A green room is a space in a performing venue that is set aside for performers to lounge in when they are not required on stage. It typically is set apart from the stage and the audience so that the performers can hold conversations and do other things without being heard by the audience. This room usually is equipped with couches and chairs, reading materials and food and beverages. It also is a popular place to unwind after the show.
Unlike a dressing room — another popular lounging area — a green room is not equipped for preparations to go on stage and is designed as a purely recreational area. It also is not usually established with the intent of being a peaceful and quiet space; it is an area for socializing. Actors who need quiet before going on stage usually find other areas of the venue where they can focus or meditate.
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A modern green room usually includes video monitors so that actors can be ready for their appearances on stage. There is often a separate intercom so that staff members can communicate with actors. On television shows, guests and presenters often meet each other in the green room before the performance, allowing them to get to know each other or get reacquainted before appearing in front of an audience. Some smaller theaters do not have green rooms because of a lack of space.
Origins of the Term
The origins of the term are unclear. The first usage of “green room” in reference to a backstage waiting area is believed to have been in a play in 1678, The True Widow. Numerous theories have been bandied about to explain the term, but two are more likely than others. During the Shakespearean era, some actors prepared themselves in a room that was filled with plants and topiary, because the plants provided humidity, which was believed to be beneficial for the voice. This explanation seems less likely when one considers that not all theaters had space for plants.
The most likely origin of the term is the traditional association of the color green with actors. Many performers staged plays outdoors on the grass, or "the green," and some stages were draped or covered in green material. Liveried actors wore green, and the stage was called “the green.” The color is associated with actors, and the green room can be a private place for actors to socialize, so calling it the “green room” would have distinguished it from rooms that had another function, such as dressing rooms, and would have emphasized that the green room was for actors only.