, 8x10, and 8x12 prints are also available. You also can download low-res images suitable for sharing on social media as well as high-resolution images.
The first set of photos, from the Saturday matinee, are already up. They will be followed by the Sunday matinee, then the Saturday and Sunday evening shows.
Students who participated in Metropolitan School of the Arts' annual, two-week summer musical theatre camp performed excerpts from four shows (Hairspray, Dreamgirls, and concert versions of Frozen and Les Miserables) at the Spectrum Theatre in Arlington.
Click on the links above to see my Facebook albums from the shows. To purchase any of the photos or to acquire high-res downloads, visit my e-store here.
Ben in mid-air during Footloose — June 2014
Below is a video of stills set to music and highlighting performances from the Saturday show. You can purchase any of the stills at my e-store.
A video focusing on Sunday's show will be posted tomorrow.
Warm up in a dark theatre — Alexandria, Va., June 2014
Our last true family vacation was almost five years ago, when we took a high school junior, a seventh-grader, and two sixth-graders on a cruise to the Caribbean.
Needless to say, a lot has happened since then.
The oldest kids, Nicholas and Kate, are seniors in college and high school, respectively. Ben and Emma will be juniors in the fall. In many respects, their lives revolve around their friends, jobs, extracurricular activities, school, and what’s happening on their smart phones. As parents, it sometimes feels like we’ve moved from professional schleppers to the nether regions of “if we need you, we’ll call you.”
That’s to be expected, I guess. But the transition is not without its bumps.
We had a few of those bumps earlier this month, when we took our first actual family vacation since the August 2009 cruise. Because the kids’ schedules have revolved around theater, dance, shows, and school, we haven’t had the chance to take a significant period of time for just us as a family with little to nothing to do.
As you might expect from any family vacation, the wind up to the wind down wasn’t always smooth sailing. But, in the end, it was just the break we all needed.
Planning for this trip has roots that date back more than a year. On a whim, Jill and I decided to participate in a timeshare presentation in exchange for an extremely good rate at a resort of some kind. Then I was laid off, which pushed things back as we worried about our financial futures (still a concern). We decided to take advantage of the program this past Christmas, but those plans fell through as well due to a variety of issues.
After seeking another extension, I learned that we could take the vacation in St. Thomas in early July, a few days after Jill’s annual conference in Orlando. We discussed the pros and cons and decided to book the trip in the window between the various dance/musical theater camps, part-time and full-time jobs, and other various and sundry things that come up when you have three active teens and a college student.
When we started looking at the details, it made sense for us to drive down to Orlando and then fly to St. Thomas from there, given that plane tickets were $350 more per person if we had flown straight. We also could pick up Nicholas in North Carolina, rather than having him meet us either in Virginia, Florida, or somewhere else along the way.
As we made these arrangements, we decided to rent a van (ours has more than 130,000 miles on it), pay for gas, and possibly a hotel room rather than drive the 950 miles straight. That would not cost nearly the $2,100 that would be required for the extra plane fare.
We also could use the savings to finally take Emma to Harry Potter World, the closest thing she has to Mecca, and all of the kids to Disney World for a day. Result: We could drop in/drop out of Orlando for a couple of days and check something off the parenting bucket list in one fell swoop.
But remember, KAOS has set up a home office at our place, complete with Internet access and a fax machine. When we made these plans several months ago, we did not anticipate that Jill would encounter the First Lady of the United States along the way.
Several weeks before Jill’s conference, she was asked to present at a White House briefing on college and career readiness issues and how they relate to the school counseling profession. At the end of the briefing came the “ask” — aka what the American School Counselor Association wanted the White House to do.
Jill’s ask for ASCA was for the First Lady, who is spearheading the initiative that is putting this unprecedented spotlight on the profession, to come to their annual conference in Orlando. To everyone’s surprise, Michelle Obama accepted.
Despite being a national organization that represents more than 30,000 school counselors, ASCA has a small staff that wears many hats. When the acceptance came in just three weeks before the conference started, things had to be thrown into overdrive to accommodate the White House’s needs.
Anyone who has ever worked at or even attended a large conference with 2,000 people knows how exhausting it is. Jill and her co-workers usually come home and sleep for 24 hours straight after one ends; with the prep work that everyone had to do beforehand and on site, they were bushed before it even started.
Originally, rather than be gone from home for two-plus weeks, Jill’s plans were to fly home, sleep, unpack, repack, and then drive back with the family to Orlando. Fortunately, we were able to convince her that we could survive and make the drive without killing each other.
So, after arming us with a to-do list that bore a striking resemblance to a dead sea scroll, she reluctantly agreed to let us pick her up two days after her conference and board meeting ended.
After all, what could go wrong?
In the grand scheme, nothing calamitous occurred, but KAOS did rear its ugly head at times.
It started shortly after Jill left, when I spent three straight evenings shooting photos at the kids’ dress rehearsals for “Footloose.” This is something I’ve done over the years, but given that my photography business now is intertwined with the Metropolitan School of the Arts, it meant I needed to shoot more than just our kids’ dances.
With almost 80 different scenes in the hybrid dance recital/musical, that meant a lot of photos — about 1,500 per performance — had to be narrowed down and edited. Ultimately, I ended up posting just over 2,400 to my new online business site, which also was set up over the past month.
After three nights in the “Footloose cave,” Nicholas and his girlfriend Katherine came up to see the show. We spent a nice afternoon and evening together, and then we had a mini-family reunion (sans Jill) after the first set of performances ended. The next day, they and a host of other friends saw the matinee, but it was still after 11 p.m. when the marathon ended and everyone got home.
KAOS came into play the next morning, when I discovered that Jeremiah’s flight to a camp in upstate New York was actually 40 minutes earlier than planned. We (literally) flew out of the house and into rush hour traffic, but fortunately everyone was heading south and we made it just in time.
Much of the week between “Footloose” and the trip was spent working on my advertising consulting job, culling through and editing photos, and finishing a freelance piece in and around addressing the items on the dead sea scroll. As the Fourth of July weekend approached, I could feel myself sputtering to the finish line. I really needed that vacation.
Our plans were altered slightly — KAOS again — when Nicholas said he did not have to work on the Fourth of July as he had initially thought. This meant renting the van a day earlier, and the reservation I had placed did not allow us to extend without incurring a massive charge. And there was no way that I would drive four kids in a car for 16-plus hours.
So, 24 hours before we were scheduled to leave, I had to see if our van could be fixed up enough to reliably make it to Orlando and back. An annoying shimmy in the brakes was causing me concern, but we didn’t think that would have to be done until after we returned from vacation. And I knew that bill could be more than the cost of the rental, based on having similar work done last summer.
After having the oil and transmission fluid changed, I took the van to a local Midas where we had had the work done previously. Fortunately, four hours later, I learned the pads and rotors I had replaced in 2013 were still under warranty by a matter of days.
They were replaced, and we were on our way. It was going to be roadside fireworks on the Fourth of July.
I have a new e-store for my photography! Capacity is limited now to photos taken for Metropolitan School of the Arts (from last year's Mirror Mirror through the current Footloose), but I will expand it soon to include other photos for purchase.
I’m holding a grand opening sale that includes 4x6 prints for just $2 each and 5x7s for $8. Other sizes and options are available as well. All photos are professionally printed and shipped to you.
This is from a photo shoot at Williford Farms in White Plains, Md., of the principal cast of the Metropolitan School of the Arts' production of "Footloose," to be performed June 28-29, 2014 at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Va.
I took the stills and compiled a video essay, "Footloose: A Day on the Farm," that is being used to promote the show. The video is on YouTube, but you can watch it below.