Lobby displays are a major part of our Integrated Dramaturgy work because a good display levels the playing field for our audiences. By providing historical facts or biographical information about our playwrights, each display ensures that everyone walks into the house with the same level of education and context about the script, regardless of their circumstances outside of our theater.
But rather than each display being just informational and didactic, Kitchen Dog puts an emphasis on making sure our displays are also interactive. The way an audience member interacts with our displays will change based on the needs of each show - sometimes you can touch, write on, or connect to social media on our displays - but the one constant is that we try to ensure our displays interact with each audience member's empathy and personal experiences. We want our displays to ask questions of our audiences, and help them draw connections between our shows, our city, and our world.
For THE ROYALE lobby, I wanted to emphasize the burdens Jay Jackson carries into the ring - every time he boxes, he's not only fighting for glory, but he is fighting the outside pressures of systemic oppression, violent threats, and negative media attention. The display, "HEAVY WEIGHT. CHAMPION." displayed this tension by physically putting our audience members in the corner of an abstract boxing ring. I used two flats for the two sides of the ring, and displayed photos and text in lines to create the "ropes" on either side. In order for our audience members to look at the featured items posted on the "ring", they had to stand in the center, surrounded by the information on all sides, the way Jay might be.
But, I was also inspired by playwright Marco Ramirez's quote about Jay: "The lead character is as much Jack Johnson as he is Jay-Z. He’s bombastic… he will be remembered - whether the establishment likes it or not." I wanted our audiences to recognize Jay's struggle, though depicted in 1905, as a struggle that is equally pertinent for modern Black moguls.
So, our display also set up a visual comparison between Jay's Jim Crow America and our current world. The left side of the ring featured photos of historic Black icons, a timeline of racist legislation, and quotes by the real-life inspiration for the play's main character, Jack Johnson. The right side featured modern Black icons, a row of headlines attempting to tear down their successes, and modern quotes about their attempts to take the roles in society that are rightfully theirs.
The display was a lot of work, and math (ugh), and sticky tack, but the conversations held in our lobby made it all worth it. Sad to see such a wonderful show close, but can't wait to get started on the next one. Check out photos of THE ROYALE's display below!