Throughout her more than thirty-year career, Elaine J. McCarthy has established herself as a visionary master of the arts of projection & set design. Her background in photography, film and architecture has led to a career in live performance including theatre, opera, concerts, dance, television, film and corporate. Her work has been seen all over the world.
On Broadway she is known for extending the boundaries of visual storytelling with her work on WICKED, MAN OF LA MANCHA, THURGOOD, the Tony Award winning productions of INTO THE WOODS, MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT, and ASSASSINS, as well as many other hit shows.
Some of McCarthy’s favorite work has been created Off-Broadway. Her recent design work on Anna Deveare Smith’s, NOTES FROM THE FIELD - an exploration of the United States school-to-prison-pipeline plaguing minority communities - was nominated for The Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk, IRNE and Henry Hewes Design Awards. Recent work includes three new Off-Broadway collaborations, all focusing on the lives of women — GLORIA: A LIFE, ABOUT ALICE, and ACCIDENTALLY BRAVE. A filmed version of GLORIA: A LIFE, is currently being broadcast nationwide on PBS Great Performances. Plans are in the works for ACCIDENTALLY BRAVE to be filmed for broadcast as well.
McCarthy has discovered a deep affinity for opera, exploring the scale at which both opera and projections can tell epic stories on stage. Her work has appeared in opera houses worldwide including The Metropolitan Opera, The Kirov Opera, The Dallas Opera, San Francisco Opera, The Santa Fe Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, LA Opera, Calgary Opera, State Opera South Australia, The Barbican of London, La Scala, Teatro Real de Madrid, among many, many others. Over the past two decades she has collaborated on seven world premiere operas by renowned composers Tan Dun, Jake Heggie, Jennifer Higdon and Joby Talbot.
In a recent career highlight, McCarthy was honored by her USITT colleagues with the 2020 Distinguished Achievement Award in Digital Media, an award that “honors individuals who have established meritorious career records in specific fields of expertise.” Disappointed to not have been able to celebrate in-person due to COVID-19, McCarthy was touched to read the commission's description of her and her work, “Elaine is well known throughout the industry for her artistry, generosity, collaboration, and kindness. Her stunning designs are highlighted in countless publications and books on projection design." (Theater Design & Technology, issue Spring 2020.)