For Ernest Thompson’s play, “A Sense of Humor” (which) opened at the Ahmanson Threatre, Los Angeles in1983, D. J. Hall was contacted by the director, Robert Greenwald, to create drawings for images that would cover the interior of a small house inhabited by Mittie Dale, a 25-year-old woman who committed suicide with her male companion. Jack Lemmon and Estelle Parsons play Mittie’s aggrieved parents who have come to the house to remove their daughters possessions.
During the entire course of the play, the actors are surrounded by a disturbing melange of Mittie’s pictures and cynical poetry. Drawings of cats, snarling bears, a loving young couple with estranged parents, spiritually charged landscapes and cosmic spheres fill walls, doors, cupboards, and ceiling, as well as floating panels that appear to extend beyond the roof and enlarge Mittie’s visions into the upper reaches of the theater. During the course of the play, the entire house is emptied, revealing the
images in their entirety.
Greenwald had seen Hall's (1983) show at Tortue Gallery and was intrigued by her interest in family and connections with the past. He contacted Hall and brought her a script. She read the script several times and made a list of questions for the author and director who did not want to answer them— instead wanting Hall to come up with ideas. Hall made chronological charts to plot the character, building a psychological profile of Mitty and, later of herself as a parallel. As she began to think of images Mittie might have drawn, she assigned them a time, a state of mind, a style of drawing, and a location in the house. Hall then made a list of primary, secondary, and optional images she thought appropriate.
Hall’s small drawings, done mostly in color pencil on paper, were then greatly enlarged and painted on the sets by the professional set painter’s of Center Theatre Group. ”
“ ‘Sense of Humor’ Freed Her Palette”
Los angeles Times Calendar, (Dec. 27, 1983): 1 & 4