I knew immediately that this was a special project when I first talked with the creative team at the Sierra Madre Playhouse. They were looking for an iconic image to promote their production of Woman In Mind written by Alan Ayckbourn that supported their artistic vision. Christian Lebano, the director, came searching for me after seeing my graphic poster design for What the Butler Saw at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, and he felt I had the right sensitivity to take on their design. I am no stranger to Ayckbourn as a playwright, having designed graphic posters for six of his plays, most at the Odyssey. Christian loved the idea of seeing the world through Susan's eyes (the main character) like she is inviting us into her dream world with her unsatisfactory life (on the right) and her perfect fantasy family (on the left) that she takes refuge in. As a first person play, we actually see a split in two different worlds from her perspective. When we see Susan go crazy-- we go crazy too. Ayckbourn is always full of clever wit, and there are lots of laughs in this play, but there is a darker kind of comedy at work here.
Since so much of the play is seeing what is only in Susan's head, I thought a surrealistic feeling image was the way to go. The art if Magritte came to mind, especially his "man in bowler hat" images. After looking at his painting, Decalcomania (above, painted in 1966), I thought how widely disseminated in advertising and modern culture these images are. The public may not know the artist's name, but there is no problem recognizing this image... it has inspired artists for decades. Surrealism features elements of unexpected juxtaposition and can be thought provoking and witty. For example the clouds in the Woman In Mind design form what looks like a type of inkblot test (Rorschach technique test), which is used to examine a person's emotional functioning and personality after their perceptions are analyzed. And just like in Magritte's work, many of his portraits are without faces, or obscured by objects. In the poster, Susan's real and fantasy families have no faces... we learn about them only by color, shape and pose. And just like Magritte's man in bowler hat we are looking at Susan's back, out a window and into her garden. Even the surprise subtle design elements in the pattern of Susan's dress seems to be non-sequitor, like surrealistic images... a pattern made up of bees. In all, a thought provoking poster for a thought provoking play. Click here for more information about "Woman In Mind" at the Sierra Madre Playhouse