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APRIL 26, 2013
For over a decade, one of my favorite assignments has been doing posters for the Odeon Theater in Vienna. This year the Serapions Ensemble is celebrating the theater's 25th anniversary with a special production: PaRaDiSo, starting this evening, April 26.
According to the theater’s website: "PaRaDiSo is a performance with a universal stage language comprising dance, music and special effects. The piece tells how art can only come about through the balance of the material and the intellectual. When this exists, it forms one of the final paradises.”
The Serapions Ensemble is directed by Ulrike Kaufmann and Erwin Piplits. For a quarter century it’s made a considerable contribution to the development of non-verbal, visual theater. Its home is the Odeon Theater in the second district of Vienna, a large, columned hall in the former Agricultural Products Exchange. Its first production,“Axolotl Visionarr,” was performed June 8, 1988.
One of the reasons I find these assignments so gratifying is that the directors treat each poster not just as a marketing tool, but as an extension of the production itself. Rather than ask me to illustrate what the audience will see on stage, they invite me to interpret what can’t be seen: the spirit behind the show.  


This time, despite the special occasion, the brief was no exception. The synopsis Erwin gave me was succinct, provocative and open-ended. The title, he said, was conceived in the manner of the oldest forms of writing, like Hebrew, where only the consonants are written and each one has a special meaning:


P stands for Paschut: the simple, the material, the substantial and physical. 

R stands for Remez: indication, hint. 

D stands for Derasch: exegesis, cognition and apperception. 

S stands for Sod: the secret, the mysterious – what cannot be said. 


“If they are all in harmony, art can arise," he wrote and "art," quoting Friedrich Schiller, "is a daughter of freedom."


 © Brad Holland