Here’s my buddy, Randy Enos writing about his designs for a Broadway play! -Daryl
“The Neil Simon of England,” Alan Ayckbourn, wrote a play called The Norman Conquests, or rather he wrote three plays, “Living Together,” “Round and Round the Garden,” and “Table Manners;” he called the whole thing, “The Norman Conquests.” It was all the SAME play seen from three different aspects: from the sitting room, the garden and the dining room of an English country home on one particular weekend.
An audience member can see all the plays if they wish and in any order they wish on alternate nights. The theater might perform the first play on Tuesday, the second on Wednesday and the third play on Thursday and on Friday, back to the first play again. It’s all the same plot seen from different locations. For instance, when you’re watching the play that takes place in the sitting room, you can hear action and dialogue in the background from the dining room. When you see the “Table Manners” play, you can see what was going on in that dining room that you only heard at a distance in the other play and so forth. It was a very clever idea. It didn’t matter if you saw just one of the plays or all three, you still got the whole story and the SAME story.
In 2009, I got the job of creating a poster for the show when Kevin Spacey decided to bring it and the cast from the Old Vic in London to Broadway, New York. It played at Circle in the Square, a nice theater-in-the-round on Broadway. I got the job because the art director knew that I often did linocut lettering and she had the idea of doing the whole poster (title and all the credits) in free-hand lettering instead of using type, like most posters did. She told me that if I wanted to put a tiny figure of the hero standing on the lettering, really small, that would be alright too.
I did a bunch of sketches and in a couple, I did a little cartoon of “Norman” standing on the lettering. On one poster, I tried a rather larger figure of Norman standing beside the lettering. The client loved the cartoon of Norman and so the whole concept of the lettering dominating the poster changed. They also decided that this cartoon caricature of Norman should run through all the promotions, web-site, theater program and décor at the theater itself.
I didn’t have very good reference material except a small photo of the actor from England who had a little beard. they couldn’t tell me whether he would be wearing the beard or even that it was a certainty that it would be the same actor. I was flying blind. I decided to make him faceless and I went with the beard.
Norman was in and out of bed with three women during the play, so I thought he would wear pajamas. Why not red and white stripes? That would be lively and bright. They liked it. I said, “Is he wearing pajamas at any point in the play?” They didn’t know, but the art director said it doesn’t matter and I should go with it. As a matter of fact, they utilized the red pajama stripes throughout the whole campaign.
It turned out to be a great job for me financially because as time went on, they kept asking for more and more drawings for the program: for theater décor, for New York Times ads, and for products. I hadn’t been to a Broadway show for some time and didn’t realize that they sold a lot of products with the logos and poster art on them, like mugs, hats, key fobs and shirts of all types. Ours had normal tee shirts featuring my poster design and they also sold fancy, sequined women’s shirts.
My wife and I ended up seeing all three plays at a special Saturday showing. We saw one play just before noon, had lunch, then saw a second play and then the third in the evening. I saw Spacey and other famous actors in the lobby at the performances, but what knocked me out was seeing my crude linocuts blown up to amazing dimensions. My sloppy hand lettering paraded across the wall over the ticket booths. A giant poster on cloth was hung in their big front window that you could see from inside and outside of the theater.
Inside the lobby were big cut outs of Norman in various poses all over the walls.
I had mentioned to the art director that maybe they should suggest to the producers that they use striped red and white pajamas in the play (if there are any pajamas in the play) to be in keeping with the poster, website, etc. –I don’t know if that was ever accomplished so, as the play progressed I waited to see if they ever appeared. He never wore any pajamas in the play, but, at one point, some pajamas are presented to him in a store box. I waited breathlessly as the box was opened and the pajamas were removed.
They were just plain ol’ bluish pajamas.
Read many more of Randy’s cartooning memories: