Early poster designs combined a love for theater and graphic design.
I attended a lecture and book launch for Paul Sahre’s new graphic designer memoir, Two-Dimensional Man, at Parson’s in NYC. Paula Sher introduced Paul by talking about his portfolio that he presented to her so many years ago. She still remembered his theater posters. This got me thinking about my own theater posters from the Renegade Theater Company in Hoboken. I designed them in the 1990s. My Hoboken theater days keep returning to me as my daughter, Rachael, pursues a career in the theater. I started as an eager theater patron who wanted to design theater posters and I ended up becoming a member of the troupe serving as an occasional stage manager and frequent house manager. But first and foremost, it was always about the posters. How can you capture the essence of the play without giving too much away? How can you tease a prospective theater attendee and create something that the director, the playwright and the cast could rally behind?
Here are some of my favorites.
This was one of my earliest — and favorite posters — for Craig Lucas’s Blue Window. At first I imagined a white window frame with a blue sky background in a watercolor wash. But after reading the play and talking about it during rehearsals I came to realize that the blue window was one of despair, of possible suicide, of falling into the blue…and I dropped the window frame idea. You didn’t need the window, you just need the blue.
An Evening of One Act Plays
This was the first poster I designed that got a mention in a review in the New York Times! “‘Women/Men/ Women/Men’ are emboldened on the Renegade Theater Company’s poster and program, giving the plays an attention-grabbing connection,” wrote regional critic Alvin Klein who would occasionally attend the Renegade Theater productions. We would wait with baited breath to see how the show would be reviewed. I was proud that the small cartoons and bold red headlines reflected the spirit of the evening’s shows and captured the attention of a critic. By the way, he also gave the show a good review, “In a minuscule basement, the Renegade Company is the very picture of theater on a shoestring, but its vitality and energy seem boundless.”
Becoming Memories by Arthur Giron featured 10 actors, playing 25 roles in five Midwest families, spanning two generations. I collected old family photos from the cast and used them to evoke the time period of the show. I was excited to use glossy paper and 4-color process on the poster. This memory play was one of my favorite shows to work on. I especially loved the music that John Steadwell selected for the sound design. And Charlie Yanko’s crooning of “Sophie” to Sally Deering is still in my memories.
Richard Dresser, a writer from TV’s The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, wrote this play that featured stacks of old newspapers. I used the Xerox machine in pre-Photoshop days to create the textured background.
On the Waterfront
Budd Schulberg wrote the screenplay to the famous movie with Marlon Brando that was filmed in Hoboken. So it was fitting that Hoboken’s Renegade Theater Company would put on the premier of the play. Charlie Yanko produced an Off Broadway version that ran for 5 weeks on Theater Row in NYC and featured Renegade actors along with Adrian Pasdar and Vincent Pastore who would later gain fame on the Sopranos. I designed posters for both productions with illustrations by Ted Stearn. The poster for the Hoboken premier was my favorite.
City of Hope, a John Sayles film
My Renegade Theater Company posters are on the walls in the John Sayles film City of Hope. Sayles, a resident of Hoboken, is best known for Eight Men Out, Matewan, and Brother From Another Planet. Sayle’s one act play was produced by Renegade Theater Company. He cast a few Renegade actors in small roles in his films and they brought my posters to the set and stuck them up on the wall.
Special thanks to all of the Renegade Theater company members especially Frank Caiola, Lynn Corbett, Jim Cronin, Stephanie Daniels, Sally Deering, Lisa Ferguson, David Gilman, Wendy Hammond, Joanna Hefferen, Marjorie Judge, William Leone, Janet Lewis, Nicole Lucas, Eileen Lynch, Everett Mendes III, James Nantz, Elizabeth Reed, Alix Ross, Susan Rossman, Charles Rucker, John Steadwell, Deborah Walsh, William Winslow, Charlie Yanko, and Mark Zeisler.