When you explain what a dresser is, there tend to be a lot of leers. Yes, you are helping people change their clothes, and yes that means you see them in various states of undress. But mostly they only need help when it’s a quick change, which we defined as 45 seconds or less. In 45 seconds there isn’t much time to step back and admire anyone – instead you execute a very carefully choreographed routine of getting out of one outfit and into the next. You also do a lot of laundry, and repairs, and triple check that everything is where it is supposed to be. It’s not all that glamorous.
I got my assignments for the show and was a little intimidated. I was assigned to one actor in particular, a handsome senior named Chris who I hadn’t had the nerve to even speak to yet. And we had one quick change.
In the play his character had been wading through a river looking for a lost child (who was found) and was sitting on the porch talking to his dad. Then he exited, and was in at the top of the next scene which took place the next day. So we had 30-45 seconds to get him out of his shirt and wet jeans, and get him redressed. It was a bitch all through tech (wet jeans!), but by opening we had it. His shirt was hanging on the railing and the new jeans were puddled on the floor so he could step in. I was sitting on the floor – he’d get to me and kick off his shoes (the laces were elasticized) and undo his pants while I tugged at the wet legs to get them off. Once that was done he’d step into the new pants which I would pull up as I stood while he took the old shirt off. From behind I’d put the new shirt on him, and while he did up his pants I came around to do the shirt buttons. Then he’d step back into his shoes, smooth his hair, throw me a smile, and go.
One night it was different. Chris came offstage and I quickly realized he was crying. The emotion of the scene with his ‘dad’ had gotten bigger than usual, and while the tears were utterly appropriate for where he’d been they would make no sense for the next day. I could see him trying to get them in check while we went through the routine. At the moment when he would usually smooth his hair back he grabbed my hand and held on. I whispered to him that it was okay, everything would be okay. He held on until the lights came up onstage, and then gave me a huge hug. He wiped the remaining tears away, smiled as always, and went onstage only a few seconds late.
Chris grabbing my hand changed everything. I realized that being on the crew wasn’t a consolation prize instead of acting, but a path in its own right. I realized that Chris didn’t see me as a lowly freshman; at that moment we were equals trying to achieve the same goal. And I realized I loved being in the dark, behind the scenes, leaving my mark on the show in ways that an audience may never think about.
As silly as it may seem this one small incident helped push me to the career path that I’m still on today. I still sit in the dark, and do a job that isn’t always easy to describe, and if I do it well no one even knows I’m there.
@@@This is my entry for week 7 of LJ Idol - the topic is “one touch”. I will post a link to the poll once it is up on Saturday. Thank you for reading.@@@