Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods

Posted by on Mar 16, 2016 in Illustration, Portland Stage Company | 3 comments

Portland Stage’s production of Tammy Ryan’s play Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods is powerful, thanks to strong performances by Tyrone Davis Jr. as Gabriel and Jamil Mangan as Panther,  young men from South Sudan struggling to bridge two worlds. I worked on the poster last year, around this time. Researching for any illustration project leads to discoveries, and this one broadened my awareness big time.

Gabriel is a one of the 20,000 boys of the Nuer and Dinka tribes who were orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983 – 2005.) He fled war to refugee camps to a job at Whole Foods in Pittsburgh, where he is befriended by a divorced single mother, Christine. All of my rough sketches focused on him.

In this one, the backdrop of a produce bin becomes a desert scene with cattle and a village.


I tried using the flag of South Sudan as a transparent element over the figure of Gabriel in his Whole Foods apron. His homeland colors everything about him.



I also tried using the papaya as a metaphor, split open like the sun in his village.


Here I drew Gabriel, whose tragic past is hidden by the bounty of produce he sorts at his job.


This is the one chosen for the final poster, shards of color behind Gabriel holding a papaya.


I kept my pastel drawing simple, but with visible strokes and smudges that imply Gabriel’s restless energy.


Once the production gets underway, I like seeing the poster in Portland Stage’s front window.


Around this time, I learned my illustration had been chosen for 3 x 3’s 2016 Illustration Directory,

where it landed in the Portrait section, next to an illustration by Anita Kunz, one of my illo idols.


We saw the play on Saturday, where I snuck this photo of the stage set.


The contrast in cultures is right there, Christine’s crisp white kitchen set against the cattle horns above. Chantal Jean-Pierre is stellar as the pragmatic Segel, who enlightens Christine on her compassionate but naive quest to help Gabriel by finding his mother in Kakuma.

The time and space America gives to the immigrant experience is a fraction of what is needed. In the end, Christine gets in deeper than she could have imagined. Lost Boy is an eye-opener, but changing one’s world view is a work-in-progress. I applaud the entire cast and Portland Stage for this unforgettable show.



  1. Love this drawing Jamie!
    Congrats! And on getting it into 3×3 as well.
    Anita Kunz must have been proud to be displayed
    on the same spread as you:)

  2. (I just wrote a whole long reply to this and then lost it when I went to Submit because i failed to put in my email address / gone So, this is a shorter version)
    This poster of yours is one of my very favorites, Jamie. (how many times have I said that before ?) It really is. Strong, silent, beautiful colors. It’s the kind that makes you turn your head and look again when you see it.
    Congratulations!! And AWesome addition to the book you mentioned.

    • Gunnel and Michele, how grateful I am for your kind words! This was an incredible play, I learned so much.

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