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Caitlín McCarthy’s art comes to life through set design

Caitlín McCarthy is a scenic artist for the theater department. Among the sets she has worked on, McCarthy has made mechanical flowers that bloomed on stage for the spring 2009 production “Before the Red Trees Come.” The studio art major and theater minor has been painting scenery and creating props since her freshman year at the University. / photo by Allison Lavelle

Karlie Bettencourt
Associate Arts Editor

When walking into the theater to see a play, the audience views the stage to see how props and scenery set the tone and foreshadow the production.

Caitlín McCarthy has been responsible for creating that first impression for many shows here by putting her studio art experience to use through the design of the theater sets.

“I’m the person that puts the finishing touches on the show,” McCarthy said. “If the environment is successful, it benefits the actors and they will be successful.”

With the theater department gearing up for the production of “The Screens” by Jean Genet, McCarthy is busy coming up with a way to interpret the play so she can match a set accordingly.

While the actors of the show spend time memorizing their lines and stage blocking, McCarthy spends time planning, constructing and painting the scenery used in the play.

Being a senior studio art major, she is able to build sets that resemble real life places and also sets that successfully enhance the show because of her ability to paint and design.

“Sometimes you have an image in your head that you have to get out,” McCarthy said.

This is what art has become to McCarthy, an expressive outlet. Art has been with her since she was a child.

“I learned how to draw before I learned how to write,” McCarthy said. “I have a family of artists going generations back.”

Her family is what got McCarthy first involved in doing theater.

Her father did theater for a long time, which then inspired her to participate in high school and college.

“It just stuck with me,” McCarthy said. “It gives me a headache sometimes, but I love it. I like to tie my love of art in with theater.”

Even though most of her work can be seen during a theater performance, McCarthy does more than just paint.

She is a member of the Monrovia Association for Fine Arts.

Being a member has allowed her to show her art work in one exhibit and also hang some in a bank lobby.

She is currently working on getting her art to hang in a coffee shop.

“Caitlín is magic,” sophomore theater arts major Teresa Beardsley said. “She is hard working and she will give up her life to get a set done. She has stayed at the theater for over three-fourths of a day working on things.”

Beardsley is not the only one who talks about McCarthy so highly.

“She makes sure the set is how you want it,” Jennifer Leyva, freshman theater arts major, said. “If there is a problem, she’ll get it fixed as soon as possible.”

McCarthy dreams of opening an art studio of her own after college. She wishes to have a place where she can show her art while also having a place to teach art in the back.

If she cannot acquire her own place, McCarthy wishes to teach art at a school, though she is not sure what grade level she wants to teach yet.

“For those who say they can’t do art, they can,” McCarthy said. “They just don’t know it yet.”

McCarthy says anyone can do art with the right attitude.

“It’s a matter of patience,” McCarthy said. “As long as you have an open mind, you can do it.”

Karlie Bettencourt can be reached at

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