Poster POWER

By George Hatza

A theatrical poster, to be successful, must tell a story—and not just the play’s plot but, more importantly, its meaning, metaphors, and nuances. If it is shrewdly conceived, it will reveal the work’s significance to the play’s director and offer insight regarding his or her dramatic construct. 

One director’s Hamlet or My Fair Lady, for instance, is not the same as another’s. The words and, in the case of a musical, the songs may be the same, but the interpretation of the action can lead to diverse thematic destinations. 

That is why the ingenious idea for the poster promoting PSF’s production of the critically hailed musical The Last Five Years is such a stunner. 

The Festival is a client of the Allentown-based Keenan-Nagle Advertising, Inc., and in his discussions with the company regarding the design for the musical’s poster, Jason King Jones, PSF artistic director, revealed that, “We landed on the right ideas very early.” 

Even though The Last Five Years was born in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the poster depicts a gleaming skyline of southern Manhattan without the twin towers. The play unfolds in New York, and its story is a universal one, as relevant in 2024 as it was in 2001. 

Superimposed over the water with the Freedom Tower soaring in the distance is the white outline of a clock. Stretching horizontally across the center of that circle is a long wooden board. 

And seated precariously at opposite ends of that board are a man and a woman, each with one arm reaching toward the other. They are, of course, separated by time (quite literally) and space, as in the play. Their feet dangle in the air high above the harbor. And in the blue sky can be seen delicate black bars of music floating among the clouds. 

But those extended arms endow the poster with breathtaking power, as if to say, “Go away! Wait, don’t go!” Simply brilliant.