Unsung Hero: Wendy McCay

This month we are starting a new feature we are calling “Unsung Hero.” It’s where we take a moment to recognize someone who works in or around LOSA that has gone above and beyond the call of duty in order to make our jobs and lives easier.

Lyric Opera Wardrobe Dresser and IATSE member Wendy McCay poses with Soprano Anna Netrebko after a performance.
Lyric Opera Wardrobe Dresser and IATSE member Wendy McCay poses with Soprano Anna Netrebko after a performance.

Meet Wendy McCay.  Wendy is a dresser at Lyric who absolutely fits the description of an Unsung Hero.  Wendy has been working at Lyric since 2010, however, she’s been a dresser with the Theatrical Wardrobe Union Local 769 since 1998 – making 20 years of union work.  Here is what she has to say about being a dresser, “The term ‘Dresser’ can cover many things. Of course, on the most elementary level, my job is to help the performer/artist into their costumes. The time in which you have to do that job obviously can vary. The faster and more complex the quick change, the more challenging and rewarding for me. I find it exhilarating. I believe a dresser needs to perform efficiently and succinctly. The less time it takes for an artist to get into costume, the more time they have to concentrate on their job. There is also the duty of maintenance of costumes–making sure that minor (or major) repairs are dealt with and fixed.”

But Wendy does so much more than that. “I try to take complete care of the artist. I try to understand what their needs are and have those things ready before they even have to ask. Understanding when they need quiet for their character or voice; when they need distractions to be kept at bay; or, perhaps, when they need an understanding ear to listen to their concerns. I believe a dresser needs to know when to be a friend and confidant. I feel I have succeeded when the artist trusts that I will have them looking wonderful in their costume and will always be there for them.”

Dresser Wendy McCay during a candid backstage moment at Lyric Opera of Chicago
Dresser Wendy McCay with Lyric Opera Stage Artist J’nai Bridges during a candid backstage moment at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Chorister Corrine Wallace-Crane has this to say about Wendy, “At the beginning of the second act of My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle came home from the ball wearing a HUGE fur cape. She’d throw it to the floor, and Laurie Vassalli and I, as maids, would swoop it up and take it offstage (it took two people, easily). When we’d come offstage, it was Wendy’s job to take it from us and carry it to Eliza’s dressing room. Wendy is very petite, so in order for this to work, Laurie and I would wrap her like a mummy in this heavy, thick fur, so she could carry it by herself. We would all smile and laugh as we did it, even though I’m sure she was quite uncomfortable, but you’d never know from her smiling face and giggles. She has one of the most positive attitudes and a refreshing sense of humor.  We always looked forward to doing this every show.”

“Wendy goes above and beyond every single day she is at work. She always has a smile on her face, she’s incredibly patient and kind, she always listens to us and accommodates our needs and I have never seen or heard her complain about anything. I think I only recall one day that she didn’t have a smile on her face and I think that was a day we all found out a principal artist had passed away. We all think the world of her, she makes our job easier and she is a joy and inspiration to work with.” Yvette Smith

As you can tell, Wendy is truly one of the best, and we are lucky to have her.  Thank you, Wendy for all that you do. We would not be able to do our job without you.