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You probably saw the posters in the Metro or in this very newspaper: the fierce Marie Antoinette with a mouthful of Twizzlers, the teal-blazered headless torso in the President’s chair. Woolly Mammoth’s 2014 season posters have won a Graphis Award, an international competition for advertising and photography.
The posters were part of a rebranding effort that Woolly Mammoth undertook during its 35th season with RP3, a creative agency in Bethesda.
“The idea behind the posters is to reflect in visual form who we are as an organization. We inhabit a different role in theater than when we started,” says Steven Dawson, the marketing manager at Woolly Mammoth. “Back in the day, we were the rebellious teen with ripped jeans and a mohawk.”
“We’re a cross between a really cool college professor and Banksy,” Dawson says.
There are four posters in total, including an ethereal, googly-eyed Ophelia for Famous Puppet Death Scenes and three people locked in tight embrace with overlapping tattoos to promote Lights Rise on Grace. Photographer Cade Martin shot all the images.
“A lot of theaters tend to pull literally from their material” to create show posters, says Jim Lansbury, RP3’s chief creative officer. “With Woolly, it was much more about arousing visual epiphanies. Each one is meant to convey a takeaway, not the literal content of the performance.”
Lansbury thinks that the Graphis award shows that “we can compete with the big guys. You don’t need to be working on Coca-Cola to create great work.”
His favorite from the series is for Marie Antoinette, featuring actress Kimberly Gilbert. With powdered hair piled high atop her head, Antoinette gets an update to her classic “Let them eat cake” with Twizzlers.
Right now, Woolly and RP3 are going back and forth to finalize the posters for the upcoming season. “You can expect more bold, saturated colors and more playful images overall,” says Woolly’s director of brand and marketing, Gwydion Suilebhan. Photographer Dean Alexander shot this round’s photos a few weeks back.
“It’s kicked up a notch further because we’re building on success,” Lansbury says.
While the pictures will feature more post-production alteration this year, Suilebhan says that you’ll still see human faces (and the tastefully gory necks that used to hold them). “That’s because we’re all about exploring and exploding the human condition.”