News for the ‘marketing’ Category

Hope you guess my name.

An unnamed journalist in a warzone.
A friendly translator in his homeland.
Together, they cover the story of a lifetime.

That’s the story of A Report of Gunfire boiled down to the essentials. It’s a script I wrote for the 2008 Capital Fringe Festival, developed from a ten-minute short from the 2006 Louisville Playwrights Festival. (You can actually see that version at the Gunfire website. A version of this ten minutes became the first scene of the full-length version. But this short is about a very different journalist in the end.)

The artwork for the show seemed simple. I’d been wanting to do something with a Saul Bass flavor to it for a while. (If you don’t know who Saul Bass is, well, as Bugs would say, “For shame, Doc. For shame.”) The initial idea was a single bullet hole, with a gush of red pouring out. This did not work. It looked like a strange nun, maybe a Christmas tree gone horribly wrong.

Take two. This is the one that worked.

the poster for the 2008 Capital Fringe production

A road, a body, three bullets for three characters who die during the story. The colors make reference to the old “what’s black and white and red all over” joke. And the tagline, “In times of war, silence can be deadly,” ties in to an anecdote the journalist tells about how sometimes the silence is scarier than the noise. The play plays with sound and silence throughout, both literal and metaphorical.

And what about the title of this post? We used the Neptunes’ remix of Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones, albeit without the ambient noise at the beginning of this clip. It was a nice jolt of noise in the dark and silence at the very end of the play.

Posted: February 17th, 2010
Categories: artwork, marketing, the process
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One moment to feel your warmth.

This is marketing artwork from Te Dua, a play by Jennifer Wills from a true story developed by Adale O’Brien, which won the Forth Freedom Playwriting Award at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in 2001. It’s the true story of two people on different sides of the conflict in Sarajevo, told (in this draft) with imagery from board games and strategy games. I probably don’t have to tell you that it’s a tragedy in the end. It’s a fine play, and I hope we get to see how it’s developed since the Hanover production.

Te Dua

Each of these images anchored their own posters, with all three appearing on the program covers.

I’m going to have to revisit this post at a later date, because I don’t have the translations handy. But I managed to translate several phrases, some from the play directly, some thematically in line with the play, and used them as the propaganda slogans in the artwork. (I’ll also include a larger version of the artwork as well…)

For the imagery itself, I knew from the first reading that the artwork would be Soviet-style propaganda art. I knew some already, researched more, sparking to the work of artists like Valentina Kulagina, Litvak, the Stenberg brothers, and particularly the works of Vladimir Mayakovsky and Alexander Rodchenko. (These links are all from the A Soviet Poster A Day blog, which is inactive. It didn’t exist when I was doing my initial research.)

The top image, with Uncle Moneybags (or whatever they’re calling him these days), plays with the board game themes in the script, using Monopoly as a dual-edged reference to Communist Russia. The bottom image, with the fist, is more directly inspired by some actual posters. Both of these were hand-drawn.

The central image, which was also the primary artwork, is a collage of drawn elements, typography and photography, featuring the lead actors from the production.

As good as the show was, and as much as people liked the artwork, the best part of the experience for me was when we managed to get copies of the artwork to the actual soldier whose story inspired the play. He was stunned at the wording in the posters–and stunned that it was translated properly–but knew immediately what original artwork had inspired which element in each poster. He was amazed that anyone here in southern Indiana knew Mayakovsky or would design art in his and Rodchenko’s styles. That he loved the art meant a lot.

If you’d like to set the mood, listen to Vrbana Bridge by Jill Sobule (at Amazon or iTunes). This is the song that essentially opened the show, a similarly tragic story in the same setting.

To close the show, the theatre commissioned an original song by Tamara Dearing, of whom you’ve heard a little on this blog already. (If you haven’t, go check out Suo Gan.) She recorded two versions, an instrumental for the actual ending and a second version with lyrics for the curtain call. This is the one with lyrics.

It’s also where the title of this post comes from.

Tamara Dearing – Te Dua

Creative Commons License

Te Dua by Tamara Dearing is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Posted: February 4th, 2010
Categories: artwork, marketing, music, original songs, the process
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This is one of my favorite pieces, bar none.

Years ago, when I was still doing their marketing designs, the Hanover College Theatre put on a revue of sketches, short plays and songs under the banner title, “I Have to Say I Love You.” The only caveat for the artwork: don’t use hearts, don’t do the cliches.

I tried design after design, I went to rehearsals and watched the show, but nothing was coming to me. Finally, I asked the director what his idea of the show was, because–aside from love and all the cliches–it was escaping me. “Well, I’d like to think it’s like an issue of the New Yorker.” Stories, cartoons, short pieces. The first image popped into my head. Within the week, there were approximately 40 faux New Yorker cartoons, all in various styles, from Thurber to Addams, Arno to Chast, Gorey to BEK.

This was before I had children or cats roaming my home at will.

Eventually, all of the cartoons wound up on posters, cards, even programs. There were four variant programs, each with unique artwork on the cover and throughout. We mixed and matched so that–hopefully–no two people sitting next to each other got the same artwork.

This poster is one that I’ve captioned Nightdogs. It’s Edward Hopper’s famous Nighthawks painting as James Thurber might have redrawn it, albeit with a lot more chiaroscuro than Thurber would’ve used. A lot more.

Of course, that was the challenge, balancing the Thurber dogs with the Hopper style and staying as true to each as possible.

There are a couple of small in-jokes, too. If you look at the sign over the window, you’ll see the phrase, “My Diner and Welcome to It,” which refers to the celebrated 1969 sitcom My World and Welcome To It, adapted from Thurber’s writing. (You can see some of the show here if you’re curious.)

There’s also a reference in the sign to Thurber and Hopper as well as Charles Schulz, who acknowledged Thurber as an influence. If you look really closely, you might even spot where that influence went…

What did this image have to do with the show? Not much by itself. But as part of a larger campaign–with twelve different poster designs, six different flyers and four different programs–it set the mood. You were going to see something like an issue of the New Yorker unfold on stage. Some of the cartoons had more to do with the specific theme of love than others–and I do plan to share some of those later.

But this one’s my favorite of all.

Posted: January 24th, 2010
Categories: artwork, marketing, parody, the process
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Colors on the snowy linen land.

In late 2008, Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Georgia, commissioned a play about Vincent van Gogh. Their one request was that it should include at least part of one of Vincent’s sermons from when he was briefly a clergyman. I’d already had an idea for a story of van Gogh, using the letters and story of his friend and protege Emile Bernard to show us a side of van Gogh we haven’t often seen. That’s how Seeing Red was born. That’s all a story for another post.

Right now, we’re just looking at the promotional art.

Seeing Red postcard

This was the primary artwork when we performed the show in Madison, Indiana, in Sept 2009. It had evolved from the original design we used in Georgia in Feb 2009.

Because we’re seeing Vincent from the angle of another artist, we see a black and white outline of one of Vincent’s self-portraits. It is for us, and for Bernard, to fill in the colors, the details. The text is in a clear, clean font for contrast and visibility from a distance. The title itself comes from a phrase in one of Vincent’s letters describing his condition as “seeing red,” which is the only color we see in the artwork.

The frame, while appropriate to the subject, is actually carried over from previous shows as part of our house style. Local audiences see this and even if they can’t make anything else out, they know that it’s a Riverrun Theatre poster because of the style.

Posted: January 23rd, 2010
Categories: artwork, marketing, the process
Comments: 5 Comments.