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

Van Wyk is the lead costume designer for the play, directed by M.F.A. directing candidate Paul Christopher, which is about the rise and downfall 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 second-year M.F.A. candidate in costume design, has worked on, but it is her first in-person show since she joined the program in 2020.

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

Here is an inside look at how Van Wyk prepared for the show in which she created 150 costume pieces for a cast of 14 actors.

A person sketching a costume on an iPad.
Lindsay Van Wyk sketches a design for the Mary Stuart production.

Before Van Wyk began her design process for Mary Stuart, she read the script to develop a color scheme and talked with the director, Christopher, to figure out his vision for the show. During the beginning stages of production, she likes to show her preliminary designs or pencil sketches to the director to receive their feedback.

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

Van Wyk developed a color palette from different tartans, a pattern of interlocking stripes, because of the time period.

“Mary Stuart’s palette is light blue, yellow, silver, and white. Queen Elizabeth’s palette uses a Christmas plaid or royal Stuart plaid. Instead of the bright colors, I dimmed them down to jewel tones. I wanted the stark contrast between black on Elizabeth and 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 the measurements as junior theatre production design and technology major Katherine Dohogne, a Costume Shop employee, measures actress Kelli Saldivar, a freshman acting major.
A person fitting a costume on 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 at a sewing machine.
Lindsay Van Wyk sews a muslin mock-up of a garment for fitting that will be worn by the Earl of Leicester played by Victor Wilson-Miller.

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

“As you’re doing fittings with actors, you have to recognize if the person feels comfortable in the costume if it fits them, and if it’s able to be altered,” she said.

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

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

A person applying hairspray on another person's hair.
Lindsey Van Wyk (left) applies hairspray to Maggie Shackley’s (right) hair. Shackley is playing Queen Elizabeth.
A person styling another person's hair.
Lindsey Van Wyk styles Maggie Shackley’s hair.
A person lacing the back of a costume on another person.
Taylor Huls (right) laces T Bixby (left) into her first costume as Mary Stuart.
A person dialoguing on stage with another person.
T Bixby (left), who plays Mary Stuart, listens to Joshua Thomas (right), who is playing Mortimer, talk about his life-changing trip to the continent.
A person center stage giving a dialogue as six people are in the bacgkround.
Queen Elizabeth (Maggie Shackley) addresses her court, from left Count Bellievere (Kelli Saldiavar), an English gentleman (Gabe Barta), Count Aubespine (Ryan Renc), The 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 the Center for the Performing Arts Theatre, Van Wyk and the crew worked around 12 hours to make sure the lighting, sound, and costume were ready in preparation for the first dress rehearsal the following day.

When Van Wyk made it through Monday’s first dress rehearsal, the Mary Stuart cast and crew ran through the process all over again until Thursday night.

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

Mary Stuart is running 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 Theatre. Buy tickets online.