Alumna is backstage on Broadway

Alumna is backstage on Broadway
Wednesday, January 8, 2020

There are many players working behind the scenes of a Broadway production to ensure the audience sees a good show. Allie Dillard ’08, a graduate of the College of Arts + Architecture, is one of those players. She is using her wardrobe talents to make sure cast members look their best.

Dillard, who earned a bachelor’s degree in theatre from UNC Charlotte, was a dresser for the Broadway production of “Come From Away,” a musical based on the true story of travelers stranded in a small Canadian town after Sept. 11, 2001. The show is at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center through Jan. 12. 

Dillard’s tour with the show ended at Christmas, but she considers herself lucky to have been a part of the show. She recently shared details about her job and the experience of dressing “Come From Away” performers.

Describe your job as a dresser on Broadway.

My job is to maintain the costume designer’s vision throughout the run of a show. So whether you see a show on opening night or three years in, the clothing looks the same. Not dirty, not worn out. We also help actors backstage with costume changes. 

Walk me through a day on your job, particularly as you prepared for "Come From Away."

I get to the theatre an hour and a half before the show starts. We pick up laundry and any costumes that were pulled the night before for repairs from the wardrobe room and head up to the stage to do “presets,” putting all the costume pieces in the right place for the start of the show. “Come from Away” has a lot of presets; the actors don’t do any full costume changes, but they add a lot of different coats and hats and such to change into different characters, so those pieces have to be in the right place, set the right way and ready for the actor to use. 

Then I head upstairs to the dressing rooms to help the actors get dressed for the top of the show. At places, we all head to the stage.

All backstage positions run “tracks,” a list of things you need to get done for the show to happen. I’m the Stage Right dresser; we only have two at “Come From Away,” which is really small for a Broadway show. Most shows have six to eight, some as many as 12. 

I run the show, collect any dirty laundry, check with the wardrobe supervisor about the call for the next day, and head home. 

How did you come to be a dresser for "Come From Away?"

I dressed the show when it was at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., and when it announced it was going to Broadway, I asked if I could come. I got really, really lucky. 

On what other shows and productions have you worked as a dresser?

In New York, only “Come From Away.” But I worked for eight years in D.C., so a lot.

How did you become interested in a career in theater and, particularly, as a dresser?

I did a summer stock in between my sophomore and junior year and found out about wardrobe there. It seemed like something fun that I would be good at. It’s been 12 years, and I still like it.

Why did you choose UNC Charlotte to further your education?

It was pretty close to home, I liked the more urban campus, and I really liked the facilities.

How did your education at the University help your career?

I was given the opportunity to make up my own course of study once I knew I wanted to concentrate on wardrobe. It’s not really something that is normally covered in a theatre degree. My fantastic teachers supported me, while at the same time instilling in me values and lessons that I still carry on in the professional world. 

Image: a photo of Dillard combined with “Come From Away” production materials, designed by Samantha Salvato, a marketing specialist with CoA+A.