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Show Me the Green

 

green room:  a room in a theater or concert hall where actors or musicians relax before, between and after appearances

 

As Front of the House staff, I seldom get a glimpse of the backstage areas so when my friend Susan asked if Park Square Theatre’s green room is, indeed, green, I asked Facilities and Event Manager Dave Peterson to “show me the green.”

 

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Park Square Theatre actually has two green rooms, one per floor to service each stage.  Peterson first led me downstairs to the Andy Boss Thurst Stage’s green room.   We went down the hallway towards the lobby, turned left into the Artist’s Alley with its gallery of actors’ photos, then entered the Sheila Henderson Green Room.  With automatic lights switched on, the room was revealed in all its glory: walls painted cream-gray, darker gray, and yellow.  A yellow tinged with a hint of green?  Seemingly so in the light but not at all close up.

The room is quite spacious, with a table, chairs, and fully equipped kitchen.  Connected are two dressing rooms, donated by John Sullivan and Jack and Nancy Burbidge, respectively.  The green room also has a shower as well as a fold-out cot, in accordance with Actor’s Equity requirements of a resting place, to complete the makings of comfy “living quarters.”

At the back of this green room are doors to the left and right leading to the same two corridors—called the “voms”–that patrons walk up to get to their seats.  Another door leads directly into the back of the Andy Boss Thrust Stage.  All three of the doorways are actually double-doored to create effective sound barriers, and Peterson scrupulously prevents any door hinges from squeaking.

Heading up stairways that I didn’t even know existed, Dave led me to the Proscenium Stage’s green room.  The lights came on, revealing blue-and cream-hued walls.  Again, no green!

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This green room, being the older one, has a more homey and lived-in feel.  It is more spacious and equipped with tables, chairs, a sofa, full kitchen, bathroom, shower and two dressing rooms.  The sofa can fold out into a bed.

With neither of Park Square Theatre’s green rooms being green, I wondered why this actors’ waiting room is called “the green room.”  A search on Wikipedia gave many explanations, from historical attributions to folk etymology.  One theory for historical origin claims that the term’s source is from the 16th century when traveling actors in Stratford-upon-Avon used a room in the Guildhall (town hall) as their changing room; this room was known as the Agreeing Room, or “Greein” Room in Warwickshire-speak.  An etymological explanation may be that, in Cockney rhyming slang “greenage,” later shortened to “green.”  Other theories do involve the color green:  The room was originally painted green to relieve the eyes from stage glare; Shakespearean theatre actors prepared for their performances in rooms filled with green plants because their moisture was believed to be beneficial to actors’ voices; and, of course, some actors felt nauseous before performances and “looked green.”

Well, gone are my images of a sad-sack room painted puke-green with just a worn, stained sofa as the typical green room.  I am sure that the actors are happy that their green rooms far exceeded my expectations.

Ting Ting Cheng

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