Choreographer of Quick Change Chaos
Updated: Sep 24, 2020
Meet Alyssa Janco, a badass freelance Dresser who creates highly functional Wig Crew & Wardrobe Aprons.
She hails from Green Bay, Wisconsin, but the theater community may also be familiar with her from A Christmas Carol at the Milwaukee Rep, at American Players Theatre, and around Chicago at places like Lookingglass Theatre Company. She loves cooking and baking and you can see her beautiful creations on instagram @alyssajanco! Pending any COVID-19 issues with theater schedules, she will be back at American Players Theatre from June-October 2020. *fingers crossed*
AN APRON IS BORN
Upon graduation from University of Wisconsin--Stevens Point, she fell into a Dresser position at Milwaukee Rep and loved it. She loved being in the action, feeling like she was part of something bigger than herself, and bonding with cast & crew in a short time.
As she continued her work as a dresser, she realized there was not an apron available in the market to properly fit all the supplies she needed to carry. She is a big fan of the Scout motto, "be prepared ", but she didn't feel at the time that she was able to have easy access to her tools if a problem should arise.
"A well-prepared Hair & Makeup Artisan or Dresser carries a lot of supplies with them. Most theatres have standard wait-staff aprons available to new dressers that they can use until they buy one for themselves (usually from Manhattan Wardrobe Supply) or make their own. The problem with waiter aprons is that service industry folks are usually dealing with much larger items--bar rags, check presenters, etc. We deal with a lot of little things like hairpins and mic tape, so to have them all jumbling around in big pockets wasn’t cutting it for me."
So, she used her network of professionals to collaborate and create a more functional apron for both Wig and Wardrobe artisans. The end result are sleek, affordable, flattering aprons which make it easy to grab what you need in a flash and leave space for rotating items. Her favorite feature on the aprons is a “Pin Protector”. "It’s an elastic band that sits just below the hair- and wig-pin pockets that you can tuck the ends of the pins under to keep them from getting caught on everybody’s petticoats. Really, I should say from getting caught on any costume during quick-changes...but it always seems to be petticoats..."
HOW TO PURCHASE THE APRONS
Each of the aprons is made by Alyssa at her home. A Wardrobe/Dresser Apron takes about 4 - 6 hours, but the Wig Crew Aprons, being much more involved, take from 16-18. She is a master of managing her clients expectations by letting them know that while she's in tech, it may take more time. You can access her Etsy shop, BackstageCraft, here! The Wardrobe/Dresser Apron costs $40.00, and the Wig Crew Apron costs $90.00. Both have the option of hand-embroidery of your name for an additional $10.00.
ALSO FROM ALYSSA...
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WISH MORE PEOPLE KNEW ABOUT YOUR JOB?
"I wish more people understood exactly what it is that we (dressers) do postshow. I am guessing that the image actors have in their minds when they see us collecting laundry is us tossing the loads in and then relaxing while we wait for them to wash. This may be true for storefront theatres or smaller shows. But for larger regional theatre, we have to vodka-spray all non-washing garments, sometimes check shoes for damages, collect hangers so we can redistribute laundry the next day, and --this is the bain of my dresser existence--re-hang improperly hung garments. This one gets to me because it takes a lot of time and is the only task that could be avoided with cooperation from others. I am constantly astounded at the number of grown adults who don’t know how to hang pants. With that in mind, actors, I can practically guarantee that if you take the extra minute to look at how your costumes are hanging, your wardrobe team will love you!"
DO YOU THRIVE IN CHAOS OR CALM?
"I create so much chaos (with craft supplies, dishes from baking, etc) that I have come to accept both chaos and calm. Maybe that is part of why I think Wardrobe is one of the best jobs in theatre--I get to control and choreograph the chaos in my quick-changes."
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST VALUABLE LESSON IN YOUR CAREER?
"I think the most valuable thing I’ve learned from being a dresser, simply put, is how to talk to people. How to read what an actor (and therefore anyone else out in the world) needs from you in a given moment is valuable. Sometimes it’s silence, or a joke, or a hand to hold, or some sass. The ability to find some connection to each distinct personality is honed through working in wardrobe."
I think that is a lovely last thought... "The ability to find some connection to each distinct personality is honed through working in wardrobe." - Alyssa Janco