Working from home? Switch to the DIGITAL edition of Stage Directions. CLICK HERE to signup now!
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content

Jesse Easdon: Experiential and Media Designer

Kathy Eddy • Early CareerFebruary 2021 • February 3, 2021

Experiential and Media Designer, Jesse Easdon is based in Austin, TX and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with an MFA in Integrated Media after studying with Sven Ortel. See more of his work at www.jesseeasdon.com. 

Is there something specific in terms of approach to the work that you learned from Sven which you will take through your career?
He teaches and talks a lot about how we connect to a story and to put that element into our design. He teaches collaboration skills; the ability to sit and to listen to our collaborators. Then to start realizing and asking, ‘How do our skills and our technical abilities play into this work, while always understanding that we’re putting the story first?’

That’s the key really, that we are supporting the narrative. We can be doing our own thing off on the side or in the back but there always has to be a way that it plays within the story as a whole. I think there are multiple different ways this can be done. I am always excited about how there’s an action and reaction—with the performance and the media. There’s a lot of possibilities and a lot of ways that we can integrate the media into the story. Working with the director or the choreographer and if they can buy into it, there’s a possibility for really fun and exciting new things that different forms of media can bring to the audience. Interesting and exciting ways that media design might amp up the storytelling.

Talk a bit about supporting the narrative for the opera The Turn of the Screw.
Working on that opera actually made me fall in love with opera. The stage director and the conductor both were excited about really wanting to understand the main characters’ feelings inside. You can definitely hear it in the music and I wanted to give a visual language to that internal moral that our main character was feeling. A lot of the imagery that we used, the projection media, was of the ghost and the governess. We wanted to show that the struggle between the three really played out during the entire story, so you constantly got to see imagery of these characters and how they are almost battling.

I used a lot of footage that I recorded in a green screen room and overlaid it on top of the set, designed by Tucker Goodman. Most of it was front projection but there were a few elements that used some rear projection and it was all tracked. We were able to allow the projection to stay in the right spot even as the set moved so it let us bring these paintings on the set to life and to create interaction with the paintings and also the imagery of the ghost. I think that was a very successful way for us to amp up the storytelling both of Tucker’s set design and my projection design. I don’t think it ever felt like we were competing, we were always on the same page. That was actually one of the funnest things about working on that design; the entire team felt like we were on the same page, step by step together.

How are you navigating your career with the pandemic going on?
I’m in a little bit different position because I’m lucky enough to have a full-time job in the XR (extended/mixed reality) industry, working on VR projects. I’m also taking a lot of different, small, independent jobs, working remotely and working on things that excite me with VR and AR. Having the full-time job allows me have a flexible schedule and be able to take on the few projects that come my way. I feel very lucky; I know that not everybody is getting them. It’s hard right now to find any kind of gigs, so you need to take whatever you can and really try to show off your work at this point. 

Who are some of the people that inspire you?
Tucker Goodman as a scenic designer because I’m always amazed by his way of seeing the story. Also the artist Android Jones. He’s definitely one that if you get the chance, you should look at because his stuff is just beautiful. I’ve heard him talk about doing things that excite us and make us happy. I think that’s a big thing that I’ve learned along the way—do work that makes me happy and that builds a community.

Going forward in your career, do you see exploring media design working in theater as well as mixing it up with XR work?
I think I want to mix it up for sure because there’s so many different things I want to do. Theater for me has always been exciting because of the emotions that it pulls from the audience. So, I always see myself working on theatrical projects. I would love to work on ways that we can use these new technologies in theater and try to combine the two things, XR and theater. It is really excited asking, ‘what XR can do for the theatrical performance?’ I think there’s a lot of different people out there that are doing really cool things in that space right now. But yeah, I will definitely keep working in theater. There’s no way I can get away from that love of storytelling, which I think makes theatrical work so powerful.

The University of Texas at Austin Butler Opera Center’s 2020 Production of The Turn of the Screw (photo: Nathan Russell)

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!