I've had mixed (but mostly positive) reactions to the GFTF logo. Most people seem to think it's pretty cool...or at least cool enough to serve as a placeholder until we all have enough bandwidth to come up with a more permanent logo, and no one has told me that they actively dislike it.
At the same time, no one has asked me, "why this design?" Maybe it's obvious, but I thought it might be an interesting blog post to explain "the why" behind this particular design.
So, without further ado, here's how I came up with the logo.
I wanted to find an image that was simple, easy to look at, bold, and somehow captured the particular ideas at the root of Ground and Field Theatre Festival: sustainability, community, locality, theatre, and play.
Since GFTF is a collaboration with the UC Davis Department of Theatre and Dance, I knew that there would be branding guidelines to be considered - particularly with color. UC Davis - like all the UC's - uses the California state colors of gold and blue for their official school colors. Those colors, in addition to being bold and graphically dynamic, carrie symbolic meanings that are very easily taken up by GFTF. The blue signifies the sea and sky, and the gold signifies...well, gold. It's a nod to the 49er gold rush responsible for the early migration of Americans (and others) to the state.
I like to think of the gold color with a bit more breadth, considering it, instead, the gold of fertile ground - of the abundant earth. The soil. This seems truer to present day California, and certainly vibes more with GFTF. In addition to these specific symbolic meanings, taking up the UC Davis colors is another way we can diagram our commitment to locality and community. The colors help place us in California, and specifically in Davis, California.
Next, it was about giving some thought to the title of the festival. We didn't pull "Ground and Field Theatre Festival" out of thin air. We wanted something that addressed both our mission to develop new works of theatre, and something that stayed true to our commitment to sustainability and to our local community. Perhaps the title deserves it's own blog post explaining it's origins, but here is the summarized version:
For play development: we want to provide a place where playwrights can develop a firm base for their work - a solid ground to grow from - a beginning, from the ground up. And then to bring the work into a playing space, to field the work by giving it an audience and potentially to move the work into the field by helping to find it a production life beyond the festival. Moving from ground to field.
For sustainability: the title lines up intentionally with the three pillars of sustainability. Which diagrams the notion that sustainability cannot be maintained without first achieving sustainability in each of the three pillars.
Ground = the Environment: the unbroken land, the Earth. Field = the Economy: the tilled earth, cultivated for a crop. Theatre = the Society: A people and the ethics, culture, and identity of the people. And Festival = a celebration to bring all of all of these things together in play.
"Play." Play is critical in what we do. And I'm talking about "serious play" - "critical play." Play in all of it's definitions. We are, after all, an ensemble of players, are we not? And we are developing plays, are we not? But more than that, to play means to engage, to participate, to enter into a liminal activity, to open oneself to transformation. Play is the the space between, play is moving forward, play is fun.
Hmm, how to bring "play" into the logo...
Putting those things together: the colors, the title, the pillars of sustainability, and play, this is what I came up with:
The three angles of the triangle each take up one of the pillars of sustainability. The top left corner is "Society" - the Theatre corner of the logo. Here is a un-gendered figure in a shaft of theatrical lighting, striking a pose that many may read as Hamlet holding Yorick's skull - although it really doesn't have to be. Theatre, at it's best, reflects or challenges the values of the society in which it is performed in such a way that urges discourse moving us towards greater justice, greater peace, and greater equity.
The bottom left corner, where we see the tilled earth, the Field, takes up the pillar of Economy. How do we draw on the resources of the earth? How do we consider work and labor? How do we sustain ourselves as theatre artists in an economy that does not necessarily support the arts?
In the right-hand corner - the corner pointing us towards the future - this is the Ground we stand on, the Environment, the unaltered earth and the air we breath. How can we interrogate our own practices as theatre makers, and as human beings, in order to work against the tragedy of commons and make (the sometimes challenging) choices that support a healthy environment?
So there it is. Ground and Field Theatre Festival in a logo. Hope you like it.
Formerly the Artistic Director of Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble, and Audience Experience Designer at Center Theatre Group, Tom now plays a Director at GFTF and a PhD student in Performance Studies at UC Davis.
School hasn’t even begun yet, but the brand new Ground and Field Theatre Festival (GFTF) is already under way! In most programs actors are often just taught how to audition or worse… act. And if you’ve been involved in the arts ever in your life, you’ve certainly wondered “Will this make me money?” or thought “I totally don’t know what I am doing”, or even contemplated where to pitch your homeless tent (you might get discovered on an LA sidewalk). But this is Davis we’re talking about. Whoever came up with this idea of a new works festival must’ve thought “What better way to prepare green, burgeoning artists for college afterlife than by giving them the chance to learn and engage in building a play or a musical from its roots?”
Make a play for the future.