Solo theater performances can be a tough sell. This was lesson #1 during our new relationship with NYC-based Off-Broadway theater production organization, All For One.
Some people just like large casts and others are worrisome about embarking on a solo performance for several reasons. These range from egocentric soapboxes to audience-trapping rants. Fortunately, there is a flip side to this coin that drives the motivations behind every AFO production.
Solo productions are totally unique. They give an opportunity to dive into a single psyche -- an individual's very specific POV. They are inherently more immersive and personal than larger casts. And they have the added bonus of lower production costs, allowing greater reach to less supported theater communities (think college campuses and regional theaters). Pair this with a good story, acting, directing, and production value and you get the type of solo theater that AFO produces.
It's no surprise that this is a truly unique vein of NYC theater. Since 2011, AFO has produced over 50 acclaimed full-length solo plays Off-Broadway. Just one person on a stage -- sometimes with props and video projections and multimedia -- but always just one actor. Having seen a fair amount of solo theater (including previous AFO productions), I would akin solo theater to sushi. If it's bad, it's real bad. But the good stuff is almost indescribably desirable – something you want as part of your regular intake. And AFO offers New York's finest omakase of solo theater.
For all these reasons, it was a pleasure and a challenge to both re-logo this organization and bring their upcoming shows to life.
UPDATING THE LOGO
Our redesign of the brand mark had 2 primary objectives:
1) Showcase their complete dedication to high-quality, provocative, and alluring stories. The brand must embody a sophistication that represents the high level of production, experience, and taste that excites Off-Broadway theater-goers.
2) Nod to the unique solo-performer aspect of the organization. This objective fell into the communication grey area of "indirect focus." It shouldn't jump out at you, but it should be apparent upon explanation. We needed to toe the line here and ensure that the very idea of solo performance didn't outshine each production at a promotional level. Quality performance is the primary communication directive (see objective #1). As such, we shifted the name to the initialism, including the extended text on appropriate applications only.
The resulting logo is simple enough to take a backseat to both complex or simple show graphics. It's not overly laden with eccentricity or personality, but it does have it's own typographic distinction. At the dead center of the logomark is a circular cross bar for the "F". This circle represents the single actor at the center of the production. Not a deep concept, but subtle and well-suited the task. Dynamically colored, this aspect of the logo shifts to fit the production.
Promoting the Spring Line Up
Our big picture objective with AFO's show imagery was to steer away from the typical solo performer show poster archetype (one sweaty actor in a dramatic pose, under stage lights, looking purposefully dramatic). We didn't want to create the theatrical equivalent of Starbuck's most recent singer/songwriter album cover. These should focus on story, not the actor.
Additionally, they should all hold together as AFO productions. This was eventually accomplished through a framing mechanism and cut-corner that housed the AFO branding.
The imagery used to promote this show required some deep digging. Based on a beautiful documentary about one woman's journey to find purpose through a relationship with an inspiring and delightful disabled women (a victim of agent orange birth defects) that she oddly connected with from across the globe. It's a dark, inspiring, and deep show but the imagery was tough to bring to life so that the target demo (think, your baby boomer aunt who is opposed to media violence) wouldn't be instantly turned off. You'll see in some of the quick sketches below that it was either too dark or childish or generic. In total, the show is highly aspirational and we needed to match that tone without being cheesy (this is a NYC audience after all). And could we also maintain some mystery and intrigue? Our final design really keyed into conceptual aspects of the story and was warmly received by the playwright and publicist alike.
All Over the Map
In a totally different vein, this show is light, upbeat, humorous and quirky. Following Bill Bowers through brief glimpses from his storied career as a world-traveling mime, this show pieces together some really delightful moments that add up to a deeper morale. Along the way, we get introduced to hookers, Amish folk, nudists, crazies, animals, etc etc etc -- it's a real cornucopia. Our promotional image matched the energy and jam-packed feel. And similar to the script, while some of the content would seem adult-friendly, it's told in such a PG way that we wanted it to feel almost kid-friendly. A big thanks to Alex Wilson for his original concept sketch that helped drive this project.
For more information, visit AFO.NYC
Header image: "KATUSA/U.S. Friendship Week - Day 4 - U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, South Korea - 19 April 2012" by USAG- Humphreys is licensed under CC BY 2.0