Designer Spotlight: Deb O

Deb O Spot

Deb O is a profoundly inspiring artist to work with. She brings a child-like wonder to the creative process, encouraging all around her to dream big, ambitious, imaginative visions for a project. Underneath that pure wonder is a lifetime of experience in turning the conceptual into the concrete. Her skill playing with scale, accumulation, and the ephemeral is unmatched. It is no wonder then that she’s a Co-Artistic Director of ARTBARN, Resident Designer for the Lake Lucille Project, Member of the Wingspace Design Collective, member of the Design Faculty at NYU/Tisch’s Playwrights Horizons Theater School AND collaboration instructor for the Brown University/Trinity Rep MFA Program. We are so thrilled to get to spend concentrated creative time together every summer making immensely immersive worlds come to life. This year, Deb O will serve as the Production Designer of WE REMAIN PREPARED, overseeing the environmental, lighting, costume, sound, and prop design for this enormous space with a team of exceptionally talented designers. Stay tuned for more information on each of them!

Some of our favorite shots from Deb’s previous work:

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After spending eighteen years working in a factory building ECUs (electronic control units) in the Midwest, Deb O found herself pursuing an undergraduate degree in theatre design with a double minor in Studio Art and Art History at Marquette University. After studying folk art at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland and Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland, she went on to earn an M.F.A. in Theater Design at Yale School of Drama.

Deb O’s extensive scenography training and range of experiences as well as her background in folk art, dance, gymnastics, clowning, mask making, and puppetry have all lent themselves to an innovative approach to the creation of unique theatrical events.  Deb O has enjoyed intimate, long-term collaborations with theater directors Brian Mertes, Tamilla Woodard, Jen Wineman, Jess K Smith, Alex Harvey, Stephen Brackett, GT Upchurch, Lee Sunday Evans of C Town, Mia Rovegno, Sarah Cameron Sunde and dance-theatre makers Tami Stronach Dance, Dan Safer of Witness Relocation, Sam Pinkleton, and Diane Vanderhei and Tom Thoreson of Footworks Dance Company.

With director Brian Mertes and The Lake Lucille Project, Deb O has devised and created large-scale, environmental designs for daylong performances of each of Chekhov’s great works since 2007. In the summer of 2014 the Lake Lucille Company embarked on its next project, the making of a film of The Seagull, in which Deb O was the production designer. In the summer of 2016 Deb O will be creating the environment for the next Lake Lucille project, The Cherry Orchard. With playwright/producer Beau Willimon and directors Brian Mertes and Alex Harvey, the project moved to a giant warehouse in Sunset Park, Brooklyn for an epic environmental staging of Lanford Wilson’s Balm In Gilead. With director Jess K Smith and ARTBARN, Deb O has created environmental designs and costumes or large-scale immersive performances of Home Stretch, This is a Ghost House, and The Circle throughout the historic Byrdcliffe Arts Colony property. This summer, she’ll serve as Production Designer for ARTBARN’s newest project, We Remain Prepared, a massive immersive installation and performance event inspired by and performed inside the Georgetown Steam Plant in partnership with the Satori Group.

She has designed a number of new works and new musicals such as The Lacy Project, Jihad the Musical, The Daughters, The Deepest Play Ever, F%#King Up Everything, Bubble Boy, Magical History Tour, Fable and The Material World (one of Time Out New York’s top 10 shows of 2012). Recently Deb O aided in the development of a new play called Light A Dark Comedy, a project for The New Victory Theater by Paper Canoe.

Deb O is member of the Wingspace Design Collective and founding member and co-artistic director of ARTBARN. She is on the Design Faculty of NYU Tisch’s Playwrights Horizons Theater School, teaches collaboration for the Brown University/Trinity Rep MFA Program, and has given master classes at Fordham University, Marquette University, Fairmont University, and Meredith College. She has sat on a USITT panel to speak about one of her favorite subjects, Site Specific Theater. She is a recipient of Yale’s Jay and Rhonda Keene Award, has been featured twice at the Prague Quadrennial, and has received numerous American College Theater Festival Awards including Best Designer of the Year. In 2013, her production of Enemy of the People in an abandoned grain factory in Red Hook was chosen as one of the best theater productions in New York. She is also a member of the Union Scenic Artist Union Local 829.