What if your elderly father died and left you and your two estranged siblings with a southern plantation full of shit, a huge debt to pay-off and a dirty mystery about who he was? Although I’ve personally experienced something akin to this mess, I’m grateful my family dynamic never descended like Appropriate –on stage in Chicago at Victory Gardens Theater and concurrently Washington DC at Woolly Mammoth Theater.
Asked by Victory Garden’s [marketing manager Tim Speicher and Artistic Director, Chay Yew] to make a narrative image to sell this darkly comic play, I quickly sketched up some ideas to share. The only requisite was that all three siblings be pictured though Bo, the eldest brother had not been cast yet. Once the theater was on board with the drawing and a stand in for Bo hired, I added something which is never shown in the play–the funeral day. Knowing well that the story takes place long after the burial, I chose to dress the actors in dark formal wear to address the death and unify them having a shared experience. I turned our stand-in away from camera and concealed his face using him as a piece of the composition.
Before shoot day I built a simple set with some furniture, wallcoverings, trim and props I rented. Since the chair rail was so high, I resolved to raise up the furniture on dozens of apple boxes. This posed a real danger for the actors whose chair legs rested precariously on the edge. So I set an assistant to watch the chair legs. Happily not a single collarbone was nicked.
This was a particularly cool shoot for me. One, because I love telling a complex story in single images and two, because it shared some similarities to my own experience when my dad passed away in 2010 and how my two siblings and I felt afterward.
By the time multiple rounds of retouching were complete the brother on the right– the hired extra–was cut from the scene focusing on just the two. Needless to say I assembled my “directors cut” for my website. You can see the image on busses throughout Chicago. BTW I do recommend this play but get ready for a very bumpy ride.
Directed by Gary Griffin Written by Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins