On an oppressively hot night back in July of 2008, Kaveh Haerian saw his first show at Single Carrot Theatre. It was Richard III, and the audience was sparse due to the heat wave. But that didn’t damper the performance or its effect on Haerian, who remembers, “…what stood out for me was the intermission. I was talking about the show with a young boy of maybe eight or nine years old. He was having such a great time and was so rapt by the show. More than anything else – that’s what impressed. This group of artists managed to make a four hundred year old play relevant to a third grader from Baltimore. Not just relevant, but exciting and fun.”
But let’s rewind. Haerian has been involved in different aspects of theater and acting for many years. His first (and possibly best paying) job as an actor was for an industrial film for the IRS. He was 15-years-old and remembers feeling horrified when he started speaking his lines and didn’t recognize his own voice. The director of that film gave young Haerian some advice that he never forgot: “He reassured me and told me how wonderful my audition had been, then he said, ‘Son, I don’t know what’s going on with you right now, but you don’t sound like a human. Just sound like a person.'”
Haerian evidently took that nugget of wisdom to heart. He studied theater at NYU and then went on to create a theater company of his own in New York City after he graduated. Some of his other jobs have included work for a Broadway casting agency and teaching English at the Field School in Washington, DC. The latter experience really revitalized Haerian’s passion, reminding him why he loved “the most basic aspects of storytelling, intention, and creation.”
After seeing Richard III in Baltimore, he pursued Single Carrot Theatre further and wound up cast in their production of Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice the very next season. As it turned out, Haerian had a strange habit that he couldn’t kick: “I’ve secretly designed and redesigned every production aspect of every play I’ve ever been involved with regardless of whether or not anybody asked me.” But when the director saw his work, this ‘secret’ creative practice quickly became very public. Haerin recalls, “Until that point, all the graphic design had been done by the then-technical director—Joey Bromfield—an extremely talented, and overworked artist. I think clearing that task from his plate was a welcome relief and from then on I’ve been designing all of their show posters.”
His work almost doesn’t look like marketing material. With striking images and playful composition, his posters can be appreciated outside of the context of the theatrical productions that they represent. Haerian cites German Expressionist and Russian Constructivist designs as inspiration, especially the work of El Lissitzky and the Stenberg brothers. He’s also influenced by old Polish theater posters and vintage boxing posters—all of which can be felt in Haerian’s posters, specifically in terms of his use of surrealistic collage and focus on typography.
But of course, it’s his love of theater itself that makes for the most enduring inspiration. Haerian says, “More than anything, I love how collaborative the process is. There is the notion that it is an ego-driven industry and there is unfortunately a great deal of truth to that. But at its best, it represents a collaboration and compromise of the visions and talents of a very broad swath of people and the fact that these people are working toward creating a moment that won’t live past one single evening is pretty incredible.” He plans to continue his work crafting the posters for Single Carrot, while also broadening his design scope to include a book cover (which seems a natural next step, doesn’t it?) and more logo, branding, and identity projects. It seems to be the work for Single Carrot that allows him the most freedom, where he can play with “a wide range of artistic styles and sensibilities.”
It’s this exploration that he values most, because he feels its what leads to the most fulfilling work. In fact, his main advice to novice artists and designers is to avoid romanticizing art. “That frustrates me. It’s hard work. Rewarding work, but often frustrating. There’s no need to be precious about it. You don’t need to dance naked, or believe in the infinite magic of the universe, you just need to be willing to put in the hours…take your time. Process is important. Research is incredibly valuable. Making a space where you can explore and experiment is also key.” And in terms of using these skills to make a living, Haerian posits that the most important thing is to respect your work and your process enough to not work with anyone who doesn’t truly respect it as well—”whether financially or creatively.”