So one day awhile back we spent the day shooting photos of veteran TZ performers the lovely Svetlana and the mysteriously goofy Voronin at Michael Doucett’s studio in Pioneer Square. We get off to a rocky start and discover that we’re not exactly on the same page; for example, Svetlana didn’t understand that we wanted to photograph them together, but finally she tells me he was still sleeping when she left the house and she left the phone on near his head on the pillow on purpose. But he was out late the night before and we should wait a while before we call.
We met Svet at the tent at 11 a.m. and watched as she transformed herself from just another mom in sweats dropping off her kid at the daycare into Svetlana, Magic Dream Doll, dressed as Louise says like “Tim Burton Met Barbie.”
Which wig? The light pink or the heavy fushia?
Which shoes? Her gold sparkly ones or the cfm lavender boots with the little bow ties?
We pile into the car and glide down town to Pio Square where we score Doris Day parking right in front of the studio. We usher her up the rickety elevator into the studio where Michael has spent all morning setting up pink lights that we immediately realize don’t work. Finally after Valerie the dresser fluffs her skirt and Michael deftly touches up her cheeks with powder, we are set.
Svetlana is a pro – she is immediately in character and Michael gets all sentimental and flowery and stops finishing his sentences and then suddenly mid-flash he tells her – that’s it!
At 11 a.m. I call Voronin. After the fourth attempt he coughs into the phone. I explain several times that we have a photo shoot scheduled today, remember?
“But my costume, it is at the cleaners. Finally after last show we send it to the dry cleaners.”
In my mind I see a swallow tail tux standing up by itself.
“We shooting you in the gray outfit. Nanette has it ready for you at the tent.”
“Call me back one hour.”
I call back in a half hour.
“Ygenya, I’ll come get you.”
He is in the bath. He coughs into the receiver again then I hear him inhale smoke.
I take this as affirmative and Valerie and I get in the car and drive to his house. We collect him and despite his much publicized evening of partying, he is remarkably fresh. His after shave is pleasant. He already smells like smoke and coffee, but clean, vibrant. En route he talks about the show, Mark Stock, his friend the painter, and Peter Pitofsky, his fellow performer. We slow down to let a group of people cross in front of us on Dexter.
“Too slow, these people.” He gestures impatiently.
I recognize a group of co-workers heading en masse to Taco del Mar for Double Punch Monday and chuckle.
Once at the tent he dresses in record time. Valerie and I are looking for the suitcase with the hole in it – there are many suitcases in the prop room. We can’t find it and I start to worry – I figure by this time Svetlana has probably had enough of Michael’s stream of consciousness running commentary and that my colleagues may be starting to get nervous. Voronin plucks it out of a dark corner and we pile back into the station wagon. Half way across town, Voronin realizes he still has his street clothes socks on – green with frogs.
Again, perfect parking in front of the studio. Three young men are leaning against the door frame entrance to the studio smoking – they have just come out of the skateboard shop to the left of the studio entrance. They are young dudes, wearing identical uniforms of skinny tight black straight-leg jeans and black, black dyed hair, spiked up a bit. One has raccoon eyes. All three do a classic double take as Voronin emerges from my car, his black Sherlock Holmes-meets-Dracula cape fastened around his neck. He pauses, puts on his top hat. As he glides past the baby goths, he nods briefly and then enters the building.
Svetlana and Voronin natter away in Russian as Michael flutters about setting and resetting lights. Michael is friends with them with both and he is very excited. Several times he trips over his tripods.
“Look at his face. I love it when we get this Rembrandt effect from this harsher light under his cheekbone. Perfect! Perfect!”
I always find it hard not to laugh at Voronin as he mugs, poses regally, looks sinister, pretends to be casting spells. The dresser is a giggler too. Our laughter eggs him on. Svetlana is his ideal foil, unblinkingly, mechanically posed. The combination of the two of them is striking.
And Voronin is full of ideas.
“American Gothic. Old West family shot. Let’s dance together. Suitcase shots.”
Finally it is clear Svet is done. We feed her coffee but she says she can’t pee in this costume, to please take her home. I leave my colleagues alone with Voronin and Michael.
I return to the studio for the third time. But my parking karma is spent and I have to park up near the ferry terminal. By now it is 2:30 p.m. when I get into the elevator and check my phone and just as I get off on the 5th floor I get a voice mail from Korum. “Voronin needs more coffee and some sandwiches.” I turn around and trudge back out into the world.
Finally we are finished with the posed shots of Voronin. He has more ideas. We pretend he is on a bridge in the fog with the suitcase and the top hat and he has a long long red flowing scarf billowing out behind him – Korum, our designer, thinks we can doctor the shot to have copy inside the scarf. It might be the right image to illustrate the move on the web site.
We wander downstairs and head toward the car, but suddenly Voronin disappears into an antique shop. He comes back out and grabs Korum. “Come. Bring camera.”
He sits in the middle of the shop like a ghost from a different time. The owner of the shop doesn’t bat an eye. Like this happens every day. Voronin buys an old oil can and a bunch of keys. “I use like this – here is the key to the puppet’s heart. Can you wrap these like a present?”
He finds a pair of old sheep shears.
“What you think? For the knife throwing scene. I pretend to throw and then ask Peter if he thinks this is a good weapon. He shakes his head and then ping!” Voronin flips open the shears and pretends to pare his nails. “It’s good, no?”
The store owner finally smiles.
Suddenly my phone squawks. It’s Nanette, the costume shop manager, wondering where Voronin is so she can take care of his costume.
We double check all the props and costume pieces. Nobody likes an angry Nanette.
Reluctantly we leave the shop and drive back to the tent, listening to Voronin’s ideas about the show in San Francisco. As we pull into the parking lot, Voronin spies his car, left there the night before.
“You can jump my battery?”
Sure, I say, but first let’s get your tux back to Nanette.