Day 94: Things I Learned From Rhodes Drama Club

I grew up on musical theater. I can’t remember my first movie, but I can remember my first musical. For as long as I can remember, I’ve absolutely loved theater. So when I finally reached Junior High, I was first in line to sign up for anything theater related. I also seriously lucked out. You see, this particular junior high produced the most incredible junior high shows that anyone had ever seen. Drama was the biggest club on campus and being a part of their program was truly something special.

So today, on Day 94, I’m going to share five things that I learned from Rhodes Drama that I still use today in photography.

  1. How to cheat out
    When a pair is facing each other, the audience can have a hard time seeing the actors and it can result in them feeling shut out. Have your clients turn ever so slightly towards the camera so you can see more of them and less of that “hair and ear” angle.
  2. How to cut out the ceiling
    When we would shoot video, our drama teacher would boom, “LOOK AT THAT CEILING!!!!” at us, and I can still hear it to this day. You see, we would shoot a scene in the drama room and instead of moving the camera closer, we would submit our assignment and the bottom half of the video was the actors and the upper half of the screen was the drama room ceiling. The ceiling served no purpose and yet we saw it over and over and over again in each student’s assignment. Moving over to photography and I see that proverbial ceiling all over the place. In images, if the negative space doesn’t serve a purpose, come in closer. Cut it out. Composition can be so powerful and you want to make sure each image is carefully composed and that you’ve cut out your ceiling.

  1. How to take rejection
    You audition, you’re told no, you cry, you prepare for the next audition. I auditioned EIGHT. TIMES. before being cast in play at that school. And even then it was a background role. Not to mention choir auditions to climb to that top choir by ninth grade. Later I read an article that said theater kids grow into adults with skin tougher than most. I like to think it’s true.
  2. That being told not to laugh makes you laugh
    For each show, we would have a few hours set aside to do “show shots.” A photographer would come in and do a series of still shots for the production and we would have to stay still for about three seconds per shot. During that time, our drama teacher would make jokes over the sound system and we would try our best not to laugh. It never worked. Now, I find the best way to make a kid laugh for my camera is to tell him that whatever he does, he cannot smile.
  3. You can always get better
    Not only that, but you SHOULD always get better. The reason this school was so good was that the drama and choir teachers never settled for good enough. They constantly expected better of us and the kids always rose to the occasion. Set a high standard for yourself and push yourself to live up to it.

When I got to Rhodes, I was super scrappy and kind of annoying. I was overeager and also a little desperate, but I was willing to work to be a part of something I loved. Days before we left for high school, our drama teacher hosted his annual awards ceremony, Oscar Style. We got invitations in the mail and dressed up and I was awarded a gold statue for “Most Improved.” You guys, I was so honored that my teacher saw me as any level better than when I first arrived three years prior. I still have that award, and more importantly I still have those memories.

On a personal note, our dear choir teacher, Mrs. Davey, passed away last fall and we will miss her terribly. The days of Mrs. Davey and Mr. Wilson at Rhodes Junior High were epic and I feel endlessly lucky to have been there to witness it.

Day 98 is currently reserved for any questions you have throughout the 100 days. To submit a question, please click here!¬† If you’re interested in supporting this project, please share, PIN and comment! Any other questions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email me at denise(at)denisekaris(dot)com

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris

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