Opening night for an Off-Broadway premiere

I'm en route to New York City via Amtrak this morning to celebrate opening night of Dear Elizabeth with the good people of Women's Project Theater. We designed the artwork (below) for the show that is drawn from the famed correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, two poets from the 20th century. 


Artwork by Ted Stephens III, The Numad Group


While we've only been working with Women's Project for about six months now, we actually have a long history with the company that you can read about here (I find it amazing how chance happenings more than 15 years ago come back around unexpectedly).

The artwork for this show was a definite challenge for me early on. As I read the play over and over again, I kept thinking about the moment before ink is placed on paper.

The second before thoughts give way to words... when the words can't stay in your head any longer and they must come out. 

The time when an idea sparks an action. 

As an artist and writer, whenever I'm staring at a blank Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign screen, or flip to a bare page in my Moleskin notebook, I pay accute attention to what it is I am thinking or feeling... and what it precisely is that motivates me to put words on the screen or pencil to paper. It brings to mind the opening moments of Sondheim's musical Sunday in the Park with George, when Georges Seurat is sketching studies for his famous painting,  "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte."

White, a blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole, through design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony.
— from the musical Sunday in the Park with George

As I worked on the artwork for Dear Elizabeth, the question became: What were the effects the poets' words had on the people... on the relationship... that unfolds in this story? How did they give way to the moments of harmony... of balance... and yes, even the tension between Elizabeth and Robert?

In the art, that manifests in the title treatment appearing as if it is floating above the paper... possibly capturing the moment before the words are written, the thought is uttered, the canvas is blank no more, and life once again continues to unfold.