Cut Us Some SLAC

August 26, 2019 Written by Marina Atherton-Howe

For the past four seasons, Third Sun has had the honor of creating the posters for the Salt Lake Acting Company line-up of plays. From the thematic juxtaposition in Death of a Driver to the familiar yet visceral visuals in Form of a Girl Unknown, the 2019-2020 plays proved to be full of lush imagery, a true designer’s delight.

Months before the season begins, our team reads through all of the plays — seeking out strong themes and imagery we can bring to the artwork. As we brainstorm concepts, we decide on an overall approach for the season — photo-driven or illustrative-driven — and present that to the SLAC team. This year, the plays lent themselves to photos that we could stage and shoot with the always-expert eye of David Newkirk. We source the props so this year that meant searching the internet for a Michelle Obama prayer candle and recipes for fake blood as well as beer bottles, stones, and the right table.

To engage and intrigue the audience, one central goal is to craft posters that not only look great on their own, but when viewed together have cohesive design elements creating a flow between them.

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The challenge of extracting one or two vivid images from the entire expanse of a 1-2 hour play can prove tricky at times. With some plays, like this season’s How to Transcend a Happy Marriage, inspiration for an image clicks on the first read-through. Others offer a locational challenge like making a scene feel like it could be a road in Africa (though an empty road out by the Great Salt Lake worked well).

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And then there is the fine-tuning of details as Delaney, our graphic designer, creates depth and perspective helping the bottles pop on a table or making sure the blood splatter feels real but not creepy or invoking the forest shrine of a 12-year-old girl.

We always enjoy working as a team to come up with posters that capture the spirit of the shows without giving away too much. It’s a bonus when after seeing the play the viewer can look back on the poster and have an “Aha!” moment.