By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Stephen Joseph’s elaborate “Broadway Revealed: Behind the Theater Curtain,” photograph series got started right here in Oneonta.
“Ten years ago, I was having lunch with artist Julia Clay and I told her I would love to find a project based in New York City,” he said. “I live in California, but I wanted an excuse to come back here more often.”
Clay suggested he meet with Marjorie Bradley Kellogg, a Broadway set designer living in Treadwell. “I photographed her in her studio with all the models she built of the sets,” he said. “And that started the whole thing rolling.”
The show, which had a run at Lincoln Center in 2012, opens 3 p.m. Sunday, June 9, at Hartwick College’s Foreman Gallery. “I’m psyched to have the show come to Oneonta,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t get to see it when it was in New York.”
For eight years, Joseph, son of painter Bunny and Howard Joseph, photographed costume designers, set builders, shoemakers, and other behind-the-scenes artists of Broadway shows including “Chicago,” “American Idiot,” “Hair,” and “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.”
“People know the actors, the dancers, the celebrities,” he said. “But I wanted to show the people who create the shows. People don’t recognize that everything on that stage has to be made.”
The show toured the country until 2014, complete with a book of the same title. But since then, Joseph said, it has been in storage in his studio. “I wanted to bring it back, and Bob Brzozowski suggested the Foreman Gallery,” he said. “He put me in touch with (Hartwick College President) Margaret Drugovich.”
“I had the opportunity to see the book of his work and I was transfixed,” said Drugovich. “I love the theater, and to see what goes into making these shows – the lighting, the costumes, the stage design – it really brings the theater fully alive. People are going to love it.”
“I used to teach at Hartwick College, so it was nice to be able to bring it back there,” he said.
Joseph said that part of the project was inspired by his mother. “She started going to Broadway shows in 1939, when she was 14,” he said. “She saved all her programs, and we looked at all of them, studying the different designers.”
The project was also an excuse for the Oneonta native to visit New York City. “I would pick up whitefish and lox and take them up my parents after a shoot,” he said. “It’s a tradition.”
Such a strong tradition, in fact, that, to come set up the show, he took an overnight flight into New York City, bought groceries on his way to Port Authority and then took a four hour bus ride to Oneonta. “It took 18 hours of travel,” he said. “But I arrived with whitefish, so it was worth it.”
The show contains all 113 of Joseph’s panoramic photographs, as well as a first-look video at his latest project, a behind-the-scenes look at the Glimmerglass Festival.
“I wanted to expand on this project and stay within photographing theater,” he said. “And with the Glimmerglass Opera, they do everything – the sets, the costumes, the props – right there. It’s so fun to photograph.”
He started last year, and is continuing in the week leading up to the show, when he will debut a video of the images he shot. “No one has seen these photos yet!” he said. “They’re very cool.”
Joseph will give remarks at 4 p.m. on Sunday, and Patrice Macaluso, retired SUNY Oneonta theater professor, will also give a 90-minute tour of the exhibit with a lecture at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, July 28.
“When I look at the exhibit, I can’t believe I did all that,” he said. “I schlepped all over New York City for eight years, talking to all these people. I’m amazed.”