Inside the Broadway Community Project: What Happens When a Costume Needs Fixing...But the Actor's Already Wearing It?

Broadway Community Project   Inside the Broadway Community Project: What Happens When a Costume Needs Fixing...But the Actor's Already Wearing It?
 
Learn more about the trade from Diana dresser Ali Valcarcel.
Laura Osnes Dresser_William Ivey Long_HR
Laura Osnes and Ali Valcarcel backstage at City Center’s The Band Wagon; Costume for Diana

The arts and culture industries remain largely at a standstill in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, affecting millions of workers in an already delicate ecosystem. The Broadway Community Project, from industry veterans Greg Schaffert, Tiffani Gavin, Situation Interactive, and Playbill, was developed to shed light on the myriad fields and roles that go into making the curtain rise.

In this new series, we shine a spotlight on the faces you may not see on stage, but are nevertheless critical in creating and maintaining a theatre production. These are just some of the arts workers who have put their stamp on an industry that contributed over $14.7 billion to the New York economy in 2019 and $877 billion in value added nationally; these are just some of the arts workers in need of relief legislation and a recovery plan.

Learn about dressers and more through the Broadway Community Project on Playbill
Learn about dressers and more through the Broadway Community Project on Playbill

Today, meet Ali Valcarcel, a dresser who was working on Broadway's Diana up until the theatre shutdown. As a member of the wardrobe crew, she assists with quick changes, keeps track of a host of moving parts and accessories, and comes to the rescue for emergency repairs during performances. Her additional credits include SpongeBob SquarePants, Sunday in the Park With George, and multiple productions at New York City Center. Learn more about her and her line of work below.

Click here to explore the Broadway Community Project map in full (or submit yourself to be added).

READ: Check Out the New Tool That Maps the Expansive, Evolving Broadway Ecosystem

Name: Ali Valcarcel
Occupation: Dresser

How did you get your start in your field?
As a child, my grandmother passed her love of theatre onto me. I grew up knowing I wanted to have a career in the arts in some way. I went into college wanting to major in stage management. As a freshman, we had to spend half of each semester working with the different technical theatre departments. It was when I spent time in the costume shop that I found my passion for costumes.

Ali Valcarcel (R) as <i>SpongeBob SquarePants </i>rehearses for the Macy&#39;s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Ali Valcarcel (R) as SpongeBob SquarePants rehearses for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade c/o Valcarcel

What are three skills someone in your position must possess?
You must be a "people person" as you're working in very close quarters with lots of people, be calm in stressful situations, and be detail-oriented.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
A mid-show costume repair can be really challenging: Your actor doesn't even have time to remove the costume, and you need to sew it while they're still wearing it and hope that everything holds until it can be properly addressed! A fast, complicated quick change is also a definite challenge, but at the same time, once it gets figured out and accomplished, it is really exciting.

How was it returning to the Longacre as Diana was filmed for Netflix?
It felt both like we had never left and like eons had passed at the same time. The muscle memory of my track for the show came right back to me, which was so interesting after six months. It was nice to be there at the theatre with everyone after all that time and return to some semblance of normalcy.

What are some of your favorite shows you’ve worked on?
Sunday in the Park with George and SpongeBob SquarePants on Broadway, as well as Little Me and Evita at New York City Center.

What does it mean to you to be a part of the theatre community?
I grew up seeing and having a love for theatre. It's really special to be a part of the community as a professional all these years later. I have formed some truly special relationships throughout the process.

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