Complications From A Fall

Posted by on Nov 13, 2017 in Illustration, Portland Stage Company | 2 comments

Kate Hawley’s script Complications From A Fall, triggered some heartache for me. Having walked that final episode of eldercare with my mother years ago, it touched a few nerves. I went looking for the walker that is still in the basement, don’t ask me why. That thing was a metaphor for my mother’s decline. I made it an element in all of my ideas for the poster for Portland Stage’s recent production.

In one scene, Elizabeth, the aging mother, sets fire to some old letters. It seemed very direct to visualize the walker falling in flames.

Maybe too direct. So I tried variations with people.

In this idea, Elizabeth’s son, Teddy, has arrived to take over the eldercare from his uptight sister, Helen, while she attends, of all things, an Ibsen conference. Eldercare throws everything out of whack, family roles and identities are in a disorienting suspension. Teddy spends part of the play on the couch, drinking from his flask of Scotch.

Here the walker in the foreground dominates the scene. Like Elizabeth’s care literally does.

I tried three silhouettes, of Elizabeth, of Helen with her luggage, and of Lucy, the young caregiver. Teddy’s face is in the glass.

Medications are the dominant element in this one. So much of eldercare rests on them.

Marketing director Eileen Phelan asked to see some ideas without booze or drugs. I revised a previous sketch to include Helen and Teddy in the background.

I reversed the emphasis here, with the siblings in the foreground, Elizabeth burning an old letter in the background.

This sketch made the cut.

For the final illustration, I decided to keep the center bright, like a flame in a field of blue. Had a blast just making textures in pastel.

The linear figures were digitally layered over the drawn background. Fun to see the poster appear in the New Yorker!

All the posters for this season were done in a feverish rush between January and March. Normally I like to attend the shows early in their run. But, Portland Stage has so much goodness going on. Instead we saw The Haunting Hour in late October, which was crazy creepy good.

We saw the show on Friday night, and it was deeper and funnier than I expected. That would be stellar direction by Paul Mullins and performances by Maureen Butler (a regular favorite of mine) and Erik Saxvik. The set design was brilliant, with all the touches of Elizabeth’s home tidy and ready for the emotional unraveling to come.

My theater dates clearly enjoyed it. Thanks to amazing actress Moira Driscoll for taking this photo.

Complications From A Fall hit all the still tender spots, but with compassion. The last chapter for one’s parents can be disorienting, yet so important to bear witness.

Gunnel Larsdotter wrote to me afterwards, “Staging, incredibly well done. The play also gave us things of both serious and not so serious nature to ponder. “Elizabeth” -the lead – a super star!”

Tonight is the last performance. I truly hope you saw it.











  1. Jamie
    As always, it’s a trip (maybe not the best word to use for this one) to follow you through the process of coming up with another great poster.
    The play is still with me. Things they said and did pop up now and then.
    Like – might I want to burn some notes or letters some day? One can only hope not to find oneself in Elizbeth’s position down the road.

    Great pix of the group. We sure did have a most enjoyable evening.
    And, thank you for using some of my words. Indeed, flattered !

    • Your words are always appreciated, Gunnel! thanks for reading, caring, and bearing witness.

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