Theatre Company introduces bold new artwork for 2015-16 season

Kyle Malone season art 2015-16.

Kyle Malone’s artwork for the upcoming 2015-16 DCPA Theatre Company season. “A Christmas Carol” is still to come. Photo below by John Moore.

Kyle Malone. Photo by John Moore.

Art Director Kyle Malone, a 15-year employee of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, isn’t an actor. Nonetheless, he has had a profound influence on how audiences have experienced every DCPA Theatre Company production since 2013.

That’s when Theatre Company Director of Marketing Brianna Firestone awarded Malone the prestigious – and high-stakes – assignment of creating the art campaign that serves as theatregoers’ first exposure to the look, feel and content of the Theatre Company’s entire season.

Malone’s award-winning design work was singled out by The New York Times in December, but the DCPA has recently undergone a massive rebranding that has created a whole new look and feel for the organization. And the Theatre Company’s 2015-16 season art would have to reflect that.

After an extensive exploration of design direction and discussions with local artists, Firestone and new DCPA Creative Director Rob Silk decided Malone was still the best artist for the job.

But Malone would be challenged to create a campaign unlike anything he has ever done before. He was asked to capture the raw emotion that will embody the upcoming season of Lookingglass Alice, As You Like It, Tribes, A Christmas Carol, All The Way, world-premiere new plays The Nest and FADE, finishing with the musical Sweeney Todd, featuring new orchestrations by the Denver band DeVotchKa.

“We have a new brand, and so we very intentionally wanted a departure,” said Malone, a native of Arvada. He and Silk considered several new mediums including photography, “light-painting” and even layered light boxes.

The guiding principle?

“Rob really wanted to see the artists’ hand in this,” Malone said, “not something that looked like it was created on a computer.”

They ultimately chose a layered illustration style that would include what Malone calls “a toolbox of different elements.” That starts with the lettering, or what is known in the trade as a “title treatment.”

'All the Way' title treatments.Malone’s illustration for All the Way, a Tony-winning about President Lyndon Baines Johnson, features red, white and blue coloring, and a lettering style that evokes a political campaign. (The illustration to the right shows several possible iterations created by Malone. The bottom choice ended up being the winner.)

The contemporary play Tribes, which focuses on hard-of-hearing characters, has a modern lettering style, accented by multi-colored hands that jut out of the letters to cleverly spell the name of the play in American Sign Language. The Sweeney Todd lettering, meanwhile, looks more appropriately classic – complemented by a subtle slash through the letters. 

The second key element of each illustration is a pencil-and-ink drawing of a character who is central to each title. For Sweeney Todd, of course, that meant a slightly crazed, razor-wielding Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Malone calls this the “Hero Element.”

“The look is scribbled, emotional, raw, high contrast and character based,” Malone said. Each drawing is done by hand, in black and white. And a signature element, Malone said, “is that they all splatter.”

The Tribes hero element is particularly compelling as the hero is shown with hands covering his mouth, suggesting silence.

The third element consists of colorful, computer-generated background images that introduce layering to the series. For example, a pronounced blood splatter covers our maniacal Sweeney Todd. But if you look closer, you will see musical instruments forming out of the blood drops. There is a dangling guitar, a trumpet and sousaphone – a sly nod to some DeVotchKa’s signature musical instruments.

“The splatter helps keep it more raw,” Malone said. “If we polish up them too much, they might seem uptight. They also give each drawing some energy and flow.”

Finally, each illustration includes a tagline that both brings continuity to the series and gives the reader a tantalizing idea of what kind of experience they are in for at the theatre. These are subject to change, but for Tribes, you might see the tagline, “TRUE FAMILY SPEAKS YOUR LANGUAGE.” Or, for All the Way: “IT’S NOT PERSONAL. IT’S JUST POLITICS.”

“These taglines tell the story in a quick and clever way,” Malone said. “Each one stands on its own, but with enough consistency in tone to be a unifier.”

Sweeney 800Malone’s series (which remains subject to further alterations), might be seen by potential audiences in a variety of mediums, including: The Denver Center web site, on mobile devices, in TV and print advertising, on signage and banners throughout the city, on individual show programs and all over social media platforms.

No pressure.

For his campaign to be considered ultimately successful, Malone said, it will have to be seen as a unified series the audience will immediately identify as promoting plays and musicals by the DCPA Theatre Company. It will have to draw the reader in and help quickly forge an emotional connection to each show. And that it comes across as accessible across all potential audiences and not turn anyone off.

“There is always that stereotype some people hold that says theatre is only for the sophisticated,” Malone said. “But we think theatre should be fun. So these illustrations should convey the flavor of each show so that comedies appear fun, and so that even while dramas celebrate drama, they do it in an appealing way.”

How Kyle Malone's season art has eveolved over the past three seasons.

How Kyle Malone’s season art has evolved over the past three seasons.

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