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.
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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.
Solo time — Arlington, Va., October 2017
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Waiting to go on stage — Alexandria, Va., May 2017
Two and a half years ago, just after developing the “Art & Dance” concept, I took a group of ballerinas from Metropolitan School of the Arts into Washington, D.C., where we shot photos at a graffiti park and in the Federal Triangle. The shoot was very successful, and spurred much of what has taken place since with this series.
What was missing, however, was a second chance to take photos of MSA ballerinas in this type of setting. That changed on Monday, when five members of the Metropolitan Youth Ballet and a helpful apprentice went to Theodore Roosevelt Island and to Great Falls, Va., for the latest installment in the series.
Blessed by an early spring-like day, we navigated around an unusually large contingent of families walking around Theodore Roosevelt Island and took photos in a creek at a small park near the larger Great Falls facility.
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!
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.
I love repeat customers, especially when I get a chance to see how kids have grown. Check out these new headshots for Aidan at http://glenncook.virb.com/aidan.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
New photos of Allison, a student at the Metropolitan School of the Arts Academy, are up on my website — http://glenncook.virb.com/allison.
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.
Teenage dancers, snow, slush, and Times Square — New York City, February 2015
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
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.
The holiday season is the focus of the fifth installment of the Art & Dance series, this time focusing on Metropolitan School of the Arts' performances of "The Nutcracker" and Frosty Follies. "Art & Dance" is my attempt to merge stylized photography with dancers from different genres. The series, which started in August 2014, now includes more than 100 photos.
For more from this installment, go to my Facebook album here. To see other Art & Dance entries, click on the Art & Dance category on the blog or go to the Visual Storytelling section.
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.
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.
You can still order your 2015 "Art & Dance" calendar and support the Metropolitan School of the Arts scholarship fund. Orders are being accepted through Dec. 1 and will be delivered in time for the holidays. Out of town orders also are accepted for an additional $4.50 shipping. Suggested donation is $20.
Place your order now at the MSA studio in Alexandria or Lorton, or by filling out this form. Thank you!
This is the one that started the Art & Dance series — a shot of my son, Ben,rehearsing at the Lorton Workhouse. This image, and many more, are featured in my 2015 Art & Dance calendar now available as a benefit for Metropolitan School of the Arts.
Suggested donations are $20; shipping outside Northern Virginia is an additional $4.50. To purchase your calendar, send me an email at email@example.com or a message via Facebook.
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!
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.
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.
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.
So let's see what's on tap for the rest of this week:
• I have a presentation in Silver Spring to a prospective client tomorrow and a freelance story to complete.
• Footloose dress rehearsals start tomorrow night for Ben, Emma, and Jeremiah, which means I'm moving with them and my cave into the cave through the weekend.
• Kate is kid sitting for one of the MSA after-school children this week.
• Jill leaves Thursday for her annual conference, which happens to feature the First Lady speaking at the closing general session. (And Jill was the point person who secured her appearance!)
• Nicholas and his girlfriend, Katherine, arrive Saturday to see the Sunday Footloose matinee, which features Ben in the lead, before they head back. Other friends are coming from far and wide to both shows on Sunday as well.
• Jeremiah leaves on Monday for a three-week camp. After getting him to the airport, I start on the honey-do dead sea scroll to prepare us for yes ... a vacation!
Hope I make it to the Fourth of July...
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.
Dancers (including my twins Emma and Ben) performing at the Intersections Art Festival — Washington, D.C., March 2014.
On Sunday, I went with students participating in the Metropolitan School of the Arts production of "Footloose" to Williford Farms in White Plains, Md., to shoot publicity and program photos for the show, which will be performed June 28-29 in Alexandria. A videographer also shot footage of a tractor race that will be incorporated into the musical.
These are not the publicity shots, but an attempt to capture life with 20+ teenagers, adults, and other kids invading a working farm on a beautiful weekend day.
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
I was there on the first day of school, and I dropped off a child on the last.
In between, I had an opportunity to follow the students at the Metropolitan School of the Arts Academy with my camera, chronicling the first year of an exciting new venture that has impacted all of our lives.
The result is this video, titled “Year One.”
Our kids have taken classes at MSA (formerly the Metropolitan Fine Arts Center) since they were in kindergarten. The studio has been and remains a huge part of our children’s lives; Ben and Emma continue to dance there and Kate works in their after-school childcare program. The instruction and life skills they all have received at MFAC/MSA is second to none.
Last year, MSA founder Melissa Dobbs decided to open a private performing arts high school at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton. Despite its fine public schools, Northern Virginia is sadly lacking when it comes to instruction that has a performing arts focus, and I believe Dobbs is a true visionary.
In part because I was between jobs, and partly because Ben and Emma are satisfied with the mix of academics they receive in school and at MSA, we did not enroll them in the academy. However, I have been working with MSA for much of this year as a freelance photographer, taking promotional pictures at the studio, in various performances, and at the Academy. You can see many of those photos on my Facebook photo page.
As a journalist, I’ve always wanted to follow a particular group of people for an extended period and chronicle some aspect of their lives. What I realized several weeks ago was that I had done just that with the MSA students, a group of high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who come from all walks of life.
From that first day in September, when I asked them to line up for the standard class picture and was rewarded with a batch of nervous, sleepy smiles, to the final showcase performance last weekend, I saw a group of teenagers grow tremendously in the areas of acting, singing, and dance. They come from a variety of backgrounds and places, some with great talent in one area and no training in another. What they have in common is a desire to grow.
One of those students, in fact, is growing up with us in our home now.
Earlier this year, we took in Jeremiah Porter, one of Ben’s friends from New York, who started attending the Academy during the second semester. Jeremiah was a student at New York’s Professional Performing Arts School, but he has not had the training at the level that MSA offers.
Bringing a fourth teenager into our home is not something any of us thought we’d do, but we’ve navigated the transition successfully. In some respects, we’re paying it forward because so many people helped us when Ben was in New York and on the road.
What’s interesting, at least to me, is that New York — especially Manahattan — offers so many chances for performers, but it can be very daunting to find a focused environment if you don’t know where to get the necessary training. Places like Broadway Dance Center, while providing terrific instruction, are more a la carte, whereas MSA offers a continuous curriculum that starts in September and ends in June. And because a number of MSA kids want to eventually move into a career that will take them to places like New York, they are more likely to be focused here than if they were already in the city.
Jeremiah, who came into performing somewhat late, recognized that MSA offered him that opportunity for focus, although he did not understand at the beginning how difficult it would be to immerse himself as fully as the school and studio require. Our goal was to give him the chance; it was up to him to take advantage of it.
And fortunately, he has. After those initial transitional bumps, he’s become part of the extended reality show that is our life, and we’re happy that he’ll be returning to the academy and our home again in the fall.
MSA has gone through a few transitions of its own during the first year, something you also might expect given that it’s a start up that was just a dream about 18 months ago. But it has been fascinating to watch and follow that evolution, to see the various kids grow with the school. I feel fortunate to have been a small part of it.
Enjoy the photos and the video…
A photo I took of Ben is featured in this new advertisement for Metropolitan School of the Arts.
Metropolitan School of the Arts students and cast members from the upcoming Metropolitan Youth Ballet production of “Coppelia” performed Saturday at the Fairfax County SpringFest at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton. The abridged, narrated version of “Coppelia,” was a sneak peek for the show, which will be performed in full on May 17 at the George Washington National Masonic Memorial in Alexandria.
At the SpringFest, which featured groups from across Fairfax County, MSA students also manned a booth, selling homemade cookies and other items to raise money for the school. They also did tap demonstrations and several students sang during the event.
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
Students from Metropolitan School of the Arts iMpulse and MYTE companies performed at a tribute to famed actress and choreographer Debbie Allen Saturday at the conclusion of the annual DC Tap Festival. Under the direction of Jason Holley, an Allen protégé, iMpulse performed to “Fame” at the concert, held at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C.
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
Shooting a live performance is similar to playing golf in the dark. No matter how many times you do it, no matter how good you think you are getting, there’s always a surprise in store. And usually, that surprise will trip you up.
So imagine my surprise — shock, really — to be sitting at the Sprenger Theatre at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C., last weekend. The surprise was not that it was a difficult shoot, but instead how easy it was.
Students from the Metropolitan Youth Tap Ensemble (MYTE), Impulse Jazz Dance Company and Metropolitan Youth Ballet (MYB) performed Saturday afternoon at the theater in “Anybody Can Get It,” a 60-minute showcase that was part of the Intersections Art Festival.
It was a dance-filled weekend for Metropolitan School of the Arts’ three resident dance companies, and — because Ben and Emma are involved in two of the three — I had a chance to take pictures of their work.
I had never been to the Atlas, which is on H Street Northeast. The theater was built in the late 1930s and showed first-run films until the 1950s and early ‘60s, then closed after the 1968 riots in the city destroyed many buildings and the area became downtrodden. It was restored a decade ago and is now a fantastic performing arts facility.
That was evident as soon as the MSA students started performing and I started shooting pictures. The lighting and shadows not only captured the dancers in action, but also illuminated them in a way that I could capture with my camera.
I’ve taken pictures of my kids’ performances — and other performers as well, both professional and local — for as long as I can remember. Like the best golfers, I have good rounds and bad ones.
Several things make shooting these performances a challenge. First is that it’s live — no retakes or do overs — so you have to be on your toes and able to anticipate what is happening. Second, most of the time you are shooting in a cave, and it is difficult to get your shutter speed high enough to completely stop action. Third, because the performers are moving so fast, a flash does you no good. (And besides, flash is prohibited in most cases because it can distract the performers.)
I’ve learned a few tricks along the way, and because I’ve shot so much over the past year, my photos seem to be getting better. Or at least I think they are.
In addition to the tap, jazz, and contemporary ballet performances by the three companies, several students also performed solos at the event. In addition to the photos here, you can see more by clicking the link to my Facebook page.
Later that evening, Impulse and MYTE students performed at the 28th Annual Jazz and Tap Festival at Northern Virginia Community College’s Annandale campus. For photos from that event, look to the entry below and for the “Jazz and Tap Festival” album on my Facebook page.
Prejudices aside, I’m continually impressed by the quality of talent that we see at MSA. The kids who are part of these companies — most are in high school, although some are in the middle grades — are extremely dedicated to their craft and work constantly to improve. They are their own harshest critics and each other’s biggest supporters.
That’s not to say everything is perfect; nothing in live performance is. But watching these kids over a sustained period of time — 10 years in our case with Metropolitan — you see steady and at times startling improvement from year to year, even show to show.
I hope you are seeing some improvements in my pictures as well.
Of all the people we have met during our family’s “reality show,” Tim Federle is one of my favorites.
Tim was one of the choreographers on staff for the Broadway production of “Billy Elliot” when our son, Ben, was part of the ensemble and the Michael understudy in New York. “Billy” was one of those shows where the kids rehearsed constantly to remain on top of their dance skills, and Tim taught a number of the classes.
Most of the time, the parents interacted only briefly with the staff, waving hello and goodbye as we did the drop off and pick up at Ripley Grier Studios, so I didn’t formally meet Tim until after Ben made his debut as Michael in February 2011. When we returned to Virginia after that heady weekend, he sent us an email complimenting our son on his attitude and his debut, which was almost unheard of in our experience.
Later, we had a chance to meet and talk briefly, and exchanged email from time to time. What I didn’t know, during this period, was that Tim was working on a young adult novel called Better Nate Than Ever.
Tim wrote the main draft of the 30-chapter book, which tells the story of a child’s pursuit of the lead role in a Broadway musical, in a 30-day whirlwind before he left each day for “Billy” rehearsals. Rooted in Tim’s own experiences and inspired by his work on “Billy,” Nate is a hysterical, realistic, sentimental story of a young boy’s can-do spirit and desire to perform.
Before it was published, Tim sent us an advance copy of the book, and we loved it. Nate’s story is a universal tale of a child pursuing his greatest passion in life, albeit with an insider’s knowledge about Broadway auditions. For that reason, it is enjoyed just as much by adults as its intended demographic (ages 9-12); think of it as “Toy Story” for theatre lovers, without the CGI.
Reviewers and audiences felt the same way we did. Nate was named a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2013, a Slate.com Favorite Book of the Year, and a Best Book of the Year by both Amazon and Publishers Weekly. The just-released sequel, Five, Six, Seven, Nate!, is on the same path. It was named a Best Book in January by Amazon and has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.
Last week, on the one-year anniversary of Better Nate Than Ever’s publication, Tim taught master classes at Metropolitan School of the Arts (MSA) in Lorton and Alexandria. He was ending a two-week tour to promote both books, having come in from Milwaukee the night before.
Audiences on the tour have been receptive to the books, which was wonderful to hear after Nate generated minor controversy last fall. The book references the main character’s emerging sexuality (albeit in an age appropriate, chaste way), a development that led to some cancellations from schools, including Tim’s own suburban middle school in Pennsylvania.
No such problems have been reported in this area, and MSA welcomed him with open arms. The school is where all of my kids have received their dance training, and founder Melissa Dobbs connected with Tim after our family and her fellow teachers raved about the book.
For high school students at the MSA Academy in Lorton, Federle taught a dance combination, advised students on their singing and monologues, and offered audition techniques they can use. He then went to MSA's Alexandria studio and conducted a second class for about 40 students ranging from elementary to high school.
At both sessions, you could hear Nate’s voice come through Tim; yes, he admits, he was writing about what he knows — musical theater. He told stories of his Broadway experiences and provided sound advice for the students about pursuing their passion and dreams.
As much as I enjoyed watching the classes, I was even happier to see the students and teachers benefit from Tim’s knowledge, wisdom, and humor. Sometimes, good guys do finish first.
For more photos from the visit, go to my Facebook album here.
Seven of my photos are featured on this easel promoting The Academy at Metropolitan School of the Arts, a new private school in Lorton, Va. that is the first of its kind in the Greater Washington, D.C., area. For more information, visit www.metropolitanarts.org.