Theatre PR is Difficult, but It Doesn’t Have to Be
For producers and directors, one of the earliest creative decisions that will go public is how you market your show. The “package” of material you might release can include logos, posters, social media content, trailers, promo photos, and more. No matter what kind of show you’re doing, if the show needs to bring in money for any reason, media and PR content is beyond important. In the spirit of one of my favorite blogs, PRisdifficult.tumblr.com, here are a few dos and don’ts for the next time you need to market a show you’re doing.
DO: commit to an aesthetic, whether in current fashion or referential to another time. Consistency is key; the current Spring Awakening revival does this really well with variations of the same typography, utilizing the white-brush stroke fonts that were all over the Internet this past summer/fall. They picked a few focus colors, blacks and whites with a pop of electric pink and the occasional yellow, to tell a visual narrative. The artists used the content of the show to inform their choices: the paint and torn textures of the media reflect the rebellious nature of the musical. (See also: the media for the new revival of Fiddler on the Roof.)
DON’T: feel the need to use pictures in everything. Muted portraiture is not always necessary, and badly photoshopping actors will always cheapen a look. An American in Paris made smart choices to this effect. To reflect the original posters from the Gene Kelly movie, artists chose to stick to painted or drawn figures layered with iconic images in order to tell a story without the visuals getting muddled. The King and I revival did something similar, with the gorgeous hand-drawn graphics harkening back to classic film posters and conveying a lot of information immediately about a character and the location without looking cheap.
DO: pay attention to text and type, but DON’T get carried away with it. 2-3 fonts should be sufficient, including a “logo” text if there is one you are meant to use. Within text, use a hierarchy of importance to size and color individual lines of text in ways that will direct a viewer’s eye. Dates and times often do well if larger than the rest of the text, but always respect the billing rules in the license agreement.
DO: be very careful with how you stage production photos or images if you really want to use them in your media packages. Actual production photos with the stage lit and actors in costume can look really cool, especially if they’re taken at a big moment in a song or scene. Be wary, however, of simply posing actors on a set with work lights up; chances are, it’s not going to look great. In fact, be very careful of posing actors for photo shoots at all. If you try to communicate too much in a photo, perhaps with a distant actor looking longingly at someone in the foreground, the photo may be worthy of PRisdifficult. Less gestural staging and more natural stances are your friend – the media for the forthcoming American Psycho does something really cool to this effect.
DON’T feel like “more is more.” Artistically, more intricate or stylized posters like that of the most recent Anything Goes revival can be cool – but simplicity is often the best way to go, especially on a budget. Simple shapes and text effects, like with Hamilton, The Lion King, Beauty and The Beast, and recently Daddy Long Legs, can communicate a mood and idea but remain simple enough to be consistently recognizable.
Great graphic design is rare, but good graphic design can typically be achieved by distilling a few ideas and motifs and really taking control of them. Keep your fonts consistent, your visuals simple, and your ideas clear in order to create an iconic poster or social media campaign.
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