After spending eighteen years working in a factory building ECUs (electronic control units) in Wisconsin, Deb O decided to go to Marquette University where she received her undergraduate degree in theatre design with a minor in studio art and art history. She then went on to receive her MFA in Theatre 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 and gymnastics, clowning, and mask making have lent themselves to innovative approaches to the creation of unique theatrical events. Deb has enjoyed intimate, long-term collaborations with theatre directors Brian Mertes, Tamilla Woodard, Alex Harvey, Stephen Brackett, GT Upchurch, Melissa Kievman, Lee Sunday Evans of C Town, Sarah Cameron Sunde, Mia Rovegno, Jess K Smith, Jen Wineman, and dance-theatremakers Dan Safer of Witness Relocation, Tami Stronach Dance, Sam Pinkleton, and Diane Vanderhei and Tom Thoreson of Footworks Dance Company. She has also designed numerous, memorable special events.
With director Brian Mertes and The Lake Lucille Project, Deb has devised and created large-scale, environmental designs for day-long performances of each of Chekhov's great works. 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.
She has designed a number of new works and new musicals, such as Lacy Project, Jihad the Musical, The Daughters, The Deepest Play Ever, F%#king Up Everything, Bubble Boy Magical History Tour, and The Material World. In Time Out New York, The Material World was chosen to be one of the top ten shows of 2012. She has been in the rehearsal room helping develop a new play titled Light: A Dark Comedy. This new project will be work shopped at the New Victory.
Deb O is a member of the Wingspace design collective and Artbarn. She is on the Design Faculty of NYU's Tisch, Playwrights Horizons Theater School, and teaching at Brown University. She has given master classes at Marquette, Fairmont University, and Meredith College. 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 Red Hook abandon grain factory production of Enemy of the People was chosen as one of the ten best theatre productions in New York.
Blognews, trends, insights
Regina García chats with scenic designer Deb O about why she’s in theatre, how important it is to answer the call, and shaking things up.