Honoring the tradition of theatre illustration during current artistic director Molly Smith's tenure, the new exhibition offers 33 original works by artists Mike Benny, Marc Burckhardt, Olaf Hajek, Jody Hewgill, Gary Kelley, Wilson McLean, Balvis Rubess and Mark Ulriksen at the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators in New York City (128 East 63rd Street).
Expect to see art representing such shows as She Loves Me, Anna in the Tropics and Proof. For more information visit www.societyillustrators.org.
In 1998, Arena Stage welcomed artistic director Molly Smith to run the major resident theatre. The troupe "shifted its advertising brand to reflect a new artistic mission." Under the leadership of Smith, executive director Stephen Richard and director of external affairs Neill Archer Roan, Arena hired Scott Mires and his San Diego design firm Mires+Ball to craft a new look for the theatre. "One of the first orders of business was to establish a fresh, unique series of illustrations to represent the artistic work on the theater's stages," according to Arena. "The idea of using fine art to promote dramatic art was not new — in fact, Arena Stage has a long tradition of using illustrations to promote plays. Dozens of old illustrated posters line the walls of the theatre's administrative offices. But with a new, bold artistic director — only the third in Arena's history, after founder Zelda Fichandler and Douglas C. Wager — only a new, bold illustrator would do."
Artist Jody Hewgill was chosen. "Then came the challenge of finding a second artist to pair with Hewgill to share in the artistic work," accpording to Arena notes. "The idea was to keep Hewgill as the backbone of the illustration campaign, but to rotate a second (and in some seasons, a third) artist to work in tandem with her as a way to continually refresh the brand while maintaining a look that would, over the years, come to be known as uniquely 'Arena Stage.'" For Smith's first season, Mark Ulriksen was commissioned to paint half of the season's art (his work would be seen again at Arena four years later). The roster of illustrators in the years since reads like an all-star lineup of illustrators: Wilson McLean, Gary Kelley, Mike Benny, Marc Burckhardt and Olaf Hajek.
Today, the illustration campaign is led by staff art directors Maggie Boland and Ann Marie Czaban.
For the upcoming theatre season, Arena has again commissioned two artists — Raul Colón and Sterling Hundley — to complement Hewgill's work.