With each stroke and line etched into a page, the characters and stories of the shows at Orlando Family Stage come to life at the hands of the artists who produce the artwork for a handful of the season’s shows.
Three outstanding local artists and illustrators have created the artwork for this season that will soon be seen on posters around Orlando REP, on the cover of programs, across social media platforms, and quite possibly in your very own mailbox on postcards.
Although their individual time of collaborating with Orlando Family Stage varies, between these three talented men (consisting of Brian Demeter, Victor Davila, and Brett Waldon), they have been working with the theatre since as early as 2004.
But their work goes beyond simply sketching a character and then translating it into a digital file that is then used in marketing. They often spend a fair amount of time doing in-depth research on the shows by reading the scripts (and possibly the books that shows are adapted from) to gain knowledge of their characters and subject material. Because they devote so much of their time to fully understanding their subject, the detail placed into the initial concepts they present to the theatre creates the often subtle, yet complex artwork that is then showcased throughout the season.
The artists understand the importance of creating work that connects with their specific audience, as shows are geared towards families and young viewers. However, that doesn’t stop Brett Waldon, who is now on his fourth season with Orlando REP, from incorporating minute details and similarities representative of notable artists or famous artwork.
“When art is made with a younger audience in mind, I always find it more compelling to try and also nab the parents with it,” Brett says. “For instance, with Fancy Nancy I drew the character as we know her, in a mermaid outfit as described by the play, but I put her on a clamshell mimicking the Birth of Venus. You wouldn’t miss anything if you didn’t know the reference, but hopefully it made some mom or dad nod their head knowingly.”
Eagle-eyed patrons might also be able to spot another fun element of Brett’s artwork in a personal touch that he adds to every illustration he creates. One of his most recent signatures on an Orlando Family Stage illustration just happens to also be his favorite – Flora & Ulysses.
“I always hide my initials somewhere in my drawings,” Brett says. “If you know what you’re looking for, that one is pretty blatant.”
While each artist brings their own unique style to their interpretations of the show, Brian Demeter, who has been working with Orlando Family Stage for 14 years, says that he has noticed his own work for Orlando Family Stage evolving along with the theatre over time.
“Throughout the years I was lucky enough to be able to experiment a little with slightly different approaches to the illustrations,” Brian says. “As Orlando Family Stage grew over the years, so did I, and now I can sense what they require for their posters… Some poster artwork comes easier than others, but that’s all part of the fun.”
For Brian, sometimes that fun doesn’t stop at the drawing board. One of his highlights with Orlando Family Stage was actually done in a hands-on, backstage capacity after a frantic call from a stage director.
“The stage director for a show contacted me once and they needed extra help painting a set,” Brian recalls. “It was crunch time. I came in and helped hand paint the set. It was cool to get to see behind-the-scenes.”
For Victor Davila, his work for young audiences takes on a personal meaning as those audiences often include his own children. As they attend the theatre as a family, Victor’s children get the opportunity to see their father’s work on display firsthand.
“I have young children who like going to the plays, and when my illustration is printed on the big banner outside the theatre, they love to stand in front of them for photos,” Victor says. “I think that an introduction to the arts at a young age can plant the seed for an appreciation to the arts as they get older.”
Through these artists’ interpretations of the characters and storylines that play out onstage at Orlando REP, they manage to bring together two different worlds of art into one. All three agree that Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) is crucial to child development, but they also prove with their own work that art beyond the stage is equally as beneficial to our growth as a community.
“[Art] is important because it opens up and introduces the world in a way that is both safe and necessary,” Brett says. “Theatre in all its forms fosters creativity and imagination that lasts long past adolescence.”
“I’ve worked with several very talented folks at Orlando REP, and everyone has been simply amazing,” Brian adds. “Artistic Director Jeff Revels has believed in me for years and has been a huge supporter of not only my work but local artists and the art community all around… The inspiration that Orlando Family Stage provides reaches not only children and teens, but adults too.”