Cool job: Dressing the part on Broadway
Kimberly Faye Greenberg is a bundle of energy. She's a wardrobe dresser swing on Broadway, helping to create the magic of opulent stage shows. This highly-accomplished performer is an all-around talent, acting full time in television, film and theater. In addition to numerous stage roles, her resume includes stints on "Charmed" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Kimberly will play the starring role in the upcoming independent feature film "Made from Scratch."
Kimberly is happy to educate folks about what really happens on Broadway. She and several other theater professionals created Broadwayblogspot.com, a site packed with information about what goes on behind the scenes, including interviews, articles and other insights from those in "the biz." You can learn more about Kimberly and her work at her website.
Q: Anyone who has seen a play or musical has likely marveled at the costumes, but knows little about what goes into creating such a feast for the eyes. Please tell us about what happens behind the scenes.
A: As a wardrobe dresser swing, I work backstage on Broadway. Most people don't know that this job actually even exists, but it is a huge part of what makes a Broadway show tick.
A wardrobe dresser is someone who helps the actors get dressed in their costumes. They help the actors with their quick changes throughout the show when actors have only seconds to change from one costume to another. Dressers maintain and prep the costumes for the shows.
A wardrobe dresser swing is someone who fills in for the "regular" dresser when someone is sick, on vacation or hurt, etc. Broadway shows can range from having a few dressers to 15 dressers. At one point, when I worked on "Lion King" on Broadway, which is a very costume-heavy show and had 15 dressers with different duties, I knew all the wardrobe dresser jobs.
I've worked on over 12 Broadway shows ("Billy Elliot," "Tarzan," "Lion King," "Grease," "Drowsy Chaperone," "Sweet Charity," "Aida," "Ghost" and many more). Currently, I'm backstage at "Nice Work If you Can Get It" and "Cinderella" on Broadway.
Q: You have a degree in drama. Besides the obvious reasons why a drama degree would be great for a Broadway performer, how has your education helped you in your current career?
A: Not only am I a wardrobe dresser, but I'm also a full time actor. My drama degree not only taught me the basics of performing and costumes, but it also taught me a lot about myself, [such as] what it is that I personally have to offer in the field of acting that separates me from the thousands of other actors.
It also taught me the value of hard work. It helped me to set up a daily routine, what I need to do every day to pursue my career. It taught me the basics of show "business," because it is a "business" first and foremost. My degree has helped me to network amongst a very high caliber of people and find confidence in myself and my work.
Q: If you could go back in time and evaluate your educational choices, would you still choose a degree in drama?
A: Yes! My degree in drama from the University of California, Irvine, was a very smart choice. Not only did it cover basic "drama," but also included a very specialized musical theater program. I studied my craft and learned how the business of theater worked. Because it was a work/experience program, the university students came to NYC to study for a month and experienced the actor's life first hand.
Honestly, if it wasn't for my college education I wouldn't be where I am today. College truly taught me the basics of successfully pursuing a career in NYC. And the proof is in the pudding as there are several others from my school who are very successful actors.
Q: What advice would you give to someone considering a career on Broadway?
Stay in school and get your college degree. Broadway isn't going anywhere, so [it is] best to study your craft and business as much as you can before professionally pursuing it. Also, study many areas of theater (both behind-the-scenes and onstage) so that you find what interests you the most. Focus on that when you get out of school and/or do several things as a professional like I do.
Also, if you are going to be a musical theater performer, make sure to take as many dance and singing classes as you can when you are young, as it is a great asset as you get older.
Q: Many people go into a particular career with misconceptions about what it will be like. What surprised you the most about your job?
The biggest misconception about being an actor and/or working in theater is that it is a glamorous life. It is not! Performing is only a small part of my life. Ninety-nine percent of my time is spent auditioning to get another performing job, creating new opportunities for myself so that I can be performing all the time, and/or taking classes and working very hard. But if you love it, the hard work is worth it!
Q: Tell us a great story about your job -- a nice victory, a serious challenge, or just something that makes you smile.
The biggest challenge I've had recently as a performer/dresser was when I was performing in two shows at once Off-Broadway and working my dresser job on the same days. I would literally perform one show at 2 p.m., have 30 minutes to change my clothes and switch characters, and perform a different show at 5 p.m. Both shows were in the same theatre, so luckily I didn't have to travel anywhere. Then I ran to the Broadway theater, literally down the street, and worked as a dresser at the evening 8 p.m. show.
It was crazy, but so much fun. If I think something is hard now, I think back on those days and realize this next challenge is a piece of cake!
1. What did you eat for breakfast? Oatmeal.
2. Which day of the week is your favorite? Sunday -- my favorite TV night.
3. Which day of the week is your least favorite? I don't think I have one.
4. What was the first job you ever had? I worked at a video store.
5. What makes you angry? People who judge others on first glance.
6. What makes you joyful? Those who give people a chance when they don't know them.
7. If you could have any job, other than your own, what would it be? Interior designer.
8. If you had the time and the money to study anything at all, what would you choose? Home decorating.
9. What did you want to be when you grew up? An actor.
10. Can money bring you happiness? No!