Behind the Curtain: Interview With Darcy Kane - Dresser on MOULIN ROUGE!
Due to the global health emergency, Broadway theaters have found their bright lights dimmed and their houses dark for the first time in history. As the world works together to stop the spread of COVID-19, the theater industry has been put on hold indefinitely - theaters around the world have closed their doors in compliance with social distancing rules, and Broadway has been shut down in full since March 13. The Broadway shutdown has impacted the lives of all who work in theater industry, who are now facing uncertain and unprecedented circumstances.
In our Behind the Curtain interview series, we are speaking with Broadway musicians, stage managers, ushers, bartenders, and more, talking about how they are handling the current circumstances, and discussing the impact that the shutdown has had on the Broadway community.
Today, our Behind the Curtain interview is with Darcy Kane, a dresser on Moulin Rouge!
What is your job title? Tell me about what you do within the theater industry and how long you've been doing it for.
I've been working on Broadway for just a little over four years now, and I'm currently a full-time dresser on Moulin Rouge. I like to keep busy so I also spend most available daytimes doing stagehand work, which includes maintaining props at The Lion King and loading in new shows- we had JUST finished putting in Mrs. Doubtfire when this all happened!
What were you working on when the shutdown was put in place?
I was in the middle of working at American Buffalo at Circle in the Square and had just run down to the Moulin Rouge! company meeting on my lunch break; they told us that the producers had already decided to cancel both performances that day out of an abundance of caution, but they didn't know what would happen with future performances at that point.
The official Broadway-wide order came a couple of hours later. It was already a big topic of discussion at the American Buffalo load in how many live events had been canceled because of virus, but within a few minutes, those conversations shifted abruptly once everyone started hearing from other bosses that all of Broadway was shutting down for a month. The strangest feeling was finishing out the rest of the workday with absolutely no idea what the next 30 days were going to look like.
What has communication been like since the shutdown with the people you were working with? Have you continued to maintain contact with them?
It's one of those times where living in the age of social media is more of a gift than a curse. There's something to be said about knowing that your friends feel closer than they are, especially the ones that have traveled out of NYC to shelter in place. Following everyone's adventures on Instagram and Facebook (as well as watching many of them discover TikTok) has been surprisingly comforting when everything else is so drastically different.
Something I unexpectedly appreciated was seeing everyone "in their natural habitat" so to speak. I personally have loved having this time to do more design work and I've loved seeing everyone else do things that are different from their roles at work, especially given how much time we spend in the theater. I'm an avid follower of watching everyone's new forays into things like baking, farming and repainting their apartments.
How do you feel that people in the theater community have come together during this time?
Over the course of the last three months, we have seen everyone's response to the situation evolve in unexpected and inspiring ways. In the first week of the shutdown, no one had any answers, and the unemployment situation was in a state of chaos. Industry-centric online group discussions popped up for people to ask for advice and share information. Broadway Cares was one of the few Broadway-based organizations to quickly step in and ramp up fundraising efforts to help those in the entertainment industry that were going to get hit the hardest.
Even as we're settling into the current reality of the shutdown continuing to extend, we haven't stopped seeing the selflessness of people offering to send out face masks, buy someone dinner or send groceries to anyone who needs them. Seeing so many people look out for each other and find ways take care of everyone around them is one of the best things about the Broadway community.
What ways have you found to best deal with the current circumstances?
I had been spending so much time at work that coming home at almost midnight after a show and having to be at work at 8am the next morning meant I was getting back with enough time to sleep and almost nothing in terms of free time.
After the initial shock of the shutdown passed, I threw myself back into my art. What drew me to a career on Broadway was being enamored of the craft, but a packed schedule had kept me from drawing for a long time. The combination of time, inspiration and the need to direct all this newfound energy has resulted in me making so many new dresses, I'm running out of room to hang them.
The big long term project that I've been working on for the last 3 months is my Broadway Coloring Book. It started when I realized how many people I knew were in the same boat of being stuck at home and bored. I was doing all this drawing and it dawned on me that while I missed working with these beautiful costumes and these fabulous people, I could channel that into creating coloring pages featuring iconic Broadway costumes, characters and talented performers I've worked alongside. Keeping that connection to Broadway while making it accessible and entertaining for adults and kids alike felt like it would be a great little quarantine activity for anyone who just needs to unwind a little.
How do you think this will change the world of theater going forward?
I think that we all share the same trepidation about the negative financial hit Broadway will have taken after being dark for 6 months (as far as we know). Trying to not stare down a rabbit hole of what-ifs when we don't know anything yet has been one of the bigger personal challenges so far.
For many of us who have chosen this career path and understand that our income ebbed and flowed with the shows we worked on opening and closing, there was always a consistency to the inconsistency. We knew to plan, we know how much to save when a rainy day was always around the corner, and few people worked singularly on one show/job/gig. Even armed with knowledge and careful financial planning, no one planned for their entire industry and every back up plan to completely disappear overnight.
We're definitely going to see cutbacks in spending citing the losses that stemmed from this shutdown, and there will be a trickle down effect that all those articles racing to predict Broadway's future don't care to tackle. The dressers and crew who put together a full work week from different shifts of daywork, stitching and subbing in on tracks across different shows will be among the most significantly affected but that industry-specific struggle will continue to fly under the radar once things pick up again.
I am however cautiously optimistic that this has also been a time for re-evaluation of what worked and what didn't. I hope that there will be a shift in mentality when it comes to what every person at every show needs to do to keep themselves and everyone around them healthy. The backstage set up is practically a maximum contact zone when you consider how little space there is and how much interaction there is between performers on-stage and then with their dressers during changes.
Some things will be hard to change, but I think the fact alone that people are talking about it and that concerns and suggestions are being heard and taken seriously is a huge step in the right direction.
From This Author Chloe Rabinowitz
Chloe Rabinowitz is a Philly native with a lifelong passion for writing and theater in equal measure. Chloe has been a published theater critic and
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