Any community theater organization that can continuously produce quality theater for 50 YEARS and actually increase the number of shows they do AND win awards deserves to celebrate their accomplishments. I love the newsletters and advertisements and post cards I design, but I love live theater, both attending and photographing, and being able to design this program spanning black and white images from 1962 to color images from 2012 was a very exciting assignment.
An event program is usually for the audience to read about the program and possibly take away for memories, though they are usually not kept except for sentimental value, but in this case recalling the growth and change would make the program something for the audience to read and keep. And then the members of the organization itself, both current and past, and family and friends would want to keep the historical record and look for themselves in it after all had attended the 50th Anniversary Benefit concert.
Right away we knew we’d need more than the usual 5.5″ x 8.5″ program with four or eight pages. Telling the story and showing photos and mementos along with the ads from sponsors would take at least 12 pages, probably 16 or even 20 at that size. But considering the idea of a timeline theme I thought a larger page size would make it easier to balance copy with images and to be a little more decorative with the design instead of trying to jam copy onto pages with tiny photos. Still, there is the budget for a community theater group to consider, so we decided on the larger size, 12 pages, but color only on the outside because many of the photos would be from before the era of color film.
Stage 62 is lucky to have had several resources for information and images. Early on they gave me two old-fashioned oversized scrapbooks with 18″ x 24″ or larger pages containing page after page of high-quality black and white performance shots along with a program and even sometimes a ticket, then later color shots and original clippings from newspapers, spanning 1962 to about 1990. After that individuals had their own snapshots from shows and the organization’s original website had an image of each program with each show, and links to photos where available, spanning about 1990 to 2006 when their current professional photographer began photographing shows and posting high-quality galleries to choose from.
When I design just about anything, I am usually begging for images. In this case, I was pretty overwhelmed and had to peruse the big books and the websites repeatedly to get a theme and style to develop that worked well for both black and white and color photos, and black and white and color pages. The organization wanted to use primarily ensemble shots to show the “community theater” idea, and there are actually people who have played roles in acting and production in over a dozen shows as well as generations of families who have all played a part in Stage 62.
So I looked for photos from shows that were notable in their history—their first show for instance, or with recognizable images from popular shows like South Pacific and Hello Dolly!, or were great period shots from each decade of dress and hairstyles with sideburns and go-go boots. I was enchanted by the designs of the programs from the early years too as well as the tickets, and decided to use a few of these in place of some photos because they also showed the Stage 62 logo through the years, and contained information about the places they were performed as Stage 62 moved venues around Bethel Park and to Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall.
In some cases with the programs I had to improvise a bit—the images on the website were lower resolution, but I was determined to use the ones I’d chosen. For Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat I found the original design on the internet and converted it to black on a white background from the black with rainbow it had been, and simply reset all the other type on the cover, but this show was such a classic it was hard to pass up. For Once Upon a Tune, commemorating their 30th anniversary, I actually drew the art on the front in Photoshop, added Stage 62’s “new” logo and set all the type.
Once I received the story of their 50 years, which was the basis of the program, I could narrow down the images I’d chosen to ones mentioned in the text, or from eras noted in the timeline. All through I used a white edge on all the photos like the old types of prints, and two sizes of deckle edge or straight-line edge so they’d carry that scrapbook look. All images have drop shadows to give the page dimension and interest. I had originally intended to add a few lightly ghosted and feathered images as the background of each page just to be able to incorporate a few more, but it was just too much when I added them to the layout.
The text “Celebrating five decades of magic” with the stars were an element I had created for the invitation (which I will soon post as well, as it has its own story).
And I designed a number of the patron ads as well, using images from shows where possible, or my own images of the Library & Music Hall.
Of course, even with all the images we included there are still never enough, but I hope both the audience and the organization is pleased with their commemoration. I’m very pleased with the design!
Below is the back cover, showing all the shows they performed. I didn’t want to use a list in columns, and there were too many shows to use a decorative effect to pull out certain show titles. Instead, as part of the historical record, all the shows are listed in order, with the years pulled out in color. I think people will have fun reading the list and remembering shows. Make sure you get your program and see the show on Saturday, September 22, 2012!