“Work hard and dream big.” This is the motto Teale Dvornik lives by. Dvornik, a female-ensemble dresser for Broadway’s Wicked, is perhaps better known by her online moniker “The Backstage Blonde.” In 2017, Dvornik took her popular Instagram that displayed some of her backstage shenanigans — and her reputation as a self-proclaimed “big sister” to all of her young followers online — and morphed it into a full business sporting her nickname. It includes a blog, her own merchandise, and requests for her signature at the stage door of the Gershwin Theatre.
In between shows during a two-show day, the young entrepreneur took Broadway Direct backstage at Wicked to discuss her journey to becoming a Broadway dresser, sports, and why sleep is the worst.
1. What made you want to become a dresser on Broadway?
It started when I was a teenager. I felt really uncomfortable in my own skin. I became very curvy before any of my friends did, so I turned to clothes to make myself feel better about all of the crazy changes that were going on. I became obsessed with fashion and I really wanted to be a fashion designer and a stylist. My sophomore year of college, I transferred to Samford University and the closest thing they had to being a fashion design major, which is what I was at my first school, was being a theater major and studying costumes. My first semester of sophomore year, I was a dresser on Richard III and I absolutely fell in love with live theater because it’s this amazing, beautiful, collaborative effort where you’re with this gigantic group of people, everyone has a different skill set, and you come together to create one beautiful product. And I just love being backstage and interacting with the crew and the actors. So I knew from that moment, it was October 2009, that I wanted to be on Broadway.
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…it seems to me the land of oz is a little ahead of the united states in some of its laws. for here, if one can’t talk clearly, and straight to the point, they send him to rigmarole town; while uncle sam lets him roam around wild and free, to torture innocent people. – l. frank baum. the emerald city of oz.
I feel like we need to break down what exactly a dresser on Broadway does, because it’s so much more than what your title implies.
Totally! So there are a lot of different members of the wardrobe team, starting with the costume designer. So, when a show is going into their out-of-town tryout, the costume designer chooses a wardrobe supervisor who she or he trusts to take care of the show once they walk away. Once the show is up and running, the designer steps back and the wardrobe supervisor is the head of the show. They have an assistant, and together they hire a team of dressers to be backstage during the show to quick-change the actors into and out of costumes and keep everything organized. We also help maintain the costumes; like, if there is a last-minute repair that needs to be done, I’ll do it.
2. Who in your field inspires you?
I feel like a normal person would list off a legendary Tony Award–winning actor or designer, but honestly, what inspires me and really gets me fired up is the history behind of all of these buildings. I am obsessed with finding out everything there is to know about these legendary theatres, including the people who performed on these stages and the art that was created in these houses. Like, Kristin Chenoweth performed on that stage that we’re sitting in front of right now. And then Wicked lost Best Musical to Avenue Q that year. I just love Broadway history.
But honestly, the fans too. Just getting to meet these kids at the stage door, whether they be fans of The Backstage Blonde or of fans of Wicked, and just hug and love on these kids. Yeah, that’s definitely what inspires me to keep going and to keep pushing.
OK, so if you are such a Broadway history buff, I am going to put you on the spot. What’s the coolest thing you’ve found out about one of the theatres?
OK, so it’s about the Longacre Theatre. The guy who had that theatre built, Harry Herbert Frazee, was a really rich dude who was not good at being a theatrical producer, director, or playwright. But that was his passion. But he was rich and really successful in business, and he also owned the Boston Red Sox. He is the guy who traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees and thus began the Curse of the Bambino. He did that in order to get more money to fund one of his plays and open the Longacre Theatre. I think it’s just so hilarious that one of the biggest sports legend stories of all time had to do with Broadway.
3. What do audiences love about Wicked?
Well, Wicked is just one of those rare shows that will forever be timeless. The story touches so many different people’s lives in so many different ways. The story of Elphaba and Glinda is applicable to a lot of different situations, whether it be you feel bullied at school and feel like an outcast, or if you don’t feel accepted by your own family, and even if you struggle with a disability, like Nessarose does. It also helps that there are two strong female leads guiding this whole thing. I think this show is just a perfect storm, an effusion of incredible music and a story that just so many different people can relate to.
4. If you didn’t have to sleep at night, what would you spend your time doing?
Oh, my gosh, if I didn’t have to sleep that would be the best! I’d focus more on my business. I love being an entrepreneur. I would also definitely get a lot more writing done. I mean, balancing everything is a tricky thing for anyone. No matter what you do, you’re always trying to figure out how to juggle your friends, your family, staying healthy, working out, and performing well at your job with any outside activities that you want to do. And maybe dating. Maybe.
5. What’s one thing that anyone visiting New York City must do other than, of course, see a Broadway show?
OK, this is going to sound lame, but hear me out: Whenever anyone comes to the city for the very first time, I tell them to do a bus tour. Sit on the top of one of those silly tourist buses and take a tour of the entire city. Because then you get to see the entire thing really fast, and if you see a neighborhood that you actually really want to explore, you can go back and check it out later.
Right?! I am all about working smarter, not harder. Take advantage of the city as much as you can because there are so many time sucks. People DM me on Instagram every single day asking what they should do in New York City. And I’m like, OK, go to 30 Rock, not the Empire State Building because then you can see the Empire State Building. Don’t go to Central Park. That is a huge time suck — like, why are you walking around there when you could be walking around the West Village?
That last one is kind of a controversial statement. No Central Park? Several people have said that’s the one thing you have to do.
No! No. Think about it: Where is everybody coming from? Not a concrete metropolis. Everyone is coming from places that have trees and parks. I think that Central Park, any park in New York City, is such a breath of fresh air for a New Yorker because we don’t have cars, your body is your vehicle, and you’re constantly surrounded by other people, being bumped and pushed. Being able to connect to nature is really special and therapeutic. But for someone who does not live here, skip the park!
You can follow Teale’s backstage shenanigans at Wicked and beyond on Instagram at @thebackstageblonde, on Twitter at @tealejane, or at her blog, The Backstage Blonde. Keep your eyes open for the latest Backstage Blonde merchandise collection dropping soon.