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The brief was to create a poster advertising a production of Anton Chekhov's famous play, "The Cherry Orchard," capturing the specific interpretation by the Department of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS) at the University of California, Berkeley. Presented as an elegy for a time past, the production took visual cues from architectural elements of the Russian dacha (a seasonal or year-round second home), the pastel color palettes of Monet, and costuming authentic to Chekhov's time. These inspirations were to inform the poster, resulting in compelling and professional imagery that could be adapted for use on other collateral.
The central image of the poster is that of Lyubov Ranevskaya, one of the play's main characters, emerging from a dacha and transforming into a cherry tree. In the play, her family's ancestral estate is to be auctioned to pay off debts during a time when sweeping social changes were leaving many formerly well-off Russian families impoverished. The cherry orchard on the property (which she adores) is on the chopping block, both figuratively and literally. In my illustration petals float down, both like confetti and tears, celebrating a memory yet mourning the eventual loss of the orchard. There is a sense of rebirth as Ranevskaya grows out of the house, and also stasis, as she is rooted in a way of life that is no longer sustainable. The illustration is capped by a title treatment that is chopped like the trees in the orchard, missing serifs and stepped like the two halves of a tree cut down.
To inform the design of the rest of the poster, I took inspiration from rustic textures and materials, and also from Russian architecture. In my visual research, I found that Russian houses, from the small and rustic to the grand, were often adorned with lacy wooden carvings, particularly around windows and as trim on roofs and balconies. Since lace was important in the costume designs and an element the director mentioned during our briefing session, I fashioned a header and footer for the poster drawing upon the aesthetic of the carved wood. Its floral motif is echoic of the cherry blossoms.
In terms of process, the poster mixes analog and digital techniques. The line drawings were executed in graphite on paper and then scanned, after which point they were vectorized. Coloring was added in Illustrator. Backgrounds are composed of photographic/raster elements.
Ultimately the poster captured the spirit of the play and the aesthetic of TDPS's production. Elements such as the title treatment (which doubled as logotype), floral header/footer and blossoms proved versatile for mixing and matching across print and digital collateral. The artwork was dispersed throughout the UC Berkeley campus, on Facebook, and beyond, providing recognizable and consistent imagery with which to identify the production. The play garnered positive reviews in a number of local publications and enjoyed a highly successful, well-attended run.