Portland Stage fun

Posted by on Feb 7, 2017 in Illustration, Island Birthday, Portland Stage Company | 2 comments


On a bitter cold Saturday morning, the colorful sight of Portland Stage’s Executive Director Anita Stewart warmed me right up. It was the Theater for Kids 7th birthday and Island Birthday was being featured in their Play Me a Story production. I was delighted to be on hand to witness the theatrical reading. But first, party hats were a necessary prop!


Actors voiced different characters and provided sound affects. Below James Patefield (middle) plays Riley, the lead character in Island Birthday who is tired of being out of milk, and living on a remote island. (James was bully good as Teddy Roosevelt in Arsenic and Old Lace as well.)


After two books and two poems were performed, the chairs were removed to the sides of the theater and actors gathered the children in a circle to talk about what acting tools are: imagination, body, and voice. Kids were led through a series of absurd prompts, like chewing gum into a huge bubble that bursts on your face and all over your body and must be pulled off with icky dismay. Hilarious! They also became noises in a thundering storm, and brave pilots took turns flying through the raucous mob of bodies.


You just might want to get in on this action, every Saturday coming up, with more wonderful books in line, details HERE.

It thoroughly put me in the mood for seeing the current production, Arsenic and Old Lace. I worked on the poster about a year ago. These are a few of the rough sketches I presented for consideration.


Of course, I watched the classic film first, and was spooked by Jonathan Brewster, the creepy older brother.


I was also desperate to draw some lace and romance.



The tension between the dark thriller and the comedy seemed like a good contrast for scars and lace. Or being tied up.



Eyes peering out of lace? Maybe too hokey.


Lovers in a bottle? This was the idea that got the nod.


I found lovely lace samples in a recent copy of Uppercase Magazine.



I did my drawing thinking the lace was full of spying eyes. I inverted the drawing in Photoshop so it would appear white. And of course, I got out some wine for reference, and maybe a little imbibing. Part of the job, c,mon.



This is the final illustration, with some wonky ellipses, which are so challenging.


What a blast to see the amazing set design by Brittany Vasta when I attended the Sunday performance. She did the sets for three other plays for which I did the poster art: The Whipping Man, A Song at Twilight, and My Name Is Asher Lev. Love how the wallpaper pattern here echoes the lace theme.


And the wine glasses match, too!


It helps when you are with a gang that loves comedy. Doug Smith, in the bottom left, is my island neighbor who first got me in the door at Portland Stage, and has also illustrated many posters for them.


photo by James Flagler

We stuck around for the discussion with the cast after the performance. Led by Literary Manager Todd Backus (far right), the cast reappeared out of costume, one by one, with hearty applause.


It was informative to hear about their process of preparation, auditioning or not, how they are all thrown together for a mere three weeks of rehearsal, with no understudies. Actress Leighton Bryan (Elaine Harper) rehearsed early on with a sprained ankle, carried about the stage by Ross Cowan, her fiance (Mortimer Brewster) in the play.

Portland Stage has pulled off another winner with this vintage chestnut, go see for yourself!


  1. Thanks for the journey, Jamie! It was fun. Always enjoy seeing how you arrive at the final design. Plus, judging by how much was left in the carafe, you had a lovely journey as well 😀

    • Ha Ha, Gunnel! I didn’t drink it all myself…
      thanks again for reading and commenting, dear friend.

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