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Anatomy of a show poster: In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)

posted by Cheshire Isaacs on Tue, Feb 24, 2009
in Backstage buzz

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This is one in an occasional series of how a poster for a show comes together. Click on the images below to see larger versions.

In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) was originally titled simply The Vibrator Play. As a graphic designer, I love short play titles; if every play title were simply one word, that would be just fine by me. When I heard the original title of the play back when the season was coming together and before I'd read the script, I anticipated doing something really risqué, which I was looking forward to.

Then I heard the play title had been changed -- what a disappointment. Not only was the title now much longer, making it more difficult to design around, but it had relegated the most exciting word to a parenthetical afterthought.

DoorAnd then I actually read the play and understood why the playwright, Sarah Ruhl, had insisted on changing the title. Yes, the advent of the vibrator is at the center of the story, but the play is about so much more than that. To focus just on the vibrator in the title would have obscured the heart of the play.

For the poster, director Les Waters and I decided to focus on Mrs. Givings and her intense desire to find out just what is "in the next room." After a false start, we settled on the idea of a surprised eye looking through a keyhole. We also wanted to give the viewer a clear sense of the Victorian era in which the play is set, so we couldn't use just any door and keyhole.

Off we went to Ohmega Salvage in West Berkeley, purveyor of antique doors, doorknobs, windows, bathtubs, furniture, and so much more. We looked through dozens of doorplate sets and doors and finally chose our favorite of each. The generous staff of Ohmega allowed us to install the doorplate on the door and shoot it right there. The original image is above right.

As you can see, we didn't find a door that had had the same style doorplate, so there isn't a keyhole where there should be one, and there's a big hole where there shouldn't be one. Furthermore, there's no bottom screw, which looks odd (there's no top screw either, but that's obscured by the knob). Finally, there's a bunch of what looks like dried glue in the doorplate's crevices. Time for a little Photoshopping...

Dooradjust1Dooradjust2

Oh yeah, that eyeball. As I mentioned in my post about the making of the poster for The Arabian Nights, at the time we create art for our shows we usually don't have cast members in town, so I need to find my models some other way, and often I look no farther than the office. Such was the case here. We wanted someone with bright blue eyes, so that the eye would jump out against the brown background.

MargoThat someone turned out to be Margo Chilless, Berkeley Rep's special events manager and organizer of the final Narsai Toast coming up in April (tickets available now!). Margo and I went outside our office on Center Street and shot approximately 50 photos while the cabdrivers looked on, amused. The image to the right was the one we chose.

Tabasco Then there was the matter of the show logo. This turned out to be more fun than I thought it would be, given my dislike of long show titles. For inspiration I turned to Victorian advertisements, famous for their ornate typesetting and distinctive style of drop shadows. A prime example is at right.

To choose the typeface I went immediately to Letterhead Fonts, which specializes in revivals of classic signage hand-lettering. Their Mackinlay fit the bill perfectly. (They have a beautiful website -- you should really check it out.) After that it was just a matter of arcing the words and creating that shadow (which is more technical than I'll get into here -- just know that it's not the easiest thing in the world to do correctly). Below is the result.

Logo

Finally it was time to put it all together. After adjusting the logo to appear on a dark background, I put it together with the image, and we had our poster, which you can see below.

Poster

Comments:

I actually work with a lot of graphic designers. I am amazed at the talents they possess. Recent College grads usually have the best skills. The neat tricks you show above are pretty cool. I never would have thought about doing it the way you did!

Clawfoot Bathtub Guy | Fri, Jul 30, 2010


Nice job! Things have sure come a long way from the days we would actually get the brushes out and do something like this. Of course back then, we needed airbrushes as well as quills. Aren't computers a wonderful thing?

Vern
http://www.EnsigniaSigns.com

Vern | Wed, Aug 18, 2010


The Poster is very 1920's, I like it!

Suzanne Price | Tue, Apr 12, 2011


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