grab bag blog

This is where I talk about my work, my discoveries, my creative process, and the ins and outs of marketing in the arts.

BoHo Theatre Season Design

July 24, 2011

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freelance life
BoHo Theatre 2011/12 Season Postcard

It’s time to unveil my third season design this year, this one for BoHo Theatre. Unlike my previous season design clients, BoHo is a modest storefront theatre which has excelled at seeming bigger than they are through innovative artistry in sets and costumes, and by attracting top-notch actors with an artist-friendly environment. Since joining the company two years ago, my goal has been to elevate the marketing collateral of the company to the same level.

This year was the first year that the company’s founding artistic director was unable to complete designs for the upcoming season shows (he’s off renovating his new home in Italy; we should all be so unfortunate). Though he left me small works-in-progress, I decided to go in a different direction. The first major public reveal of these new, finalized images was on this season subscription postcard (shown above), distributed at the company’s annual benefit and recent shows. It will be followed by a full double-gate fold brochure, but this was an intermediary step. To get this printed quickly at a low price, I went with Vistaprint, a company whose print quality on even the simplest projects I have not approved of in the past. However, the printing on this job was superb and the turn-around lightning quick. I was pleasantly surprised.

But enough about the postcard. Let’s take a closer look at these posters…

BoHo Theatre Pippin poster

BoHo’s four shows for the coming season are a great mix of popular musicals and non-musicals, comedy and drama. I made the observation early on that each of the show’s titles refers to the main character of each show, so I chose to feature this single character as the primary focus on each poster. I also wanted to use strong font choices for the titles and make the text an integral part of the poster composition. By turning the titles 90 degrees and running them down the side of the poster rather than across the top, the titles could be larger and strikingly different than the majority of other theatrical posters around town. Also, BoHo’s previous poster designs had been artistic manipulations and composites of raw image materials, and while I liked the previous work, I opted to stick with my strengths and fully illustrate each of the images. This also brought an organic and artistic element to the pieces reflective of the company.

BoHo Theatre Tartuffe poster

The musical Pippin is the story of a young prince and his journey of self discovery, but it is told by a troupe of actors, and the actor playing Pippin finds himself more and more in conflict with the script and the lead player, who is directing the flow of the story. Conceptually, this lead me to the image of a marionette cutting his own strings. In this instance, I used the specific image of an artist’s wooden figure model to create the sense that this is an everyman. The pivotal point of the play, when Pippin must decide to rebel against the structure of the play, is when he is to be burned alive as a martyr. Thus the dramatic flames which ad urgency to the action.

Next up was Moliere’s classic comedy Tartuffe in an updated translation by Ranjit Bolt. Since the concept for this show was not fully fleshed out at the time I was working, I chose a modern approach based off a concept from the founding artistic director. The base image is a popular stock photograph which only shows the figure’s arms and hands; I added the head and face, as I felt the eye contact was necessary to capture the viewer’s attention and sell the mood of the piece.

BoHo Theatre The Rainmaker posterThe Rainmaker is a play I know quite a lot about, having studied it extensively in my graduate script analysis class and compiled an entire notebook on it’s background. It is a classic play, beautiful in its simplicity and inspiration. It takes place in the 1930s in the drought-ridden Dust Bowl and centers around a charismatic drifter who promised to make it rain for money. My initial concept drawing simply had a man reaching a hand to the sky like an evangelical preacher and heavily shadowed by the overhead sun. As I reworked the image and found photo reference (the final drawing referenced a composite of four different images), I lit on the idea of a man in this wasted environment holding an umbrella, with a hand outstretched testing for rain drops. It’s an absurd image, but also insanely optimistic, which fits the show perfectly.

BoHo Theatre Floyd Collins posterThe final poster was the most difficult to nail down. Floyd Collins is a musical based on real-life story of a cave explorer who became trapped while exploring underground and the media circus which sprang up around him and the attempt to safe his life. While much of the piece revolves around the crazy whirlwind of reporters above ground, the heart of the piece is with Collins, trapped alone underground. Thus, while the image features only the title character, much of the space in the image is taken up by the cave to emphasize his sense of isolation. I began with an image of the man merely trapped behind a cave-in, kneeling in despair. The director pushed me to make something more dramatic, which led to him being trapped under the cave-in (which is truer to the story). We went back and forth a lot on the level of shadowing and abstracting of the character. In the end, I’m happy with where we ended up.

One subtle element of the entire season that was suggested by the Artistic Director was incorporating the four elements. BoHo already structures their season around the four bohemian ideals of Truth (Tartuffe), Beauty (Rainmaker), Freedom (Floyd Collins), and Love (Pippin). But he suggested that there could be a small reference to the elements of earth, fire, wind, and stone. Thus, the Pippin image makes use of the climactic fire; the Tartuffe image references air with it’s open negative space; Rainmaker through title and imagery references water, or the lack thereof; and the Floyd Collins image prominently features the rock of the cave. I often enjoy those kinds of exercises: to use an inspiration in a piece in a way that nobody would realize if it was not explicitly pointed out.

Once I have the season brochure printed, I’ll post a breakdown of that as well. Thanks for reading!


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