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Art of the Stage

Photographer Stephen Joseph takes us behind the scenes on some of his favorite shots in Broadway Revealed.


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"Don’t screw up. Don’t screw up. Don’t screw up.”

Those three words raced through Stephen Joseph’s mind as he photographed the cast’s bow and the audience’s standing ovation at the world premiere of the Green Day musical, American Idiot. Joseph wasn’t just getting a single photo; he was using his complicated signature process to record a 360-degree image of the entire theater.

“I jumped onstage a minute after the actors took their bow,” recalls the Pleasant Hill–based photographer. “I set up a series of eight camera positions: There might be three or four photos per position, with different exposures for each. I had to get 24 shots in a couple of moments.”

The shot of American Idiot is one of the most riveting in Joseph’s new exhibition, Broadway Revealed: Behind the Theater Curtain, on display at Walnut Creek’s Bedford Gallery until mid-February. The exhibit has been a labor of love for Joseph, who has spent most of the past decade photographing the artists who bring Broadway shows to life, layer by layer. He shot wig-makers and shoemakers, costumers and set designers—some 89 artists in all, some in their studios and others onstage—all in 360 degrees. Joseph credits his mom, a 73-year Broadway buff, with helping inspire the project. Broadway Revealed will head off for a New York showing at Lincoln Center in 2014.

Bedford Gallery Curator Carrie Lederer is delighted to host an exhibit on the art of theater since her gallery is surrounded by three theaters in the busy Lesher Center for the Arts. “Stephen’s photos offer an interesting perch to have this broad dialogue about the complex support network that goes into the magic making of theater,” says Lederer. “These studios are usually inner sanctums that none of us gets to enter.”

Joseph, best known for his gorgeous landscape photographs of Mount Diablo, enjoyed the challenge of capturing Broadway behind the scenes.

“In my landscape photography, I try to make the images look precisely how the scene looked as I took the photograph,” says Joseph. “But this is the complete opposite. I am working with artificial light and people, and bending time and space. It’s all an illusion. Just like Broadway.”
 


 

All photos by Stephen Joseph

Candida

Tony Walton

Director, set and costume designer 

“Tony is one of the true icons of Broadway. When I first contacted him, he didn’t want to be photographed. I told my mother, and she said, ‘How can you do a Broadway project without Tony Walton?’ I e-mailed him the next day: ‘My mother says I can’t do a Broadway project without Tony Walton!’ He wrote back and said, ‘Call me tomorrow.’

Tony is sitting on the left, wearing a hat, with his cast on this gorgeous set of Candida. My parents are hidden in the shadows, talking with Tony’s wife. If it wasn’t for my mother, I would not have gotten him.”
 


 


 

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Donald Holder

Lighting designer

“This was an exciting scene to photograph because you see the incredibly complex lighting design for the Spider-Man musical. I think they spent more money on this show than any other in Broadway history, and you can see why. This was easily the most complex show I have ever been around.”
 


 


 

Chicago

William Ivey Long

Costume designer

“Long is a legendary costume designer; it was a thrill to meet him and photograph him. But when I showed up at the theater to shoot him on the Chicago stage, I realized that show’s stage is very barren. I was worried about how to make it interesting.

So I improvised and shot the four actors doing different poses, draping themselves around Long. The actors absolutely adored him: They really enjoyed doing the shoot. I tried to show off their costumes, and the iconic physical postures of the actors.”
 


 


 

American Idiot

World Premiere

Berkeley Repertory Theatre

“The actors are beaming because they just finished this very cool experience. I wanted to capture that excitement. I had to get the shot in about five minutes after the world premiere—the first time an audience had really seen the production. If you look close enough, you can see Green Day’s Tré Cool and Billie Joe Armstrong.”
 

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