The Theater Posters of James McMullan
No one creates more memorable theater posters than James McMullan. From Arcadia and Carousel to Six Degrees of Separation, McMullan’s posters offer a unique view of contemporary American theater. Brought together for the first time in print are thirty-six posters, almost all of them commissioned by New York’s Lincoln Center Theater, each in a beautiful full-page reproduction and accompanied by numerous studies and related works. Here too are the powerful personalities of the theater world—Wole Soyinka, John Guare, Liv Ullmann, Patti LuPone, and Mike Nichols, among others—in revealing behind-the-scenes accounts by McMullan.
McMullan draws the best [posters] in the business,” says playwright John Guare in his introduction. “They are fair, they are honest, they are inventive. They are beautiful. They are disturbing. McMullan illustrates plays at the highest intention their authors imagined; that’s his gift. And the fact of his work is his gift to the landscape.”
It is McMullan’s ability to capture the essence and tone of every play that makes his posters like no others—the dramatic leer of the ragman resting on the lamppost with his flaming match in Road, the seductive glance from the Anything Goes woman, the hard-boiled reporter barking into the phone in The Front Page. Each image becomes forever linked to the play it represents.
McMullan’s methods are thoughtful and often painstaking. From initial pencil sketch to final image, all posters follow a path of careful consideration, revision, and reworking. McMullan himself gives the story behind each poster featured in the book—why it worked or why he was unsatisfied, who loved it and who wanted it changed. In addition, many sketches, reference photographs, and alternative versions provide a fascinating glimpse into the artist’s creative process.
Theater lovers and art lovers alike will enjoy this wonderful document of the art and passion of American theater at its best.