30 Under 30: Olivia Sebesky, Projection Designer

In celebration of LDI’s 30th anniversary—1988-2018—Live Design gives a shout out to 30 Under 30: thirty young movers and shakers who are changing paradigms, looking at things from new angles, and rapidly rising to the forefront of their field. From scenic, lighting, projection, and costume designers to technicians and programmers, as well as those who work for manufacturers, production companies, or rental shops, our 30 Under 30 are the harbingers of tomorrow.

Olivia Sebesky is one such artist, interpreting and shaping the world around her through projection design and motion graphics. Designing video and projections for theatre, dance, television, and concerts, Sebesky has worked with James Taylor, Nike, Soho House, The New Group, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, and more. She enjoys delving into the history and culture behind each project, from Dr. Jane Goodall's work as a primatologist for Me…Jane at The Kennedy Center to global warming issues in Rap Guide To Climate Chaos. She received the Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Design in 2013 for her work in Chad Deity, and was nominated for a Connecticut Critics Circle Award in 2016 and a Helen Hayes Award in 2018. Sebesky shares her skills and insight as a lecturer in Creative Technologies at The New School.


Name: Olivia Sebesky

Age: 28

City, State of residence: New York, NY

Position/title: Projection designer

Employer (if not freelance): Self-employed

Current project(s): Jerry Springer: The Opera (The New Group), Rap Guide To Consciousness (Soho Playhouse, International Tour), How To Catch A Star (Kennedy Center); projection and set design

Most notable achievements: Designing projections for James Taylor’s 2017 tour; working with Dr. Jane Goodall on Me…Jane at Kennedy Center 

When I started in this industry: 2010

How I got into this industry: While studying fine art in college, I realized I wouldn’t be happy as a studio artist constantly working solo. I was interested in working in an environment that was collaborative. Theatre design allowed me to use my skills in art towards a larger whole. I enrolled in Tech Theatre 1, taught by Justin Townsend, and immediately fell in love with all of the elements of theatre design. Justin took me on as his assistant on a show called One Night With Janis Joplin. The rest is history. 

Influences: Man Ray; Robert Rauschenberg; Maya Deren

Worst advice I’ve ever heard: “You might not like being a teacher. It’ll bog you down.”

Best advice I’ve ever heard: “Throw some shit up on the stage and see what sticks.”

My favorite thing about the production industry: The best part of this industry is the constant exposure to new facets of life, history, and human nature. The work gives me an opportunity to constantly learn. 

Favorite design/programming/technical trick: A beautiful iris reveal

Plans for the future: Designing for more concerts; creating immersive design with both projection and set 

James Taylor's 2017 Tour

Other interests/side gigs: I am very active in the world of contemporary art. Going to galleries and museum shows is my greatest source of inspiration. I was assistant director of Samson Gallery for four years where I developed skills in art handling, curation, and business. That experience informed my process as an artist and an independent contractor. Armory Week is my favorite week of the year in New York, and I make a point to see as many shows as possible. I love seeing what others are making right now. I also pride myself on my small but growing art collection. 

Awards, honors: 2018 Helen Hayes Award (Nomination); 2016 Connecticut Critics Circle Award for Projection Design (Nomination); 2013 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Design

Organizations, memberships: United Scenic Artists Local 829; NRDC; The Art Students League of New York; Songs of Love 

Other: Part-time faculty at The New School of Drama, Creative Technologies 

Website if applicable:  http://www.oliviasebesky.com/

Ever After, Papermill Playhouse

Check out Live Design/LDI's other 30 Under 30: