Creating a new logo for the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre
A few months ago, Kevin Harris from the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre approached us with a project. Over the past few years we’ve done several poster designs for the SLO Little Theatre but this time, Kevin was looking for a new logo for the theatre. We were definitely excited. We met with Kevin for an obligatory beer and burger (corn dogs for Kevin) strategy session and discussed what the logo should convey. Kevin wanted the logo to be fresh, clean, modern… He also wanted it to tell a little bit of the story of what makes a little theatre a little theatre. We left the first meeting and decided that it would be a good idea for Kevin to send some examples of logos from other theatres that he liked. This is what he sent us.
We immediately got excited when we saw Kevin’s examples. The fear of being stuck with the typical comedy and drama mask or curtains or spotlights was quickly put to rest. We knew that we had the opportunity to create a mark that would take the SLO Little Theatre into the future. We started sketching and coming up with ideas…
We explored a lot of different directions but the main concept that we agreed on was incorporating a strong typographic treatment with a bold mark. We also decided that it was important to create a mark that would somehow communicate the idea of a space. Kevin explained to us that the concept of a little theatre was to engage an audience and that the space was very important. He also said that the future SLO Little Theatre would incorporate a stage with seating that surrounded it. We thought this would be an interesting concept to play off of. We kept going and finally came up with these designs to present to Kevin… The masks were thrown in there just in case Kevin decided to go back on his word.
Kevin’s response was really positive. He had to run the comps by the board, but he assured us that he would fight for the design which conveys the theatre space with a stylized L and T…
In the end, he won the fight and the new SLO Little Theare logo is being used. We’re pretty excited about this one.
Should a playwright’s intention be your main guide in staging their work? – American Theatre Magazine
A seriously loaded question that caused a haughty debate among theatre-folk yesterday. I think most of us would agree that if it were up to the playwright, the answer would be yes. Of course they would want their intentions to be illuminated and supported by the staging of their piece. But is it really theirs anymore? They created it for others, so why not let others understand and interpret it in their own way? We all know that plays have tons of hidden meanings and messages that speak to different people in many different ways, some that the playwright may not have even been aware of. It is up to the director, then, to decide which message he wants to convey to the audience. &
As an extremely amateur director, I do not have a definite answer to this question, but I do believe that a director’s responsibility is to the script, not the playwright. It is within the director’s creative license to make the script their own, to bring it to life, to make a statement. I directed a One Act play this past spring, for example, where I made a violent and conscious decision to deviate from the playwright’s intention, and it ended up working brilliantly (or so I’m told). The play was “The Still Alarm” by George S. Kaufman, which is a comedy of manners written by an American playwright and intended to be set in New York. Being that a comedy of manners by nature is to satirize the manners of social classes in a particular culture, I would say that it was probably Kaufman’s intention to satirize a group in America. Having just come back from studying abroad in London, however, I had my own vision. I quickly realized that the play addressed universal issues that could be transferable to other cultures as well. So I decided to set the play in the London. While the spine stayed the same, setting it in the UK added a whole new layer that I never would have uncovered without my own personal experiences and desires. By allowing myself to take a risk and be creative, I made the script come to life in a whole new light. One of my own teachers even believed the playwright to be English rather than American after seeing my interpretation of the script. Had I been limited to the playwright’s intention alone, my directorial debut would not nearly have been as successful or rewarding.
A response from our Creative Director:
Some forms of visual art (Dadaism, Surrealism, etc.) are based upon free association and subjectivity and do not impose the artist’s intentions (Basquiat, Rauschenberg). In fact, they emphasize the role of the observer in creating art’s meaning. Many artists refuse to tell you what their work is about. They might explain the circumstances in which an image was created and what the subject matter means to them. But they will never tell you exactly what their work means because they want the viewer to come to their own conclusions. Sure, an artist’s vision alone can be powerful. But isn’t art most compelling when it takes on multiple meanings, especially those which the artist had not seen himself? Playwrights should not assume that their’s only one perspective to their work, but more importantly, directors should be expected to incorporate some degree of interpretation and stylistic choices when staging a work.
Read more responses on American Theatre Magazine’s Facebook page. Look for their June 26th post!
Kickstarter just posted their stats for 2011 and they were pretty darn impressive – 11,836 projects were funded totaling almost $100 million dollars! For those of you who don’t know, Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative projects for artists, filmmakers, musicians, designers, writers, illustrators, explorers, curators, and performers. Although Film & Video ($32.5 million pledged) and Music ($20 million pledged) were the most popular types of projects funded, Theater ($4 million pledged) and Dance ($1 million pledged) were fairly successful as well. Pledges helped launch new theatre companies, find venues for existing theatres and produce many new works. Here’s a look at the most funded Theater projects to date.
931 successful projects
292 successful projects*
*Dance had the highest success rate (74%)
Thirteen years after its premiere, the award winning play Wit is finally hitting Broadway in January of 2012. The reason for its delay on Broadway is still a mystery but Wit’s prior success is for certain. The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1999 and deemed “Best New Play” by New York Drama Critics’ Circle are just a few of the honors the play has received. Written by first time playwright Margaret Edson, Wit is Edson’s expression of how a woman finds grace for the first time in her life.
Perhaps the subject matter of the play was assumed to be too strong for audiences by cautious critics alike. Admittedly, the focus of the play is on a woman named Vivan Bearing and her battle with stage four ovarian cancer. Some may consider this a depressing and hopeless subject that would only leave them feeling empty after the play is over. Yet, Vivan’s fight against the horrid disease is not meant to be the focus of the play. Instead, Edson’s hope was to convey the message that, “human connection is what life is all about” as the Actor’s Co-op puts it.
By purposely crafting Vivan as a cold, rigid and overly intelligent professor of 17th century poetry, Edson creates a character that is fighting much more than just cancer. Vivan’s unwillingness to open up to people and inclination to hide behind clever words are her attempts to conceal her vulnerability towards others. These harsh tactics have ultimately left Vivan alone in her life with only the comforting words of poetry scholars to keep her company. With both of her parents deceased and no friends, Vivan literally has no one.
The play chronicles Vivan’s process from the beginning, finding out she has ovarian cancer, to her actual death on her hospital bed. Along the way, the audience not only witnesses the atrophy of Vivan’s physical state, but more importantly the complete downfall of the blockade she has had between herself and others her entire life.
The message from Wit runs deep. It is not a play that is easily forgotten because what it conveys is profound. In a video done by the Actor’s Co-op they said, “ultimately we [did] this story to be able to communicate a message to people and touch their hearts. [Through Wit] we can lead people to take their walls down and do it before they are in a point in life like Vivian is. [Because] human connection is what life is all about”
This crucial understanding of a valuable life lesson spoken through the actors of Wit is now finally hitting the Broadway stage. Wit proves that nothing is too harsh or taboo for the Broadway stage. Although it took 13 years, the fact that it will finally have the opportunity to shine on the big stage is a wonderful thing. Having already proved that its message is something all should witness, Wit’s success is sure to be continued on the Broadway arena.
Nicole Younger, Marketing Intern
Why do people see plays?
I think people go to plays and movies to feel but more importantly to connect. They want to connect with the actors and actresses they see. People choose to attend plays that spark their interest because they can see a common thread between the play and their lives. People go to plays and movies to learn. In plays and movies, mistakes are erasable. In real life, mistakes are not erasable. So people learn from the actors, they witness their emotions, their pain, joy, sorrow, excitement, and sadness. Actors in movies and in plays communicate messages that people may or may have not heard before. They reinforce or challenge beliefs that people hold. Performing arts is the experiment that life can not be. Theatre is the risk taker that shows the consequences or benefits of a certain way of life. Theatre takes the plunge into the deepest depths of life only to come up for air and perform what is has learned for its audience.
What is Wit about?
It’s not about a woman who has stage four ovarian cancer. It’s not about the doctors who attempt to save Vivan Bearing’s life by putting her through different procedures. It’s not about the funny jokes and smart-allick remarks. It’s about grace. It’s about establishing human connection. It’s about learning that you can’t hide behind clever words and intelligence. It’s about breaking down walls and forming real relationships with people. Wit is about the trials and tribulations of a woman who has never learned that it’s okay to let go of her guard until the very end of her life when she has nothing to lose.
How many people in the U.S. have cancer?
In a 2010 report from American Cancer Society, approximately 1,500 people die everyday because of cancer.
These posters and postcards were part of a recent custom project that we worked on for an upcoming event in San Luis Obispo. There aren’t too many faces that are more recognizable than Joan Rivers. So, when we were asked to design a poster and accompanying postcard we knew that it was pretty important to feature her, so that’s exactly what we did. We decided to use a subtle texture in the background and focus on a more typographic solution. The bold type creates a strong visual element that commands attention but doesn’t compete with Joan, herself. We’re pretty excited about this show and we’re glad that we were asked to create the artwork.
The performance is sponsored by GALA, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of the Central Coast, and it’s happening at the Performing Arts Center in San Luis Obispo. I’ve seen some great performances at the PAC – BB King, Robert Cray, Stomp, Bill Cosby, Buddy Guy, Afro-Cuban All Stars and several others. We’re fortunate to have a venue that showcases local, national and international talent. This time it’s Joan Rivers.
From what everyone says, Joan puts on a great show and gets the audience going from the second she steps on stage. It should be a fun night.
You couldn’t tell me to be quiet if you tried after I saw the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre’s (SLOLT) production of Oklahoma!. Their performance of Roger and Hammerstein’s first musical masterpiece literally had the crowd singing at the end of the show with smiles plastered to their faces. With catchy songs and contagious energy, the mood of the evening was fun-filled and joyous.
The performance struck another note with me as I reminisced about being in Oklahoma! during my freshman year of high school. It was special to see all the characters again and hear the songs that are forever ingrained in my memory. Coincidentally, I went to high school with two of the actors – Marcus DiMaggio and Kerry DiMaggio. Marcus played the lead, Curly McLain, in our high school production and again in SLOLT’s show. Kerry, who played Ado Annie for SLOLT, had graduated the year before our high school put on Oklahoma!.
Knowing both of the DiMaggio’s personally, and having been in a production with Marcus, it was fascinating to see them perform years later. Marcus always had a professional demeanour about him. Yet, in this performance I saw him take his role to a new level. It appeared as though he truly became Curly and encompassed his Mid-Western accent and bow-legged walk as if they were his own. Over the years, Marcus really learned to become one with the characters he plays. Kerry has always had a beautifully strong voice and the sweetest personality. It was so great to see her play the ditsy role of Ado Annie and see her become the silliness that Ado Annie is. Her ability to play a variety of different characters, sing and dance shows her diversity as an actor.
All that being said, no two productions of a show will ever be the same. Watching the show from the audience perspective gave me an entirely different experience than being in the actual show. I constantly found myself comparing my high school’s production to SLOLT’s version. One of the main differences was the way in which characters were portrayed. For example the lead role, Laurey Williams, was depicted as independent, clever, and witty. She clearly did not need the love of Curly McLain to validate her as a woman. Although she longed for Curly, her desire to be a self-sufficient woman was a major characteristic. Yet in my high school production of Oklahoma!, Laurey was cast as modest and more inclined to be swayed by the endearing words of Curly. I don’t necessarily believe that one portrayal is right while the other is wrong. Each production of a play simply showcases unique approaches to character development. All that matters is that an actor has a basic understanding of their character, feels connected to their role and makes the character their own.
Another difference that caught my attention was Laurey’s dream sequence after she sniffed smelling salts to help her make up her mind about Curly. Some productions choose to cut this part of the play because they feel it’s unnecessary and irrelevant. However, SLOLT decided to keep it in their production and I was amazed by the choreography and dance skills that the actors demonstrated. The actors enacted Laurey’s internal conflict between her desire to be with Curly and her fear of a life with Jud Fry, the man who helps around on the farm. Through their body movements and facial expressions, the actors were able to communicate what was happening in Laurey’s dream and how she was feeling. I think that keeping the dream scene adds an extra layer of meaning to the play and helps the audience better understand Laurey.
One thing is for certain, whenever a theatre decides to put on a production of Oklahoma! they can’t go wrong. There will always be the classic songs like “The Surrey With the Fringe On Top” and “The Farmer and The Cowman” to sing aloud to. The audience will develop fond feelings for Curly and Laurey’s love affair and laugh at Ado Annie’s ridiculous actions. It’s the way in which each theatre decides to put their own spin on the production that makes Oklahoma! truly unique. SLOLT did a wonderful job of making Oklahoma! their own.
Nicole Younger, Marketing Intern
We’ve all heard the cliche terms. Band geeks and theatre freaks. These groups are usually composed of the misfits in junior high and high school that have no place to turn but the dreaded band or theatre room. Cast aside as the losers who are unpopular for their specific interest in music, dance and theatre these students are forced to find solace in instruments, high leg kicks and harmonizing melodies. But the tides are turning. And quickly. With Fox’s new hit “Glee” already in its second season the show is changing the way young teens think about performing arts. Already coined as the “Glee Effect” the show has propelled many normally reluctant teenagers to gladly participate in these not so popular activities. Historically known for its “nerdyness” theatre is now becoming the cool kid on the block…and it all may be thanks to Glee.
Besides their attractive looks, the high school students of William McKinley High School have got some major talent. Dancing while belting out notes that even Mariah Carey would have trouble hitting is normal for the members of the Glee club. Mix in a decent amount of love triangles between the glee students, regular teen drama, and the desire to be the best singing and dancing choral group around, Glee has easily managed to catch the attention of teenagers across the nation. What is extremely unique about Glee is that it incorporates both old and new musical songs to feature on the show. From Broadway’s Les Miserable’s “On My Own” to My Fair Lady’s “I Could Have Danced All Night” the show doesn’t limit itself to just current top chart singles. By putting a fresh spin on some of the hits of the past, Glee has made history by making them popular once again. Now young people are listening to and, more importantly, appreciating iconic musicians that they had never even heard of before Glee hit prime-time television. Thanks to Glee the trash like Rebecca Black’s “Friday” is out and teens are rocking out to Queen, Dionne Warwick, and Aretha Franklin.
High school theatre teachers have noticed a definite increase in the number of students to try out for the theatre productions. Many of them attribute this swell of eager participants to Glee. Some see Glee as a saviour to an art form that was quickly going out of style. No longer are teenagers looked down upon for wanting to sing, dance or act. It’s now something they can celebrate and be proud of. Hopefully, the Glee train will continue to inspire young people around the world to put themselves out there and explore their hidden talents.
Creator of Glee, Ryan Murphy, said it perfectly in his acceptance of a Golden Globe, “this show is about a lot of things…its about the importance of arts education and this [award] is for anybody and everybody who got a wedgie in high school.” Nicely put. As of now, the kids in junior high and high school who were ridiculed for their participation in the performing arts arena can walk with their heads held high. It may be time for “gleeks” alike to give some football players a taste of their own medicine. Can you say role reversal?
Nicole Younger, Marketing Intern
Everyone is doing it. From graphic designers creating free artwork to winemakers creating speciality wines. Celebrities frequently make guest appearances to raise awareness for good causes and the fashion industry has made endless amounts of apparel with all the proceeds going to a cause they believe in. These industries have all caught on to the hottest trend: linking a product to a specific social activist cause. The theatre world is not far behind as it too has begun to partner with social service organizations to not only promote their plays but to excel the work of certain organizations as well.
One play in particular that was featured in the May/June 2011 addition of American Theatre Magazine published by Theatre Communications Group is State of Incarceration. Put on by Los Angeles Poverty Department and featured this past June at the Radar L.A. festival, State of Incarceration is a real life taste of what it’s like to live in prison. Unknowingly the audience is forced to sit on mattresses next to ex-convicts who proceed to stand up and tell their stories of imprisonment. Besides being surrounded by prisoners, the audience also witnesses beatings by guards and even gets to indulge in gourmet “prison food.” Yet the point of the play is not solely to showcase the talents of the actors or live a day in the life of a prisoner but rather to promote awareness about prison reformation. Prior to and after the play, audience members have a chance to talk with activists dedicated to end the poor conditions in prisons across the nation.
Additionally, in a video submitted to the Theatre Communication Group’s “I Am Theatre” channel, actor Vincent Chandler from San Francisco said it perfectly. “Theatre helps [start] the conversation…to help us collectively as a society discover what we need [to do] next.” Chandler’s point is that theatre can help ignite a flame that is burning inside people that they may not even be aware of. Communication on important aspects of society can be brought out in the open with the assistance of theatre.
This affiliation between theaters and activists is ultimately a win-win situation. The activists and social organizations get an opportunity to have their message understood in a different way than it would normally be presented. Audience members can literally experience and emotionally connect with some of the harsh realities of this world. Ideally, their emotions then tug on their heart strings urging them to get involved with the activists and make change happen around them. For the plays themselves, it is an opportunity for them to market to an entirely new audience. Many times when people see that a theatre is paring up with a local charity group/organization they are more inclined to go and support it. Therefore, the two combined help theatres reach a new target market and increase the size of their audience base. With a trend that seems so helpful to each side of the equation it’s no wonder that it’s catching on quick.
Nicole Younger, Marketing Intern
Theatre can be defined on numerous levels. Theatre is not just actors on a stage. It’s not just a director calling out certain demands. It’s not the tech crew building a set or the lighting director finding the perfect shade of yellow. Nor is it audience members idly sitting while a play is performed for them. Theatre is a sophisticated composition of all these things combined and much, much more.
For its 50th anniversary the Theatre Communication Group (TCG) has conceptualized and created a 50 week video series entitled “I Am Theatre.” This series is dedicated to showcasing different people in the theatre world who truly are what theatre is all about. As TCG puts it, “I Am Theatre” is about “capturing pivotal moments in the lives of theatre makers.” The unique thing about “I Am Theatre” is that it is not limited to a specific type of person from the theatre world. TCG recognizes that theatre is a gigantic basin of individuals that all come together to make theatre what it is today.
Each week, a new video is posted to the TCG website featuring a person that they feel has a valuable story to tell about their theatre experience. Week one’s video starred the Connectivity Director for the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Rachel Grossman. Grossman spoke about a time that a 2nd grade girl’s loud reaction during the play “A Year With Frog and Toad” resonated with 400 other elementary school kids for a collective feeling throughout the theatre. This moment was special for Grossman because she knew that the shared feeling that all the kids were experiencing was something they could all connect on. To Grossman, that is what theatre is all about.
Other videos feature such people as Lou Bellamy and Eric Bogosian. Bellamy is the founder and Artistic Director of Penumbra Theatre Company. As an African American man, he expresses the importance of being able to communicate and act out the stories of his ancestors on stage. In Bogosian’s video he recounts his spontaneous audition for Joe Papp and how it changed his life as a playwright and got him a show at the Public Theatre.
The impact of TCG’s “I Am Theatre” is yet to be determined. However, as the weeks progress, I predict that a good number of people will show interest in the significance of this project. Besides getting people already involved in theatre to follow this new series, it is even more important that people outside of theatre catch a glimpse of what “I Am Theatre” has to say. By promoting the idea that theatre is not just individuals trying to find their place in the world but a group of people working together to make something truly priceless is more than a worthwhile message. TCG is just at the beginning of something that will ultimately be a beautiful series of stories.
Nicole Younger, Marketing Intern
The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkpr (Abridged) put on by the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre was literally a hoot. The ginormous man sitting next to me expressed his amusement with the play through continuous “owl like” laughter the entire time. His chuckle was not an annoyance to me but rather a form of appreciated reinforcement that we were both enjoying an extremely hilarious play. I had the pleasure of attending the play on its final weekend with my mom who does not easily convey outward enjoyment. I was pleasantly surprised that within the first five minutes of the show my mom was already dying with laughter. Three marvelous actors – Jack Grigoli, Bob Peterson, and Kevin Harris – made sure it was entertaining the entire time. Some may automatically assume that anything having to do with William Shakespeare is a valid reason to press the “snooze button” on their brain and check out. Yet what made this play “unsnoozable” for people of all ages was the unique and enjoyable interaction that the actors pursued with the audience. The actors crossed over the invisible barrier that so commonly exists between performers and their audience. From having one of the actors disguised as an audience member to having two different people come on stage to participate in a scene of the play, the interaction was non-stop.
At times I felt like I was watching an impromptu act. It was as though the actors were going with their instincts because nothing appeared to be memorized or rehearsed and that is not something usually witnessed from a play. Not only was it fun to laugh at the ridiculous jokes aimed at Shakespeare, but it was even more entertaining to look around during the performance and observe the reactions of my fellow audience members. As audience members warmed up to the fact that this wasn’t going to be a typical play where they sat in silence and clapped in unison they began to heckle and provoke the actors. One section in particular composed of five women probably in their 70’s and 80’s was a riot. They loved shouting things out at the three men on stage and had no shame in flirting with them and teasing them as they performed.
Audience interaction can be one of the most inspiring and gratifying experiences for audience members and actors. When this interaction takes place, it erases the stigma that plays are these boring and meaningless things that old, rich people attend. Rather, this interaction promotes younger generations to see the value and benefits it can have on their lives. It can inspire young people to express themselves in a healthy way and encourage them to get involved with arts programs in their communities. Many young people don’t even realize the potential they have to act, sing, direct, and create marvelous works of art. Most importantly, audience interaction helps open doors. It shows people that acting isn’t a scary and intimidating thing. It proves that theatre can be as diverse as we are. Instead, it provides an outlet for expression that more people should take advantage of.
This is not to say that all plays should become audience interaction based. No one would want to see members from the cast of Oklahoma! pull members of the audience and have them line dance and sing. However, I believe peoples lives can be strongly changed for the better when they connect with the actors on stage. I hope this trend continues on into the future. Until then, here’s to a great production put on by the SLO Little Theatre and many more to come.
Nicole Younger, Marketing Intern