Parzival poster

A while back in June, after the initial reader’s theatre read-through of the Parzival script, I did what I often do when thinking about something: I went on a search engine safari. In my search, I was struck by a particular image used for the Alexander Reichstein illustrated cover for Marit Laurin’s Parzival [amzn]. The image is so striking and memorable that I kept going back to it to look again and again. It was this image which immediately filled me with the feeling I had to rough out a poster for the, at that time, imaginary show.

My first draft was not all that inspired, and definitely not nearly as cool as the book cover painting. It was comprised of a large background image of a Parzival manuscript over which text and the most common image of Parzival in existence were placed. The performance dates and details on this draft poster are completely made up.

First draft Parzival poster

Since then, the show has become a real thing. I’ve been cast as Parzival, the character I was asked to read for the reader’s theatre read-through. And, we’ve started the rehearsal process, though we’re still trying to work out when the show will be performed. (It’s currently looking like sometime in January, but we’re still cooking the calendar.)

This Saturday, on the way to the lodge for the 2nd rehearsal for Parzival, I was having an idea for another poster come into my mind. I really started with the thought of a beautiful and shapely woman’s leg in Arlecchino diamond patterned tights coming out from behind a thick red velvet curtain, as if at the very initial moment of a burlesque show. You know, maybe even not particularly as a poster for Parzival, but just because it’s a sexy image to think about … I had an idea of who’s leg would be perfect for the image too … (Actually, now that I’m thinking back, I’m remembering that this started out as an idea for a redesign of my own website.)

Then, various details began to coalesce. I began to have form in my mind’s eye a tableau of Parzival and Sophia, essential characters in the script for the show. Now it was the leg of Sophia coming from behind the curtain, and she was using her leg to tease Parzival; her arm was also coming out from behind the curtain holding aloft a golden chalice filled with an elixir of life, in this case perhaps the red blood of the Saints. Parzival, who is kneeling before the curtain dressed as a Templar, clumsily fumbles with the lance he is holding. The moment captured by the tableau is that frozen moment just after things get wild, because Parzival’s lance causes Sophia to lose hold of the chalice, which unbalanced starts to spill; and, Parzival is off balance as he tries to recover, and has a hand extended into the center of the tableau, as if to try to catch the falling chalice; and, Sophia is unbalanced in her position because of all she’s doing complicated by Parzival’s clumsiness.

I really saw this as photographic quality, maybe even actually done as a composite. The gap in the veil, I imagined might be filled with out-of-focus candles on an altar. The dripping elixir should be as vibrant, or more so, than even the velvet curtains. The velvet curtains reminded me of both theatre curtains and the red curtains of the black lodge in Twin Peaks. I don’t know that the original idea of having the feminine leg in jester tights works for this; and, I think there might be no clothing showing, to suggest that Sophia is naked. Parzival might have some indication of Fool’s clothing on along with the Templar tabard and clothing. The various elements of the image should be much tighter, not as spaced out; to suggest intimacy but also to heighten the awkwardness and sense of immediacy of Parzival’s fumble.

Red curtain Parzival poster sketch

I did a really quick pencil sketch trying to capture what this looked like so I wouldn’t forget. I’m usually pretty self-conscious about showing this kind of quick sketch, since it’s rough and ill-proportioned, but I thought I’d try sharing it. The paper got folded up in my pocket on the way home, so it’s also a bit wrinkled …