'Big Love' Poster

Kim Carney, a friend and former co-worker, has a terrific blog where she shows off all the cool art she does. Her work is a constant inspiration to me. I'm not in Kim's league, but I thought I'd show one example of my own work and talk a little about the process.

A good friend, Mary Martin, is directing a production of "Big Love" (definitely
not the HBO series) by Charles Mee. It opens tonight (Feb. 8) at UACT in Roseburg, Oregon.

Mee's "Big Love" is based on an ancient Greek play, "The Danaids," by Aeschylus. In it, 50 brides (all sisters) are betrothed to 50 grooms (their cousins), but the brides run away before the wedding, landing in a large villa on the coast of Italy. The grooms swoop in by helicopter and all hell breaks out. Soon, people are tossing saw blades at each other and dropping tomatoes and throwing themselves on the ground over and over. And 49 of the bridges kill their grooms, leaving only one couple to fall in love.

"About the same odds as today," Mee writes.

Mee's subject is the nature of love and identity. Can anyone retain their identity when love and marriage consume them? Can a modern woman be true to her ideals in love? Must love end with marriage? Does everyone even
have to fall in love?

Whew! How to convey all that in a simple poster?

A group of us retired to our cabin in the mountains to read the play and help Mary with her directing plans. There were lots of visual possibilities here: mangled wedding invitations, a bride and bashed-up groom from atop a wedding cake, blood, knives ... whatever. My initial idea was a simple type treatment: the words
BIG LOVE with the LOVE all scratched out, as if one of the angry brides had gotten her revenge on the poster.

Not great but it was an idea. At least it gave us something to fall back on. I had even prepared copy for the poster:

50 brides.
50 grooms.
49 murders.
Can't we all just get along?

Not bad but ... not the greatest. I always say: You have to get the bad ideas out of the way before the good ones arrive.

During a second reading of the play a light dawned: one of the characters (a gay man) has a collection of Barbie and Ken dolls. Ah-ha! The original romantic couple! People would quickly grasp the idea that this is a play about love and relationships (or maybe they would think it was sponsored by Mattel).

I decided that a simple photo of Barbie and Ken just staring straight out from the poster would be the art. And I would play the name of the show large across their chests (it's southern Oregon; we have to cover of Barbie's bare breasts somehow).

It's cheesy but I substituted a heart for the "o" in "love." After finishing a version I decided that the heart made it look too happy and cute. God forbid, people might think it was a romantic comedy (it's funny, but dark).

Back to the original, all-type poster. I made some scratches in Illustrator and put them over the heart. It's just enough to let you know that there's something askew in this show and that it isn't all flowers and happy endings. If I'd have had time, it would have been fun to actually scribble and cut each poster individually.

Other elements on the page were dictated by UACT's design rules. I tinkered with running the BIG LOVE vertically between Ken and Barbie or turning the poster into landscape mode and putting BIG LOVE between them. The idea was that BIG LOVE is keeping the pair apart. That might have been cool but it wouldn't meet the design criteria.

Maybe next time.

No comments: