Photographing anything related to “burlesque” is new ground for me. And it really is a gift to be shoved out of one’s comfort zone. 
For three nights I had the privilege of photographing some amazing artists at the Alpine Theatre Project. That these people are able to sing like that, while doing a show like this, boggles the mind. They were wonderful. The show was extraordinary, as were the conversations that came out of it.

These images would not have been possible without the work of:
Betsi Morrison, Luke Walrath, and Rachel Burke of the Alpine Theatre Project.
And without the talented artist who came to Montana to create this show:
Glenn Seven Allen of the New York City Opera.
Sharin Apstolou of the New York City Opera.
Melanie Long of the New York City Opera and Hot Box Girls.
Marcy Richardson of Company XIV and a 2018 Dora Award Winner.
Jorell Williams of the Metropolitan Opera and Jazz at Lincoln Center.
And Billy Thompson playing the piano.

A few things I picked up along the way:
Musical accompaniment was provided by Billy Thompson, we had an interesting conversation about the difference between nude vs. lewd.
 
One friend (actor Mikey Winn) referred to the show as a “celebration of body positivity.” 

Night three was the most flamboyant of the shows. I was talking with Glenn afterwards and he said part of the reason is that for the last show there is greater freedom. He told me, physically, vocally, a person can only do so much, so you have to pace yourself so that you can always give your best in all shows. “It wasn’t like I was conserving my voice the first two shows but it’s just nice to know on the last show that you can really let it all go.” The OperaLesque show is just as much singing as he would do in any Opera and the final show is a celebration of all that has been accomplished.

One comment I am still pondering came from Sharin. OperaLesque is outside my normal. I was concerned that maybe I had gone too far with some of the photos.  Sharin said, “When you think you’ve gone too far, go farther.” In effect, she gave me permission to really push my own boundaries.

Most of the actors commented on the fact that they appreciate that I came all three nights. But my favorite comment of the night came from Melanie. After the third show she told me that she knew where I was and that she was keeping an awareness of my position as she performed. She was helping me.

When I was young, I used to think that photography was a solo sport, and I loved it for that reason. I hated team sports because if someone else fails to do their job, then I suffer. In a solo endeavor, it all comes down to me, my choices, my actions, my work ethic. This means I shoulder all the blame for failures, but it also means I rise or fall based solely on my own merit. Since I trust myself, I’d rather be judged on my own, then in a group. Over the years I’ve realized, photography isn’t nearly as solitary as I like to imagine. It’s always a partnership. These are my photos. But it’s their performance. It’s Betsi’s vision. It’s Rachel’s lighting. Even the energy of the crowd plays a part. The wild cheers for the performers stir my soul too!

The mental preparation for this project came from a desire to create a collection of images that aren’t just the standard safety shots, to be a little edgy, to take a few risks, and to fail at least a little. This is not only new ground for me, it is a rare opportunity. The goal was to take this opportunity granted to me by ATP to create something unpredictable for myself. These photos are the results of that mindset. I wish I could share the full 600+ photos that came out of these three performances. But I’ll leave the rest of ATP and the actors to pick their favorites and share.

Photograph of showing the whole room at the Alpine Theatre Project Garage with the burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
This is the first photo that I shared on social media from OperaLesque II. Most of what I photograph is a lot closer, but for this photo I wanted the wide view to show off the show and the space.
Classic lightbulbs line the stage of OperaLesque II at the Alpine Theatre Project in Whitefish, Montana.
Behind the scenes with Marcy Richardson - Company XIV, 2018 Dora Award Winner - prepares for the show at the Alpine Theatre Project in Whitefish, Montana
For night two I got the chance to photograph some of the behind the scenes, getting ready photographs. This is Marcy Richardson pinning her hair up for the show.
A makeup detail from behind the scenes of "OperaLesque II.”
From left, Melanie Long of the New York City Opera and Hot Box Girls, Marcy Richardson, of Company XIV and a 2018 Dora Award Winner, and Sharin Apostolou of the New York City Opera fix their hair and makeup behind the scenes before the start of the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Stage lights and evening light made for some interesting lighting for me to play with as the ladies got ready for the show.
Behind the scenes with Sharin Apostolou of the New York City Opera preparing for the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Sharin Apostolou of the New York City Opera.
“When you think you’ve gone too far, go farther.”
A tassel waiting to be applied behind the scenes of the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Behind the scene preparations and getting ready.
Billy Thompson plays the piano at the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Billy Thompson
Detail of the golden mask worn by Glenn Seven Allen of the New York City Opera in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
A large feather fan is used to hide and slowly reveal at the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Glenn Seven Allen and Sharin Apostolou of the New York City Opera performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Marcy Richardson of Company XIV performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Marcy Richardson of Company XIV and 2018 Dora Award Winner.
Jorell Williams of the Metropolitan Opera and Jazz at Lincoln Center performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Jorell Williams of the Metropolitan Opera and Jazz at Lincoln Center.
A closeup detail of the opening outfit of Marcy Richardson in performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
“Life is in the details.”
With the OperaLesque show most of my edgier images came from the attempt to really get close and find the microcosms within the larger performance.
Two photos combined. Left is Melanie Long and right is Glenn Seven Allen, both of the New York City Opera.
Left is Melanie Long and right is Glenn Seven Allen, both of the New York City Opera.
A detail of the aerial act of Marcy Richardson performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Sharin Apostolou of the New York City Opera performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Melanie Long of the New York City Opera performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Melanie Long of the New York City Opera and Hot Box Girls.
Jorell Williams of the Metropolitan Opera and Jazz at Lincoln Center performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Glenn Seven Allen gets caught in the dramatic light of the Alpine Theatre Project's "OperaLesque II" show.
Glenn Seven Allen of the New York City Opera.
Marcy Richardson wearing a bra, thong and a large feathered piece makes her way onto the stage performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Somethings are too good not to try to capture. A woman records a song with her cell phone at the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Two photos: Glenn Seven Allen, left, and Sharin Apostolou, right, both of the New York City Opera.
Detail of Melanie Long’s legs and shoes.
Aerial act by Melanie Richardson performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Jorell Williams and Sharin Apostolou performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Billy Thompson on piano performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Marcy Richardson and Melanie Long performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Detail of the hands of Billy Thompson as he plays piano performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Glenn Seven Allen and Marcy Richardson get a laugh from the audience as they compare their muscles in the classic strong-man pose.
A moment of levity with Glenn Seven Allen and Marcy Richardson. |
This got a good laugh from the audience.
Aerial act by Melanie Richardson performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Three photos of Marcy Richardson at the pole performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana. These were shot with a low ISO and a slow shutter to create motion blur. Of a hundred images, these three were the only ones worth keeping.
Most of the motion blur photos I attempted did not work. These three worth the ones I kept.
As a journalist I must own up to one edit: the photo on the right has been horizontally flipped. In the unedited version Marcy was facing right, not left. I flipped it because I liked this layout better.
Glenn Seven Allen of the New York City opera walks through the spotlight as he performs in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
Marcy Richardson performs on the hoop and on the pole in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana. The second photo of Richardson has been altered. Black squares were used to cover her nipples so the photos do not get banned.
Marcy Richardson gave me permission to tag her in any photos. She also advised me that I may need to cover her breasts so that the images do not violate “community standards.” The thing is, if you could have seen it in person, you would know, there was no violation at all. The show was simply beautiful.
Melanie Long smiles semi-nude performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
A photo between the feathers in a reveal song by Melanie Long and Marcy Richardson performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
This is Melanie Long and Marcy Richardson doing what I would call their peek-a-boo song where they hide behind enormous feathered fans and then reveal and hide again. This is an in-between moment because I was more fascinated by the transitions in the performance.
The long leather stiletto boots worn by Marcy Richardson performing in the Alpine Theatre Project's burlesque show "OperaLesque II" in Whitefish, Montana.
I loved Marcy’s shoes! There are WAY too many photos of these boots in this collection, so I figured at least one would be a good way to conclude this essay.