On Broadway, many of us are multihyphenates. Why? Because it helps us create a well rounded and financially supported life in the arts. I love all of what I do whether it be as a swing dresser, actor, or helping other performers and backstage technicians who want to get into any of these lines of work.
As we social distance and wait for Broadway to return in some capacity in the future, you might be thinking about whether a life as a swing dresser or a multifaceted one that includes embracing a swing position sometimes is one for you. If you’re considering this, here are the qualities you’ll need to pursue such a path.
Swing dressers just like actor swings and any technical backstage swings need to be flexible in your approach to your work. Different individuals have different ways they work and do their jobs. As a swing, your job is to be flexible and adhere to the standards of the dresser you’re filling in for. You’re employed to carry out the job just like if the regular person was there. Nothing should change. Remember, a Broadway show is a large functioning machine and if you do something different than the normal person, it can have a ripple effect that can cause the machine to stop running smoothly.
Some jobs can be extremely physically demanding and others less so. In the dresser realm, one dresser may only be situated in a dressing room for a massive amount of quick changes while others may have to carry large amounts of baskets with heavy clothes and climb massive amounts of stairs because, for the most part, theaters that house Broadway shows don’t have elevators. That means you need to be prepared for either of these possibilities and up to carrying out the job required so the show keeps running.
Thinking On Your Feet
Something can always go wrong. You must ensure that you have the skills to problem-solve on the spot without an issue. As a dresser, a quick change could go horribly wrong with zippers breaking. You must be able to stay calm and focused to continue the change. You must have the tools at your fingertips and know how to use them so you can either fix the zippers quickly and rip them open so the actor can put on another garment or tape and sew the part that needs to be closed without second-guessing yourself and ensuring the actor feels safe to go back onstage again.
If you have the qualities above, the technical experience, and the interest to become a swing dresser, then from one swing to a future one go for it! You can do it!
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