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LJ Idol week 7: one touch
When I got to college as a theatre major I had more enthusiasm than experience. When I didn’t get cast in any shows my first semester I signed up for crew positions instead, which is how I ended up as a dresser for my first college show.

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.@@@

Thank you. And thank you for my snowflake - it and your message made me smile!

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Thanks so much. Yeah - I think I could probably do an entire season of Idol with nothing but backstage stories if I really tried..

What a wonderful story :)

Also reminded me of one quick-change in particular that I assisted with where the zipper got stuck! I have no idea how we managed that one in time, it was terrifying!

Chris sounds lovely. (I've met a few cast members who never acknowledged us 'screws' at all.) Lovely ending too. You're the invisible touch :)

Thanks. Stuck zippers are the worst! I'd rather pretty much any other closture method - most are easier to work around if they fail.

Chris was really nice - he went out of his way to talk to me whenever we saw each other for the rest of the year we were both there.

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Thanks. It's interesting, I've gotten so used to being 'invisible' that now it's a little strange when someone does know what I do. I enjoy being able to walk through the lobby and have no one know who I am.

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I'm glad it brought back good memories for you. I've worked on shows that had crazy no time four dresser changes, but I've never been a part of the change. Those are always so satisfying once they're figured out.

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Simple and beautiful. I love it.

Such a wonderfully told experience. I love seeing live theater and love to know some of the things that go on behind the scenes that we never see. Thanks for sharing this! I love it.

I'm glad you enjoyed it. Backstage is always its own world, seperate but not from what's happening on stage. I'm glad I could pull back the veil for you a bit.

As someone who gave up theater after getting a C in Intro to Acting my freshman year, this made me cry (I'm at work! Stop that!). Awesome job.

I didn't mean to make you cry! Aack - may I offer hugs?

I stayed in acting classes until the end of my Sophomore year, and occasionally really clicked into something. But I didn't trust it as much as I trusted the tech work by then which is a bit less ephemeral so I picked my path.

This is nice. I love the imagery and I love the story.

I loved reading this! You left me smiling, which is always a nice thing. A theatre crew has to be so seamless, and you capture the magic of that.

Aw thank you! Heh, given that the show I'm working on right now is anything but seamless, but everything still looks fine onstage your comment makes me giggle a bit. But yeah when all the pieces fit together backstage could be its own show.

Nice entry, it makes me miss being in shows, working as part of a team.

Thank you. One thing you learn in theatre very quickly is that every single person is important - which is good for morale when you're starting at the bottom.

Sometimes the most important jobs are those that nobody sees you doing. :)

So very, very true, and not just in theatre.

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Aw, thank you. And I hope you had a happy birthday, sorry I had to miss the celebration.