She was doing her back-to-school clothes shopping during middle school when Lirit Olyan '13 forged a creative path, first to make her own clothes and then to design costumes.
She hasn’t stopped there. Olyan, a Theatre Arts major at Earlham, recently completed her master of fine arts in costume design at the University of Texas at Austin. Since then she’s received an offer to begin teaching costume design and possibly stage management classes at James Madison University.
“It’s an exciting program for me because their emphasis is extremely liberal arts and multidisciplinary,” she says. “They encourage students to have multiple majors, or for example physics minors with their theatre majors. They emphasize artists also being thinkers, intellectuals and creators.”
Before she heads to James Madison, she’s fabricating animal costumes for a children’s opera at the Quisiana Resort in Maine.
“The thing I love most is working with characters and the human body,” she says. “To me, clothing is the choice each person makes every day about themselves that is the closest to their own skin, and how we present ourselves is such an important part of our personal expression. I love bringing that to light onstage.”
Olyan is especially excited by immersive theatre and interactive environments. These are opportunities, she explains, to design costumes for characters that are going to be extremely close to the audience.
“There’s a lot of room for creativity and detail,” she says, “everything from dousing swimsuits in a chlorine scent to make it more believable that they are just coming in from a swim meet to interactive-video game based characters where we work with video projection artists to create effects like choosing and changing weapons, home menus and world maps. You can’t get away with a lot of mistakes, but at the same time, every single thing you do can be seen and experienced, and that’s really exciting for me.”
Olyan says she left Earlham with strong analytical skills and a ton of hands-on experience.
“Earlham teaches you how to think,” she says. “You have so much room to make your own mistakes and learn from them, with the support of the faculty if you really get into trouble.
“I think the biggest thing I learned was how to head up my own project, to start with an idea and keep rolling the boulder uphill until it became a fully realized piece.”