Thirty Years a Dresser, by Dennis Milam Bensie
Thirty Years a Dresser (216 pages) is a new memoir by Dennis Milam Bensie, sharing essays, anecdotes, and backstage antics from his years as a theatrical dresser.
“The author writes in such a way that you feel you are backstage with him experiencing all he is and does. He is honest, funny and sometimes cutting. Thirty Years A Dresser by Dennis Milam Bensie is a fresh piece to read without the usual sex, drugs and violence. I recommend this read to all who want an inside peek into what goes on backstage with our favorite theatrical shows.”
“Thirty Years A Dresser is more than a memoir of behind the scenes. It is an insightful glance of what happens back stage during the run of some of the greatest shows of the theatre. With more than (the proclaimed) thirty years of experience of being a dresser, Mr. Dennis Milam Bensie’s account is an enjoyable tour-de-force that will educate as well as entertain the reader.” Read more…
—Eric Andrews-Katz for Equality365
“Thirty Years a Dresser provides plenty of laughs from the spurting blood vest in “Agnes of God” to the two hundred costumes required for “The Grapes of Wrath,” and Bensie writes about it all with equal parts love and loathing. Most memoirs I’ve read are at least partially self-serving, but Bensie’s stands out as self-deprecating instead.… He never takes himself too seriously–his craft and his subject, yes, but never himself. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and if you have even a passing interest in the theatre, either on or off stage, you owe it to yourself to pick this up and devour it in one or two sittings, as I did. Highly recommended.” Read more…
—Jerry L. Wheeler for Out in Print: Queer Book Reviews
Dennis Milam Bensie sees himself as way more Thelma Ritter in Mankiewicz’s All About Eve than Tom Courtney in Ronald Harwood’s harrowing play and movie, The Dresser. Watching The Tony Awards as a teenager in the early 1980s, Bensie knew he wanted to be in theater. He was his own dresser for plays in high school when he learned a career as an actor wasn’t for him. Costumes became his calling, at first in summer stock and gradually with union houses, wherever he could find work. A theatrical dresser is expected to be a nurse, psychologist, tailor, personal shopper, magician, bodyguard, maid, scout, and confidant.
Thirty Years a Dresser is Bensie’s third memoir, after Shorn: Toys to Men and One Gay American. His stories involve behind-the-scenes dish and drama during a wide range of productions: from Metamorphoses, The Light in the Piazza, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion–The Musical to The Sound of Music (three times). The author’s backstage stories feature such stars as Lynn Redgrave, Rosie O’Donnell, Freddy Kruger’s mother, and a Tony Award winner who shall remain nameless.
Dennis Milam Bensie grew up in Robinson, Illinois where his interest in the arts began in high school participating in various community theatre productions. He has costumed and wigged shows all over the country, including Oregon Shakespeare Festival, PlayMakers Repertory Theatre in Chapel Hill, NC, Alliance Theatre of Atlanta, Arizona Theatre Company, Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, and the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. His costume and wig design for Valley of the Dolls at Empty Space Theatre in Seattle garnered him a feature article in Entertainment Design Magazine and a Seattle Times Footlight Award for Best Design. He has been on staff at Intiman Theatre in Seattle since 1992 and is proud to have been involved with such productions as Angels in America, Nickel and Dimed and the world premier of the Tony Award winning musical Light in the Piazza. Shorn: Toys to Men is his first book. Dennis lives in Seattle with his three dogs. For more information, click here.
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