By now you may have seen the first peek at the Love’s Labor’s Lost’s lovers, but how did these fun, flirty photos come to be? Leonor Fernandez guides you through our pre-production photo shoot to explore how photographer Brittany Diliberto worked with actors Matt Dallal, Zachary Fine, Yesenia Iglesias, Amelia Pedlow, Kelsey Rainwater, and Joshua David Robinson to capture all of the subtleties and nuances of Shakespeare’s sprightly romantic comedy in a single image.
Behind every great Folger production, there is a cast of individuals who make the magic happen. I was able to pull back the curtain and get a behind-the-scenes look at the process with an invitation to the photoshoot for the Love’s Labor’s Lost pre-production marketing.
Actors began pouring into the Folger’s Haskell Center minutes after the sun had set, plopping down in front of a large mirror to begin the first stages of full transformation into their characters. They pulled out curling irons, pins, hairspray, and everything else that could make their up-dos perfect. A professional makeup artist, Jjana Valentiner, had arrived even earlier and snagged one of the actors for her chair as the first client to be done over.
Just as the actors found their stride in getting ready, so did the photographer, Brittany Diliberto (Bee Two Sweet Photography). Before the shoot began, she pulled me aside to help with the finishing details needed for a complete set.
Even on the most extensive behind-the-scenes videos, you never fully comprehend the work put into making a photoshoot come together. Camera equipment occupied the rightmost side of the room, with everything from reflectors to extra cables within arms reach. On the opposite side, a stack of thickly bound books sat next to a picnic basket, neatly packed with several champagne glasses and a bottle of Welch’s bubbling white grape juice (which would play the part of champagne). These items would be used to supplement the photos and, as the shoot progressed, would eventually be thrown across the room for some wonderfully dynamic shots.
With the shades pulled down and the door shut, the only light shone off the backdrop from a long, LED light. Diliberto positioned me in front of the camera and I marked the floor, denoting where the actors should stand. As I stood there, feeling like a supermodel in the brilliance of a camera lens, she staged another light to dazzle from behind me. She was using me to get the flawless shot and I felt flawless. When she hit the trigger of the camera, the lights around me shuttered with the camera flash, leaving me to blink my eyes and gasp in awe. Diliberto laughed and explained it was a simple technical set-up, but to someone so far on the outside it seemed a wonderful display of high-tech mastery.
During the process Diliberto and I chatted on the importance of using lights, regardless of the setting. While lighting provides for the necessity of brightening a photo, it’s also a useful photographing trick. When there is an abundance of light, the eye only needs to capture a small amount, shrinking the pupil size and exposing the iris. The more light, the more color—blues pop, greens are more intense, and even the darkest shades are visible in their variance.
Once the set was ready, I returned to the actors who had completed their looks.
The women were elegant in pin-curled hairstyles, bold lipsticks, and art deco patterned dresses. The men complimented the women’s style with their own ‘30s swank, in off-white jackets, tight cummerbunds, and slick black bow ties. The defining factor of each costume, however, was not the glitzy jewelry or tuxedo shirts, but rather the life of each character that the actors inhabited.
I herded the first set of actors onto the set and watched as the magic began.
In the room, it was a seamless transition from actor to character with a bit of simple encouragement from the photographer. Each actor was asked a series of short questions that determined who their character was and what their relationship was to their counterpart. Once established, the show really begun, with actors playing with the space, props, and each other.
The mood Diliberto was going for was teasing, as the whole play revolves around the premise of wanting but not being able to have. The actors had real chemistry and played into this idea, each set of couples engaging in flirty behavior. As atmospheric ‘30s music played out from a speaker, the actors posed with one another in a series of longing touches and callous pushes away. Occasionally Diliberto would shout out an unexpected word—she especially favored naming random vegetables such as “Broccoli!” or “Kumquat!”—to throw the actors off and get them to loosen up and laugh, but ultimately they were posing with little instruction.
The shoot ended with all the cast posed in my favorite shot of the night; the women linking with one another in a saucy promise and the men throwing their studies to the wind in exasperation. The photograph is a spot-on summation of what this play has in store for its audience: stunning costumes, great cast chemistry, and behind it all, a wonderful crew that makes it all run.
Stay tuned for more information on Folger Theatre’s Love’s Labor’s Lost, on stage through June 9. For tickets and more information, visit us online or call the Folger Box Office at 202.544.7077.