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January 15, 2014 5:45 AM   Subscribe

Terrible PR Pictures from the Theater of the United States (SLTumblr)
posted by xingcat (66 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is that a penis wearing a traffic barrel?
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:54 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


I'm going to stop looking at these before I find a picture of myself.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 5:56 AM on January 15 [28 favorites]


No. No! No no no. Noo. No?

No.

Take my money.
posted by Think_Long at 5:57 AM on January 15 [11 favorites]


What? These are AWESOME pictures! Anyway, they're doing their job, because now I'm dying to know about the shows they were used for.

Most of all, I want to know how they got Dame Edna Everage for their production of 9 to 5.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:59 AM on January 15 [5 favorites]


I don't know what's going onnnnnnnnn!
posted by Theta States at 5:59 AM on January 15


Is that a penis wearing a traffic barrel?

With a skeleton hand?
posted by Think_Long at 6:01 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Wait - are these pics from the National Theater of the United States of America? In which case, aren't they supposed to be deliberately bad?
posted by King Sky Prawn at 6:01 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


I particularly enjoyed the all-dominatrix production of Fuckleberry Finn: The Musical.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:04 AM on January 15 [11 favorites]


This encapsulates everything that makes me cringe about live theater. In spanish we have a phrase, 'verg├╝enza ajena', that translates loosely as 'embarrasment for the other', but is actually much more visceral and uncomfortable. Like these pictures.
posted by signal at 6:05 AM on January 15 [5 favorites]


He Is Only The Imposter, that's exactly what I thought! I worried that shows we did together might show up there. Community theater is a terrible fate.
posted by xingcat at 6:05 AM on January 15


This one is ridiculous.
posted by griphus at 6:09 AM on January 15 [13 favorites]


I didn't notice who posted this until after I commented. At which point I thought, "Et tu, xingcat?"

It is my experience that the people who shoot these photos are deliberately going for the effect that makes them so cringe-worthy. If you are trying to get a clear picture that shows the actors' faces and tells a story, you are going to get flat, stage-y looking pictures.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 6:13 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


That's Ricky Martin, isn't it?
posted by Coobeastie at 6:24 AM on January 15


I particularly enjoyed the all-dominatrix production of Fuckleberry Finn: The Musical.

Afterwards Gem said the witches bewitched her and put her in a trance, and rode her all over the State, and then set her under the trees again, and hung her panties on a limb to show who done it. And next time Gem told it she said they rode her down to New Orleans; and, after that, every time she told it she spread it more and more, till by and by she said they rode her all over the world, and tired her vajinny most to death, and her back was all over saddle-boils. Gem was monstrous proud about it, and she got so she wouldn't hardly notice the other strumpets.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:30 AM on January 15 [13 favorites]


You'd be amazed at how many of these are from Minnesota. And you'd be amazed how frustrating it was for me to be a theater critic in Minnesota for more than a decade, to need art for my stories, and to get images like this. I often just showed up and snapped behind the scenes pics with my iPhone instead.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:34 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


I would willingly believe this is just a randomly grabbed feed of all promo pictures from non-professional stage productions, because terrible is hardwired into the gene pool and one just accepts that most will be cringey when prompted so.
posted by psoas at 6:37 AM on January 15


How did the Broadway production of 'Evita' get in there?
posted by pxe2000 at 6:43 AM on January 15


griphus: This one is ridiculous.

That's because it's a still from the ridiculous (and fantastic) parody by Christopher Guest "Waiting for Guffman". If you get a giggle at all from these photos, do yourself a favour and rent it!
posted by Popular Ethics at 6:45 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


As soon as I saw this I knew I was going to have to send it to one of my best friends and erstwhile theater collaborators - but I also knew I was going to have to scroll through the whole damn thing to make sure one of his own pictures weren't in it first.

It's hard for a theater company to get a good promo shot, actually. If you're a small and struggling company, you usually are too broke to get a good trained photographer, so you kind of settle for the director standing there with a camera during one of the costumed run-throughs where you stop and start everyone in these "poses" that you think maybe will look dynamic or something. If your director has a good eye, maybe you'll get lucky; if not, not so much. I think my friend's current photography career started heating up when he started being the one who took the production photos for various shows he designed lights for, and people started noticing that they were good and then started reaching out to him for his photography as much as for his light design.

Another company I worked with had another genius idea - they reached out an arts school that taught a class on "photographing performances", and struck a deal where our final dress rehearsals were one of their class field trips - we'd run through the dress rehearsal the way we always did, but there were about ten people scattered throughout the theater snapping photos the whole time. The actors were actually acting rather than trying to hit poses, and the students had been already given some instruction, and we got good photos out of it. (Although it lead to an interesting moment when we had an actor badly injure himself onstage during the rehearsal and I had to stop and run out with my first aid kit, and realized after a minute that the class was still sitting there with their cameras clicking away.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:47 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


*snerk* I went to go post this on my Facebook feed only to see that one of my actor FB friends already did.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:02 AM on January 15


Empress Callipygos: Oh, yes. More and more I've found theaters opting for this, not just because they look better but because there's nothing worse for tired underpaid actors to suddenly have a two-hour photo call after one of their previews.
posted by HeroZero at 7:05 AM on January 15


That's Ricky Martin, isn't it?

....Wait, yeah. He was on Broadway in Evita.

To be fair, that is kind of a mediocre picture, but it isn't a horrible one.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:15 AM on January 15


Alright, here's one from my own archives (not strictly a promo pic):

Guess the play.
posted by Iridic at 7:22 AM on January 15


Popular Ethics: "That's because it's a still from the ridiculous (and fantastic) parody by Christopher Guest "Waiting for Guffman"."

Hock your jewels, use the money for stools!
posted by Chrysostom at 7:35 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


Each one hits the sweet spot between Awkward Family Photos and Completely Unusable Stock Photos. These people may be internet geniuses.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 7:39 AM on January 15


It's like they peered into my heart.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:39 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


And then there was the time the Joker and the Riddler found a way to combine into one ultravillain, only to be foiled by Liza Minelli.
posted by COBRA! at 7:40 AM on January 15 [7 favorites]


I used to play this game where where I would pick a random, bizarre stock photos and other found promotional pics and try to make up a movie pitch out of it based solely on the picture. Occasionally theater production pics would turn up and those frequently netted the funniest results.

In the context of this game, this image leaves me speechless - it is perhaps the absolute best possible pic to use in the game I have ever seen. It has such epic potential it is hard to put into words right now. Perhaps the best way I can explain it is that it would be like Werner Herzog directing film with a script by the Cohen Brothers, but much more weird.
posted by chambers at 7:41 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


I hate sites like this. I get tired of people possible derision on creative people. Hey blogger boy, at least these folk got up off the couch and did something.

Other problem I have is a lot of these don't look terrible to me.

Seriously.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:44 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


Guess the play.

Gerard Depardieu in, "Che Guevera versus the Titanic? "
posted by umberto at 7:47 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


When you get off the couch and do something ridiculous you get made fun of, sorry. You need to find some other human race that is way more noble and doesn't make fun of ridiculous crap.

I am in way more of these types of pictures than I care to admit over the years. And they are eminently mockable.
posted by umberto at 7:51 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


It also confirms my long-held belief that an on-camera flash can ruin even a potentially decent photo.

tl;dr: Friends don't let friends use the on-camera flash.
posted by petrilli at 8:04 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


I hate sites like this. I get tired of people possible derision on creative people. Hey blogger boy, at least these folk got up off the couch and did something.

Other problem I have is a lot of these don't look terrible to me.


Me, either! Every comment I've made has been made with the utmost love and appreciation. The only thing that really makes the pictures funny is lack of context.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:07 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


And then there was the time the Joker and the Riddler found a way to combine into one ultravillain, only to be foiled by Liza Minelli.

"Foiled," hehe.

I was thinking more along the lines of Miss Scarlet and Professor Plum on that one. But that's as good a Liza as I've ever seen.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:10 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Perhaps the best way I can explain it is that it would be like Werner Herzog directing film with a script by the Cohen Brothers, but much more weird.

As weird as Mel Brooks directing a Mel Brooks script, perhaps?
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:11 AM on January 15


I was mocking these yesterday in my head, but I also think all of these people are definitely more awesome than me. Anybody that goes all-in isn't going to get much snark from me. (And as someone who remembers my small town theater days, trust me, many of those involved know exactly what they look like. It's not always clueless rube city or anything.)

And since Waiting for Guffman has already come up, it is super fun to look at these pictures and think they are cut scenes from Red, White, and Blaine.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:16 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


I hate sites like this. I get tired of people possible derision on creative people. Hey blogger boy, at least these folk got up off the couch and did something.

Look, I'm an unabashed community theater person. I write, direct, act, stage manage, build sets, find props, and do everything you possibly can with community theater. We produce some of the best work I've ever seen, professional or not, and some of the worst.

I got this link from seeing it on at least four or my Facebook friends' feeds, and they're all in community theater with me. We're not making fun of any of these folks for doing this work...we just recognize the weird, terrible, wonderful horribleness of it all.
posted by xingcat at 8:21 AM on January 15 [8 favorites]


I find it hard to hate things people do in earnest that aren't actually harmful, no matter how goofy.

I got a giggle and a smile. I hope they had fun.

came for the Empress C comment, left happy
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:35 AM on January 15


Guess the play.

Edward Plungerpits?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:45 AM on January 15


"My arms are too warm, but my neck is FREEZING!"
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:49 AM on January 15


See, I told you there was no God.

Wait, am I in the right thread?
posted by chairface at 9:01 AM on January 15


I hate sites like this. I get tired of people possible derision on creative people.

We deprecate good art by refusing to acknowledge when art is bad.

Also, this tumblr earns major points by simply letting the photos speak for themselves. If they had larded it with snarky captions, I probably would have hated it, too.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:03 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


That's Ricky Martin, isn't it?


And it appears to be a scene from Lana and Lex: An American Love Story. It's a play I wrote some time ago, about a young industrialist, the woman he loves, and the jealous and malevolent alien that tries to come between them. I wrote it mostly as a lark, but I had no idea it was being workshopped!
posted by Alexander J. Luthor at 9:12 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


Matt Damon's cousin, Kelsey Grammar's nephew, and Amy Poehler's sister in "EEGAH!: The Musical"
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:24 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


Guess the play.

Edward Plungerpits?


The Colbert Murders!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:30 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Guess the play.


A radical and daring re-interpretation of Pippin staged entirely on the grounds of an abandoned Sheraton Suites in Spokane, Wa.?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:30 AM on January 15


Life upon the wicked stage ain't nothing what a girl supposes...
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:38 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


That cross-eyed gal is pretty fetching.
posted by stinkfoot at 9:41 AM on January 15


When you get off the couch and do something ridiculous you get made fun of, sorry.
posted by davejay at 9:42 AM on January 15


Making fun of something doesn't mean you hate it. I make fun of my kids and love them madly. They make fun of me and certainly seem to still be affectionate toward me. I love theatre, and a lot of these pictures are ridiculously funny. I heartily recommend Michael Green's 'The Coarse Actor's Handbook,' written by someone who both loves and understands the ludicrosity of community theatre.
posted by umberto at 9:45 AM on January 15


Guess the play.

The Aristocrats!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:47 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]


Oh dear. This looks a lot like my Facebook feed.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:50 AM on January 15


Now I'm just playing "spot the famous person." Here's Mike Daisey, of "I lied to Ira Glass and he used a whole show to talk about that" notoriety.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:23 AM on January 15


Che Guevera versus the Titanic...Edward Plungerpits...The Colbert Murders...a radical and daring re-interpretation of Pippin...

It's actually Chekhov's Seagull, as performed by the New Revels Players of Champaign-Urbana. You know, the famous scene where Medvedenko snaps and impales Trigorin on a round point shovel.
posted by Iridic at 10:38 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


I shared this link on Facebook yesterday with all my fellow theater friends. One of my good friends is in one of the photos. I shared the link because the photos serves as a cautionary tale for those of us who are responsible for them.

I hate bad pr photos. The poor actors are not responsible for the outcome. Somebody else typically selected them for the show, choose their costume, picked the location, set the pose, lit it and pulled the trigger. None of those people are visible in the photo. Is the actors who end up looking stupid and it's or grim responsibility as those who are responsible for these photos to do everything we can to avoid making our cast look stupid.

So how? This is largely a matter of personal aesthetic preference but here's my thoughts.

Well, first there are set, costume and lighting elements that work great on stage but not so much on camera. If some design element screams "fake" up close, don't use it. Lighting is especially essential but more on the in a moment.

A good pr photo should communicate the idea or feel of the show more than something that happens in the show. To many directors try to clumsily recreate scenes and the photos ends up looking silly and passed. Base your shots on the mood you want conveyed or the information you want communicated. If it's Oklahoma you're publicizing, worry about communicating "musical" more than "I really want people to see Curly on his surrey." On the other hand, if there are well known characters in the show, like Phantom, let people see that. On this blog, there is a photo that is obviously for a production of Peter Pan. Lousy photo but decent pr photo anyway because of I want to take my kids to a show I know exactly what is playing.

I believe less is more. As a result, I prefer pr photos that are taken in a studio or similar neutral seeing where you can light the subjects properly. Even if your pose is stupid, the actors will at least look decent with good lights. Besides sets are seldom in a finished state when you're doing your pr work so why show an obviously unfinished set?

If you can't afford a real photographer and studio why not have your lighting designer set a few lights up when you're a scrim or drop. They generally know more about sculpting face with light than the rest of us.

I also think there should be a sense of real movement in a pr photo. Most of the photos on this blog seem posed, even the action shots. If you ask your actors to actually physically do the thing you want them to do, the photo will usually look more candid and less posed.

In general, I believe it's my job as a director during pr shoots to have a few easy shots in mind, to communicate to the photographer what I want the photo to communicate and then to let the photographer do the work. They should know what a good photo looks like and area more likely to create a dynamic composition than I am. If the photographer is inspired to do something different than what I proposed that still captures the mood of the show, I'm all for it.

I also ask the photographer to curate the shots I'll be selecting from. She or he knows what sort of work they would like representing the in the world so they'll select the best.

Ultimately, the purpose of a compelling pr photo is to get people interested in reading the accompanying caption or article, which in turn will hopefully leaf to a ticket sale. A photo that makes somebody go "ick" can do that but isn't as likely to do it as a photo that makes them go "that's cool, I winner what that is about? " Furthermore, cool looking photos can help create a buzz around a show. Buzz is good.

Also in my experience you can't go wrong with pr photos of men with rippling six pack abs covered in oil. Cast accordingly. You'll sell out the run.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:46 AM on January 15 [5 favorites]


A good pr photo should communicate the idea or feel of the show more than something that happens in the show.

You've just reminded me of one of the more successful photo shoots done for a play I worked on. The company was doing Hurlyburly, and they brought the four main male characters into a public restroom and had them each just all do random character-appropriate stuff. I think they had a couple of guys cutting lines of coke on the counter, and I remember one guy was posed at one of the urinals....it was poses, sure, but somehow it caught the show.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:49 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Very disappointing. I didn't actually get a laugh out of any of them.

For one, whoever curates this blog seems to have it in for children's theatre... for another, they seem unable to tell the difference between ridiculous costumes for comedy, and bad costumes for "serious" theater.

To be "bad" the creator actually has to think that the work is good - like this. Bonus points if it's unintentionally dirty.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:06 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


In spanish we have a phrase, 'verg├╝enza ajena', that translates loosely as 'embarrasment for the other', but is actually much more visceral and uncomfortable. Like these pictures.

Finally, a word to describe the sweat drop!
posted by Apocryphon at 12:58 PM on January 15


So... FWIW I'm 99% sure one of these photos is of my father.

On preview: Bunny Ultramod's comment about many of these being from MN pretty much confirms it.
posted by lucasks at 1:01 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


How much do I love that I know these people?

Not "I know people like that." That's actually a picture of my friends N (left) and K, from a production of an original play in Houston in 2012.

The play, obviously, was set in a Disco Mall. Obviously. In this case, at least, the perceived terribleness of the shot is part of the deliberately over-the-top 70s vibe of the production.

Context is everything, as always.
posted by uberchet at 2:18 PM on January 15


I go to the theater too much. I recognized at least 2 of these from Philly productions.
posted by interplanetjanet at 2:21 PM on January 15


I particularly enjoyed the all-dominatrix production of Fuckleberry Finn: The Musical.

I would really have liked to have seen this, and then talked with the cast member about how to overthrow the patriarchy afterwards.

This brings back some horribly repressed community am dram theatre memories, the director who told me not to take it all too seriously - and then got drunk in the pub roaring that he was king James the first, I missed the time he got drunk and berated the actors during the performance.

But then again, you can meet some really wonderful and generous people and have an absolutely cracking time - I did a stand in for a Edinburgh fringe show once, a Home Counties troupe, the show was terrible but it really cleared my head of a lot of stereotypes I had when I saw how they got treated.

They were really nice people and it was a great laugh, the photos were probably pretty terrible though.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:43 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Pleasedon'tletmebeinthese, pleasedon'tletmebeinthese, pleasedon'tletmebeinthese...phew.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:30 PM on January 15


This isn't from a play, but when I was in college I competed in being a show-off, it was called forensics, and I did pretty well at it. Anyway, one of the sections I competed in was readers' theater, and here's a photo of me in our production of The Shrinking of Treehorn.

It would later be used by the community college I was going to at the time in a recruitment brochure with the caption: "What About a Social Life?"

Yeah, what about it?
posted by Toekneesan at 7:04 PM on January 15


Guess the play.

Amateur Psycho?
posted by Naberius at 7:41 PM on January 15


Terrible PR Pictures, late 19th century edition.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:01 AM on January 16 [2 favorites]


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