Award-winning journalist Waldo Cabrera can often be found behind a camera, filming local newsworthy events and TV commercials around Long Island. As executive producer of The National VJ Network, he also supports the local theatre community by filming interviews with cast members of current productions and sharing them at Broadway and Main (broadwayandmain.com). Anton, in turn, shares these videos with our readers at our website longislandweekly.com. The collaboration provides readers and viewers with a dynamic, multifaceted view into the story across multiple platforms—print, video and web.
I met up with Cabrera recently The Argyle Theatre in Babylon Village, one of Long Island’s four Equity theatres, for a dress rehearsal of its latest production, Million Dollar Quartet. Ordinarily, Cabrera schedules individual interviews with the principal cast members, but on this evening he opted to interview four at a time. With two cameras set up in front of the step and repeat in the lobby, Cabrera lobbed off-the-cuff questions at the actors in such a way to elicit interesting responses—a skill that comes with years of experience.
Often Cabrera enlists the help of an assistant, but he can operate both cameras on his own—one with a wide lens and the other for close-ups.
“Otherwise, you don’t have anything to cut away to,” he explained. “People are used to seeing multiple camera angles on TV. If I were to use a single camera, then that registers as odd….You don’t want anyone to notice the craft. You just want folks to listen to the story and pay attention to what’s being said.”
Viewers might be surprised by the amount of time it takes to edit together a short video.
“I would say a four-minute piece could take 12 hours. It could be 16,” Cabrera said. “Consider the time that it takes to record, and then the editing time…Three to four hours per minute is normal.”
In addition to the cast interviews, Cabrera films the dress rehearsal and features clips from the show.
“The other thing I have to be careful of is, I don’t want to give away the full story,” he said. “I don’t want people to watch the video and feel like they saw the whole show.”
Rather than giving away the plot, instead he focuses on what makes this production special—the human aspect.
“Most people already know the story, but how does that actor feel about playing that role?” he asks.
Being behind the scenes for a dress rehearsal opens your eyes to the process that brings these impressive shows together. While the actors are on stage giving a full-energy performance to a near-empty room, the director, artistic director, stage manager, sound engineer, lighting designer and costume coordinator are all working together to make sure opening night will go off without a hitch. Cables run up and down aisles while the sound board and lighting system are programmed, then before the second dress rehearsal, all of the equipment is moved upstairs to the booth in the very back of the 500-seat theatre.
“Dress rehearsal means quite literally [the actors] wearing their costumes, including makeup, in the way they would look if there were an audience,” explained Krista Swan, the production stage manager. Once the show opens, the director leaves and the stage manager becomes the go-to person who runs all aspects of the production.
Though sound and light cues are programmed in, someone is still operating that equipment in real time during each show to make sure the timing is right. What feels seamless to audience members requires a lot of preparation and continuous effort by the tech team.
While Cabrera takes video of the dress performance, Richard Termine, a photographer who specializes in performing arts, takes still photos that are used in promotional materials, including the posters in the windows of the Argyle’s historic façade.
Father and son duo Mark and Dylan Perlman purchased the Argyle Theatre, formerly a movie theatre, several years ago and converted it into the live theatre venue it is today. Million Dollar Quartet marks the first production of the theatre’s second season—the beginning of an exciting lineup that includes Legally Blonde The Musical (July 11-Aug. 25), The Full Monty (Sept. 12-Oct. 20), Miracle on 34th Street The Musical (Nov. 14-Dec. 19), Disney’s The Little Mermaid (Jan. 16-Feb. 23, 2020) and Cabaret (March 12-April 19, 2020). Season ticket holders are able to enjoy priority access to all six shows at a discount plus other benefits.
“The talent level is unbelievable,” said Marty Rubin, director of sales. “Evan [Pappas], the artistic director, puts together all of the productions. We audition in the city. These are our own productions, with our own artistic team, and they choose the stars of the shows through auditions.”
Many of the actors are based in New York City, but Long Islanders perform as well, including East Hampton native Anthony Genovesi.
“The drummer [in Million Dollar Quartet] is a local 17-year-old,” said Evan Pappas about Genovesi, whom he’s begun mentoring. “He’s this kid that we found and put him in the pit of The Producers, and then I said ‘I’m putting you on stage’ and we put him in the show. He’s lovely.”
Pappas can’t help but brag about the whole cast and crew. “They’re all working as a team,” he said. “Amazing, these guys.”