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blotchy green and orange figures on a black background
Milton Glaser. Detail from Shadowlight Theatre poster, 1968.
July 21, 2021

Shadowlight Theatre

In 1968, the School of Visual Arts hosted a performance of Kappo Phelan’s Shadowlight Theatre; Milton created not one but two posters publicizing the event. Here’s how he described the production in Milton Glaser: Graphic Design (Overlook Press, 1973).
[Phelan] created a modern version of a Balinese shadow play behind a screen no larger than a television set, using cutout scraps of paper, pieces of celluloid and glass to produce tiny theatrical experiences of unusual visual interest. I’m always very moved by the combination of humble materials and intense imagination. What I tried to capture in this poster was the sense of light that was a basic component of this strange and special theatre.
Event poster with orange and green figures on black background
Poster with color changing from orange to green

These posters were produced before Milton found an outlet for a more ambitious exploration of the effect of light on color (in, say, restaurant design and other interiors), but you can see his interest in the properties of color and light starting to take shape in this print project. (An even more direct analog is Milton’s “Color Fuses” mural in Indianapolis which employs scale and an actual lighting system.)

I haven’t been able to find much else about Shadowlight Theatre or Kappo Phelan, other than the fact that Phelan was the theater critic for Commonweal magazine. While at the artists’ retreat Yaddo in the 1940s, writer Jean Stafford met Phelan, whom she described as “a great (six feet tall) angry Irish girl with wit and charm and furious morality.”