From Page to Stage: Costume Designer Prepares for Mary Stuart Production – News


Lindsey Van Wyk is familiar with long hours, late nights and fast sewing, especially in preparation for the School of Theater and Dance April production of Mary Stuart.

Van Wyk is the head costume designer for the play, staged by MFA direction candidate Paul Christopher, which chronicles the rise and fall of Mary Stuart, the 16th-century Queen of Scotland and cousin of Queen Elizabeth of England. This is the fourth production at Illinois State University that Van Wyk, a sophomore MFA candidate in costume designworked, but this is her first in-person show since joining the program in 2020.

Van Wyk came to Illinois to expand her experience in costume design. She had earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, respectively, and then spent time in Arkansas working in theater.

Here’s a look at Van Wyk’s preparation for the show in which she created 150 costumes for a cast of 14 actors.

Lindsay Van Wyk sketches a design for Mary Stuart’s production.

Before Van Wyk began his design process for Mary Stuart, she read the script to develop a color scheme and spoke with the director, Christopher, to understand his vision for the show. At the start of production, she likes to show her preliminary drawings or pencil sketches to the director for feedback.

“I tend to keep the silhouettes in my head as I read the script with casting footage next to me and start imagining what would look good on each person,” she said.

Van Wyk has developed a color palette from different tartansa pattern of interlocking stripes, due to the period.

“Mary Stuart’s palette is light blue, yellow, silver and white. The Queen Elizabeth palette uses a Christmas plaid or a Royal Stuart plaid. Instead of the bright colors, I’ve toned them down to jewel tones. I wanted the stark contrast between the black on Elizabeth and the ice blue on Mary,” she said.

A person writing down measurements while another person measures an actor with sewing tape.
Lindsay Van Wyk (right) writes measurements as Junior Theatrical Production Design and Technology Specialist Katherine Dohogne, a costume shop employee, measures freshman actress Kelli Saldivar.
A person who adapts a costume for an actor.
Lindsay Van Wyk (right) zips up a corseted top on Katherine Dohogne, to see if it would be the right fit and style for an actress in Mary Stuart.
A person sitting in front of a sewing machine.
Lindsay Van Wyk sews a muslin mock-up of a fitting garment to be worn by the Earl of Leicester played by Victor Wilson-Miller.

Once Van Wyk’s designs were approved, she created a jacket; pulled costumes from previous productions, such as Illinois Shakespeare Festival rooms; and began the adjustment process.

“When you’re fitting in with actors, you need to know if the person feels comfortable in the costume, if it fits them, and if it can be changed,” she said.

The Sunday before production, the cast and crew had a hair, makeup, and technical dress rehearsal to make sure everyone knew their place when the curtains went up. In addition to designing costumes for the show, Van Wyk is also in charge of hair and makeup design.

“We don’t have makeup artists to do people’s makeup, so it’s important that they know how to do it themselves. It gives me a chance to make sure I’m not asking too much of women in terms of hairstyles,” she said.

A person who applies hairspray to another person's hair.
Lindsey Van Wyk (left) applies hairspray to Maggie Shackley (right). Shackley plays Queen Elizabeth.
A person styling another person's hair.
Lindsey Van Wyk styles Maggie Shackley’s hair.
A person lacing the back of a suit on another person.
Taylor Huls (right) dons T Bixby (left) in her first costume as Mary Stuart.
A person talking on stage with another person.
T Bixby (left), who plays Mary Stuart, listens to Joshua Thomas (right), who plays Mortimer, talk about his life-changing trip to the Continent.
One person in the center of the stage giving dialogue while six people are in the background.
Queen Elizabeth (Maggie Shackley) addresses her court, from left Earl Bellievere (Kelli Saldiavar), an English gentleman (Gabe Barta), Earl Aubespine (Ryan Renc), Earl of Leicester (Viktor Wilson-Miller) , Lord Burleigh (Jacob Williamson), George Talbot (Ben Meenan) and an English gentleman (Kendra Young).

During the technical rehearsal at Performing Arts Theater CenterVan Wyk and the team worked around 12 hours to make sure the lighting, sound and costumes were ready for the first dress rehearsal the next day.

When Van Wyk pulled off Monday’s first dress rehearsal, the Mary Stuart The cast and crew went through the whole process again until Thursday night.

As Van Wyk waited for opening night on Friday, April 8, she and the rest of the cast and crew anticipated an exciting show.

Mary Stuart runs April 8, 9, and 13-16 at 7:30 p.m. and April 10 at 2 p.m. at the Center for the Performing Arts Theater. Buy your tickets online.

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