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BorderLight Theatre Festival Selects CSU Alumni’s Artwork Design for 2024

Angelo Maneage BorderLightWhen the 2024 BorderLight Festival kicks off in Cleveland on July 24, Angelo Maneage’s bold vision will be front and center to welcome guests to the three-day event.

The Cleveland-based, multidisciplinary artist is a 2018 graduate of CSU whose artwork was selected out of the dozens of submissions leading up to the fourth annual event at Playhouse Square.

CSU: How did this all come about?

I was sent the link posted from some creative job board. The BorderLight fest is one of the best theatre festivals in Cleveland and I have a personal connection to it. It celebrates the independent, the fringe, the weird. I had performed a whopping eight-and-a-half minutes of stand up in the 2022 festival in a variety show. We called it “The Small Garden”, four writer-performers doing 10 minutes of whatever they wanted. I'd designed the posters for that which featured an unclothed humanoid figure being levitated into the sky with a sunflower growing out of its belly button, and an alternative artwork that featured the same humanoid frolicking on an orange background, covered only by that same sunflower.

I sent my portfolio (which is just my website) then kind of forgot about it. When Dale Heinen (Executive and Artistic Director) and Yazmin Maldonado (Operations and Communications Manager) informed me, I'd won out of the top three, I did a backflip. I did another when they told me they'd seen my work from the festival two years prior.

CSU: Talk a little bit about your background with designing?

I’m an independent designer and interdisciplinary artist. I primarily work in the literary spheres designing books, book covers, posters, editorial artworks, and printed materials. I’ve always been fascinated by the printed object, especially those that hold text. A neat container where everything can live. Maybe this is my diagnosed OCD informing my poetry brain informing my knock-knock joke brain informing my everything. I am also dealing with the imposter syndrome of it all.

I didn't go to college for design; I studied creative writing at Cleveland State (and am still a practicing poem-nerd lucky enough to have two chapbooks out from a small Syracuse-based micro-press called Ghost City Press). My only formal training was a 2-year intensive vocational program many years ago and a few design classes at CSU which were pricelessly necessary.

The rest is ingesting and collecting tons and tons and tons and tons of books, tutorials, pretty objects, paper, doilies, mailers, printing practices, crayons, manuals, indexes, newsprints, and polka records. I love polka records. They're wildly not serious in my favorite way. I’m inspired a lot by midcentury work, which is honestly a peak time for polka records. Pre-computer life. Like, you’re forced to figure it out with the utensils you have around you. The boldness of a solid, flat color. Imperfections of offset printing. My brain is a jumbled, nonlinear mess with range of inspirations from a mix of work and philosophies by the humans Tibor Kalman, Paul Rand, Peter Mendelsund, Na Kim, Pierre Mendell, Bruno Munari, Lanny Sommese, David Pearson, Saul Bass, Fred Troller, Heinz Edelmann, Grapus, Leonard Cusden, Bob Gill, Bob Cobbing and Toshio Saeki (among hundreds of others I admire).

I think it’s important for me to approach everything from a narrative perspective, no matter how abstract, just for my brain to justify it. I guess that sounds bad, but I mean, like, the "secrets" of something, however blurry they may be. What is hidden in this "why". I will annoyingly say: design is poetry and jokes and literature in its processing and its execution. It’s less about pretty pictures and more thinking about deleting a period and then going back and forth for hours, thinking of where a breath should be.

Living in the world of something. It's literary in its structure, or at least in the tools it uses: narrative intention, rhythm, rhyme, semantic relationship, connections (to audience, to self, to content, to form), logic within the bounds presented. (I realize I am a big proponent of lists...). I feel like design work is something to be interpreted, just as text is. (I think I just said a bunch of circular nonsense, but that's alright because it's the weekend as I write this!)

CSU: What was the inspiration behind your design?

BorderLight is a festival, with tons of different kinds of plays happening all day for four days in various historic theatres. It’s a magical beacon, a Warped Tour but with better costumes. From their site: “BorderLight’s mission is to present innovative theatre that inspires, builds cross-cultural understanding and celebrates the diversity of the human experience.” In early conversations about the artwork, we discussed how this event acts as a cultural seed and how this fest has an experimental spirit embracing the nontraditional.

The key artwork utilizes and bends public domain images in the form of a mixed-media collage-illustration. Which is what theatre is for, to see new perspectives, right? The mixed medium of collage allows textures and compositional relationships to mesh nicely which illustrates, I think importantly, an emulsification between the traditional, the communal, and the experimental into a new spectacle-aioli, just as this festival does. There’s a wide variety/mixing of performance, so I thought a lot about clowns, plays creating reality, community as invitation, swimming, puppets, paper dolls, seeds, flowers, water, sweat, pranks, the circus, and, for some reason, ballroom dancing (mostly the very classic romantic idea of biting a flower).

Prominently looming in the background is a young Marsden Hartley, an American poet a painter inspired by international works. I felt that type of spirit could be a host of the of the key composition, or a type of showman in the shadows. Working with vintage matchboxes, a swim team of aerobic water droplets formed as a sort of collaborative concierge to the festival, the clowning flower brooch a fountain of magic, its vinery climbing up the audience. Theatre is a kind of water, and an electrolysis happens when we all participate in it. This celebration of theatre is a wide portal-pond that focuses in on the culturally expressive and the fringe-tastically strange.

CSU: Anything else to add?

AM: Grab tickets to the festival July 24-27!

OH YEAH — I have to shamelessly (or shamefully, however you want to see it) plug Cleveland Review of Books, a magazine of literary criticism for which I am (somehow) the Art Director. Really cool work from really cool people deconstructing and embracing the critical form.