Discussion in 'Question of the Day' started by derekleffew, Feb 27, 2011.
Easy question. Difficult answer.
a quick perusal around the almighty Google agrees with you. Are you looking for the 445 bc Grecian answer, the Midsummer Night's Dream quotation, the green "tragedy" cloth version, the greens room of plants version, the relieve your eyes from the bright stage lights or just the fact that someone painted a room green?
They were called greenrooms because originally painted green because it was better for your eyes after you left the stage. Thank god someone somewhere realized it wasn't a very good choice of color.
It needed a unique and distinctive name, so "green room" just accidentally became the norm?
The name was chosen by a bunch of aging environmentalist hippies.
The green color on almost everything was meant to help people relax.
I've seen a picture before of a green room with two tone green walls, green carpet, and green furniture.
Wiki is a little more thorough than google:
Historical attributions of the term
Some theories have attempted to identify specific historical origins for the term. For example:
Richard Southern, in his studies of Medieval theatre in the round, states that in this period the acting area was called The Green. This central space, often grass-covered, was used by the actors, while the surrounding space and circular banks were occupied by the spectators. From this source then The Green has been a traditional actors' term for the stage. Even in proscenium arch theatres there was a tradition that a green stage cloth should be used for a tragedy. The green room could thus be considered the transition room on the way to the green/stage. Technical staff at some West End theatres (such as the London Coliseum) still refer to the stage as the green.
"Tiring house", "scene-room" and "green room"
In Shakespeare's day, the actors waited in a tiring house. Here it is mentioned by Peter Quince as he plans for his acting troupe to rehearse in the woods:
QUINCE: Pat, pat; and here's a marvellous convenient place for our rehearsal. This green plot shall be our stage, this hawthorn-brake our tiring-house; and we will do it in action as we will do it before the duke.
—Midsummer Night's Dream (approx 1595) - Act 3 Scene 1
Samuel Pepys mentions these locations at the Drury Lane Theatre Royal in 1667:
...she took us up into the Tireing-rooms and to the women's Shift, where Nell was dressing herself and...then below into the Scene-room, and...here I read the Qu's (cues) to Knepp while she answered me, through all her part of Flora's Figarys...
—Samuel Pepys, 
It is possible that "green room" might be a corruption of scene room, the room where scenery was stored which doubled as the actors' waiting and warm-up room.
In his Life of Samuel Johnson (1791), James Boswell mentions visits by his subject to the Green Room at the Drury Lane Theatre.
Thomas Shadwell's Restoration comedy, "A True Widow" (1678), mentions in Act Four: Stanmore : "No madam: Selfish, this Evening, in a green Room, behind the Scenes, was before-hand with me..." 
The term "green room" is mentioned in Colley Cibber's Love Makes a Man (1701). "I do know London pretty well, and the Side-box, Sir, and behind the Scenes; ay, and the Green-Room, and all the Girls and Women~Actresses there.' 
In his Life of Samuel Johnson (1791), James Boswell mentions visits by his subject to the Green Room at the Drury Lane Theatre.
Jerome K. Jerome's first book comically describes his stint in English theatre during the late 1870s. "There was no green room. There never had been a green room. I never saw a green room, except in a play, though I was always on the lookout for it." 
The green room is mentioned in the Sherlock Holmes short story "The Man with the Twisted Lip" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 
The musical 'The Green Room' is set in the green room of St. Nordoff Theatre. The 4 person musical follows the progress of 4 musical theatre majors and their journey to Broadway. Music and Lyrics by Chuck Pellitier.
In addition to the preceding explanations, the term green room has also been attributed to numerous alternative folk etymologies, including the following:
The room was originally painted green to "relieve the eyes from the glare of the stage." On the other hand, early stage lighting was by candlelight, so the "glare" might be apocryphal, a modern reference to electric stage lighting.
It is sometimes said that the term green room was a response to limelight, though the name is merely a coincidence -- "limelight" refers to calcium oxide, not to the fruit or colour. Furthermore limelight was invented in 1820 and the term "green room" was used many years prior to that.
Many actors experience nervous anxiety before a performance and one of the symptoms of nervousness is nausea. As a person who feels neauseous is often said to look "green", so the "Green Room" is the place where the nervous actors wait.
Some studies state that the green room was originally called the retaining room. The ensemble of a production would wait there for their appearance onstage, listening to the performance of the principal actors and critiquing their acting. When made aware of this practice, the leads began to call the retaining room the green room, mocking the (green) envy of these actors.
In Restoration theatres, the main, seasoned actors waited for their entrances in the wings - or sometimes even at the sides of the stage - while the minor players, usually young, less experienced "green" actors, were banished behind the scenes. Hence, the backstage room was for the "green" players and came to be called the green room.
According to one theory, long before modern makeup was invented the actors had to apply makeup before a show and allow it to set up or cure before performing. Until the makeup was cured, it was green and people were advised to sit quietly in the green room until such time as the makeup was stable enough for performing. Uncured makeup is gone, but the green room lives on.
In Shakespearean theatre actors would prepare for their performances in a room filled with plants and shrubs. It was believed that the moisture in the topiary was beneficial to the actors' voices. Thus the green room may refer to the green plants in this stage preparation area.
The term green room can alternatively be traced back to the East End of London, England. In Cockney rhyming slang, greengage is stage, therefore greengage room is stage room and like most rhyming slang it gets shortened, hence green' room. This info came from the late, great comedian and dancer Max Wall.
Green is also thought to be a calming and soothing colour.
It has been suggested that the original green room was in a London theatre converted from office buildings. The room behind the stage had previously been used to cut deals and was known as the agreeing room, and the phrase has become corrupted over the years.
In English theatres, a green floor-cloth was traditionally spread on the stage for tragedies. During the Restoration, when virtually all performances were comedies, the green floor-cloth for tragedies was stored in the actors' waiting room and used to deaden their footsteps so the sound of pacing actors would not disturb the performance. As tragedies were rarely performed, the green floor cloth became a routine fixture of the actors' lounge and the room became known as the green room.
In some theatre companies, the term green room also refers to the director's critique session held after a rehearsal or performance, since it is often held in the green room. This session is used for a pep talk, bonding among actors, and/or warmup exercises.
Green room is also a term for a room where plants are grown as the windows are made of glass, making it a perfect habitat for plants.
In international trade, and in particular in the context of negotiations within the World Trade Organization (WTO), where decisions can only be reached by consensus, the "Green Room" refers to a process in which heads of delegation seek consensus informally under the chairmanship of the Director-General.Green Room meetings serve a useful purpose in that their informal nature allows negotiators to explore new approaches to settling difficult issues. Ministerial Green Room consultations deal with the most sensitive political issues — including tariff or subsidy cuts, or the degree of flexibility regarding those cuts. Green Room meetings often run until the early hours of the morning and can stretch out for days. They can also be tense and dramatic settings in which nerves are taut and tempers evident. When convergence is reached in the Green Room, co-ordinators report back to their groups (such as the G20, G90, least developed countries, or trade blocks, such as the EU)) to relay their accounts of the meeting. Group members react to these reports and may approve or reject proposals. They could also ask the co-ordinator to go back to the Green Room to seek clarification or more concessions from trading partners. At the end, the Director-General may consult such members in an effort to accommodate their concerns and thereby enable them to join the consensus.
The green room is sometimes a location where theatre patrons or fans may meet and greet any famous musicians or performers after a concert. A fee is usually paid to gain access to this area.
In the White House, the Green Room is one of three state parlors located on the state floor, it is traditionally decorated in green.
In surfing, the green room is the inside of a barrel that is produced by a wave. This term was coined due to the colour of light reflected into the barrel.
The Green Room is an Off-Broadway theatre in New York.
Green Room Club was a long-time London club for actors, now defunct.
We call it the greenroom because we do, or in the words of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof: Tradition. I don't think there is a definitive answer since the origins of the phrase are lost. The glare relief theory doesn't hold up because usage of the phrase pre-dates the technology. The relaxing green colour theory doesn't hold up for the same reason. Green didn't start being used to calm and reduce glare until hospitals started doing it in WW1, centuries after the term greenroom was being used in theatre.
It is called the green room because that is the room the actors wait in after the show to get thier pay. Of course that was way back in the day before W2's and 1099 forms.
Production / Tour Manager
I like one of the theories described in the link in the first comment above . . .
One apocryphal account maintains that actors, especially in touring troupes, would have to wait outside the theatre building for their entrance. Since they were out on the grass, the term “in the green room” was an ironic way of describing their location. There is scant evidence to support this contention.
Hmm. I always heard it was where they used to have the Standby and Understudies wait, and they would watch the show in envy, because they didn't get the role. They were 'green' with envy.
I'll go with door number three- Tradition
Or number two- Aging environmentalist hippies!
(Or whatever the right answer might end up being...)
I'm also supporting the tradition theory as well.
I had always been told that it was the room that the actors received their pay.
Ah the good old days of vaudeville.
And I have never seen a green green room. Thank goodness, even though I like green
Green is a suitable colour if you want to cool down emotions. It is perfect for someone waiting for the next appearance on stage.
In Germany the greenroom is called Konversationszimmer, sometimes with the abbreviation Konver. That name clearly shows the period it comes from: the Biedermeier. In that period soft and cosy interior designs were fashionable. And soft green interior designs were not unusual. That maybe gives a clue why greenrooms have been green in former times.
very very interesting.
I think I was born too late. I would have killed in vaudeville...
I like the vaudeville superstitions; like it's bad luck to put your shoes on the counter in the dressing room. If you were being fired, you'd come back from performing your act to find all your belongings stacked neatly on the counter, with your last paycheck sticking out of one of your shoes.
I don't think there is a correct answer as to why we call it a greenroom.
Our Green Room is actually green, but a subdued shade a bit lighter than hunter. Seems to work well without being too dark or to vibrant.
I've read that the green room was used in the age of gas lighting to allow your rods and cones to readjust to normal from the harsh glare of the stage lights (uplights that were quite close to the actors). Of course, if you sit in a room lit pink for extended hours, then every room afterward will be a green room.
As an Actor, I always place my character's shoes in front on my dressing room chair. When I put on the shoes I AM the character. Another old Vaudeville superstition.
I would like to see a thread of the superstitions that are still followed by theatre folk today! I got mine from my Grandfather who toured the Vaudeville circuits during the depession. An easy one: Why do we not whistle on stage?
Separate names with a comma.