Sotto Voce

Posted by on Nov 11, 2016 in Illustration, pastels, Portland Stage Company | 1 comment

Of all the scripts I read in January for Portland Stage poster development, Sotto Voce by Nilo Cruz stood out as multi-layered, romantic, and evocative. In the play, a young Cuban man finds a German-born novelist living in New York who shares a connection to the 1939 voyage of the MS St Louis, a German ship that left for Cuba with German-Jewish refugees, only to be turned back.  The elder writer, Bemadette, calls the young man Student. They don’t meet yet weave a romance built on memories and imagination via phone calls and messages.

Like all the plays this season, the theme is about what never was, with an underlying longing that triggers mixed emotions. Here are some rough sketches. Bemadette is looking back. The ocean liner hovers in memory, with a couple dancing, submerged below the water line.


I tried the idea of using the O’s in the title as portholes with different images..



In one scene, the young Cuban, Saquiel, invites Bemadette’s caregiver, Lucila, to a dance class. It’s an electric moment.



The dancing couple got the nod. I enjoyed looking up vintage clothing, this dress is by Sonia Delaunay.


This is the final illustration, done in charcoal pencil and pastel.


Anita Stewart’s set design gorgeously combines real and imaginary spaces. Director Liz Diamond staged an amazing dance of the past and future with stellar performances by the actors, James Cusati-Moyer, Carmen Roman, and Anita Petry. The lighting by Solomon Weisbard cast the perfect spell.


The playwright and Pulitzer Prize-winner, Nilo Cruz, will join Inaugural Poet, Richard Blanco after this Sunday’s 2 PM performance for a discussion. I hope you’ll go see this enchanting play, you have until Nov. 20!

One Comment

  1. As always, loved following your path to final poster. They’re all strong, Jamie, yet you arrived at the winner. It’s a wonderful poster and truly romantic. Thanks for the introspect to Sonia Delauney, I’ve been a fan of her designs for years.

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