Illustrations for Thousand Islands Playhouse

Since, in my working life, I started out as a stage manager for live theatre, I have always paid attention to the ways in which theatres market their shows.  Whether they're packaged as part of a season or individually, shows need images to entice and sell.  And especially in this climate of budget cuts, fewer government grants, and, I think, the general noise of everyday life, it can be extremely challenging to get noticed. But in order to get those bums in seats, theatre companies (and the completely unsung arts marketers out there) need to find that "magic bullet" image - you know, the one that completely evokes the tone of the show in a thrilling, exciting, and captivating way - and find it on a tiny budget.

In this climate, then, I think most theatres choose photography over illustration.  Some marketers are convinced that audiences want to see photographs of human beings, and pictures of actual cast members - especially if they're known, or "big name" actors - are ideal.  I think of theatres like the Stratford Festival, or Tarragon Theatre, when I think of this approach. The Shaw Festival did that for many years as well, but for this season they've got whimsical, retro, photo-collage illustrations.  Of course, I've always had Soulpepper Theatre Company on my dreamlist of Companies To Work For.  I have admired the multi-award-winning work from Sandwich Creative for years and years.

I suppose it all comes down to the audience and how well each company thinks they know them.  Of course, most Canadian theatres have seen a steep decline in subscription-based ticket buying over the past decade, so perhaps the face of your average theatre-goer is changing.  Theatres are still trying to find that "magic bullet" that makes sure each and every night is sold out.

I have always loved illustrated theatre posters much more than ones that use photography. I appreciate the leap of logic that captures a story, or the combination of two disparate images that sets the tone. I respond to imaginative, fantastical, stylized drawings that are, ultimately, human. And that, to me, is theatre.

Anyway, this whole blog post was inspired by some work that I can now share with you.  I was hired recently to do the graphic design and illustration for the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque, Ontario, and today was their season launch.  Working with their inexhaustible new Artistic Director, Ashlie Corcoran, and supremely talented web designer Kelly Wong, I am so proud to show this stuff off. I'm excited to see what 2013 brings for that amazing company!

Here are some highlights of the 2013 season images:

Image for Boeing Boeing

Image for No Great Mischief

Image for The (Post) Mistress

You can see the whole 2013 season here.  Visit the Thousand Islands Playhouse website too!

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