MFA Graduate Receives Honors for Costume Designs

Grace Foiles, a Theatre MFA student who is studying Scenic and Costume Design, will graduate this spring after having created a number of costumes, some of which earned regional honors.

Grace Foiles wearing the Biohazard Ballgown, a piece from the Distance series

Foiles won the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) Midwest Regional Section Digital Design Competition for Costume Design for outstanding work on Distance Series, which was created as a commentary on the COVID-19 pandemic, consisting of a devised pair of wearable sculptures with the intention of keeping people at least six feet away from their wearer.

“The Theatre Design faculty at MSU have provided me with so many opportunities to stretch my creative muscles and express myself through design,” Foiles said. “One of my favorite pieces I’ve worked on is the Distance Series. The piece was conceived as a replacement for my 2020 Fall semester design credit. I got to design and build some wonderful campy/macabre costumes meant to keep people at least six feet away from their wearer.”

sketches of two pieces in the Distance Series

Foiles created the Distance Series, starting with 30 sketches then selecting three to become fully realized pieces. Using unconventional and reclaimed materials, such as plastic sheeting recycled from lumber packaging, the pieces were created. 

The Distance Series provided an outlet for feelings of anxiety and uncertainty experienced by living through a pandemic. 

“This project became a place for me to channel all my existential dread into art, theatre, and camp,” Foiles said.

Foiles also worked with Professor of Theatre Kirk Domer as his assistant designer on an MSU opera production. 

The Theatre Design faculty at MSU have provided me with so many opportunities to stretch my creative muscles and express myself through design

“Grace has produced extremely creative work at MSU with their dedication to theatrical design as social practice,” Domer said. “Amid COVID, they have both met the challenges of creating in unprecedented times and prevailed in making art in collaboration with others.” 

Foiles had plans to study abroad in London but was unable to because of the pandemic. This caused some disappointment, but Foiles chose to look on the brighter side of this misfortune.

The Plague Mask, a piece in the Distance series

“I was a little bit disappointed but, on the whole, there were far bigger things to worry about this year,” Foiles said. “I have been there before during a study abroad at my undergraduate institution. I wanted to return because I was really enamored with the design/technical work being done at the National Theatre. I’m sure I’ll return to London someday, just not through MSU.” 

After graduation, Foiles plans to move to Chicago to pursue freelance design work. 

“One of the reasons I attended MSU was the opportunity to expand my professional network and work with very talented artists, both on faculty and in my cohort,” Foiles said. “While jobs in the entertainment industry are certainly at a low point right now, I feel confident that my time at MSU has really helped me prepare to enter the job market.”