Student designs costumes for ‘King Oedipus’ production

February 15, 2012 | Arts, UToday
By Angela Riddel

When the UT Department of Theatre and Film production of Sophocles’ Greek tragedy “King Oedipus” opens this week, the cast will be wearing costumes designed by student Lynnette Bates.

Lynnette Bates holds a mask that will be worn by a chorus member in the UT production of “King Oedipus.”

Bates is a senior pursuing a dual major in theatre and Japanese language. She served as an assistant designer on the UT production of “Labyrinth” in 2010, but this is her first play as the lead designer.

“This is the first time my designs are being taken off the page and made into reality,” she said.

Mentoring the process of transforming her designs into fabric is Daniel Thobias, assistant professor of theatre, and Kaye Pope, costume shop manager.

Bates said she appreciates Thobias’ insight: “He is really creative and has lots of useful ideas for how to bring some of the odder aspects of my designs to life. He has challenged me to always think about the big questions, like, ‘What do you want to say about this character with this article of clothing?’ and ‘Remember that this costume is going on stage, so how are the lights and distance from the audience going to affect how it looks?’”

“Lynette is a great young designer, and it’s been my pleasure to work with her,” Thobias said. “She has a definite vision of what she intends for the show to look like. She expresses this well in her costume renderings, which are superior for somebody who has only begun to explore costume design.”

In preparing for the show, Bates read the play several times, which she said is essential for designing costumes. “It’s also important at this stage to understand major themes in the script and start exploring what each character’s personality and goals in the play are,” she said. “What characters wear should reflect their personalities and give clues as to how they connect with the other characters in the play.”

She has worked closely with the play’s director, Dr. Edmund Lingan, assistant professor of theatre. “It is his vision and concept for the play that everyone is working together to bring to life. If the designs don’t fit the concept, then there is a disconnect between what the director works on in rehearsal and what the audience sees on stage, and that can be detrimental to a show.

“Here at UT, the directors are very creative and free with the way they interpret scripts, so we rarely do a traditional production of any play,” Bates said. “We are being taught to be innovative, not copycats. Again, it’s incredibly important to explore the director’s conceptual work so that designs help support the unique world of the play that he or she wants to create.”

The costumes also must work well with the design of the set. Donald Fox, visiting assistant professor of theatre, designed the set for “King Oedipus.”

“Donald has designed a set with a giant sandbox in the middle, and several traps in the floor for entrances. As a costume designer, I need to make sure that what I create is both safe and set-friendly for the actors,” Bates said. “I also try to keep my designs relatively comfortable for the actors to allow them more freedom in their movement on stage.”

Preparing designs for the 15 cast members for “King Oedipus” becomes even more daunting when finances are a concern.

“The number of people in the cast is not as important to consider as, say, how many costume pieces you can use that are already in stock versus how much you are going to have to purchase or build. Of course, when considering the limited budget, one has to plan accordingly to spread that money over all of these areas,” Bates said. “For ‘King Oedipus,’ I wanted to pull as many things from stock as possible, but for the principal characters we have had to build quite a few of their unique garments.”

So what visual concepts will the audience see in this play?

“We tossed ideas back and forth and found that the Steampunk aesthetic [Victorian era incorporating technological elements] lent itself very well to [Lingan’s] directorial concept for ‘Oedipus,’” Bates said. “I hope my costumes will help pull the audience out of the world we live in and transport them into the world of ‘Oedipus.’”

“King Oedipus” will open Friday, Feb. 17, at 7:30 p.m. After the performance, the audience will have the opportunity to talk with the show’s cast, director and designers.

Performances will continue Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 18-19, and Wednesday through Sunday, Feb. 22-26. The show will begin at 7:30 p.m. except Sundays, when the curtain will go up at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $13 for general admission; $11 for faculty, staff, alumni and seniors; and $7 for students. They can be purchased online at, by calling 419.530.2375, or by visiting the Center for Performing Arts Box Office.

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