Green Room Woes

I’m working on revisions for my next book, the first in my soldiers trilogy. Revisions always come with unique challenges and one of mine is to discover if my hero needed an invitation to visit The Green Room of Drury Lane Theatre.

“What” you are asking, “Does Drury Lane Theatre and the Green Room have to do with three soldiers?”
Nevermind…..you’ll find out later…when the book is out.

The Green Room is the backstage room in a theatre where the actors can lounge while not on stage and where certain people can visit after the performance. In Regency Romance we know it mainly as the place where gentlemen pick up actresses and ballet dancers. My question was–did gentlemen gain entrance to the Green Room by invitation or could anyone come in?

Here’s how I tackled finding the answer.

First I Googled “Green Room English Theatre”

I found out from this that the Green Room is not necessarily painted green and that there are all sorts of theories as to why it is called the Green Room. My favorite was, “Sitting in a totally green room before a performance, however, was believed to ward off the powers of this evil colour.” (ArtsAlove.com)

I googled around some more, adding “19th century” or “18th century” but I didn’t learn much more than the warding off evil thing.

My next strategy was to search in Google Books. Here I had more luck. This snippet came from The London Magazine, Jan Jun 1822
“…Not that I dislike Macready —but I never saw any picture so expressive as the fine countenance of Kean, when he is addressing you on dramatic subjects. Don’t you think so ? But oh I true—you never saw him in a room—you should go to the Green-Room with Tom, for he has the entre at all the houses—I wonder why they call it a Green-Room—for Tom says it is not green.”

The word entre gave me a clue that not just anyone could get in, but it wasn’t a very strong clue.

This from Life in London by Pierce Egan (and illustrated by Cruikshank):
“Where shall we go this evening?” said HAWTHORN to his Coz. “Apropos,” replied the CORINTHIAN, ” I have the offer of an introduction to the performers in the Green-Room of Drury-Lane Theatre.” “Excellent,” exclaimed JERRY; “it is DON GIOVANNI to-night, and the numerous characters that piece contains will afford us plenty of fun!”

Offer of an introduction….another clue.

I also looked at the links provided on the Beau Monde website, poked around in my research books, and even asked on the Beau Monde loop.

Then I had a really great idea.

I asked Cara.

Her reply:
” All I can say is that in the new 1811 Drury Lane, there were two (at least two) green rooms, both (if I read the diagram correctly) on the ground floor, which was either the same level as the stage, or one below. In “Mrs Jordan’s Profession,” about Drury Lane sometime in the 18th C, it says “at Drury Lane visits to the green room — the actors’ common room — could not be made merely at whim; special passes had to be agreed and provided by the management.” Then again, I have no idea if this later changed; also, my feeling is that in the “shared world” of Regency romances, one does not need a pass for the green room! (FWIW, in Gamester, I had the H&Hs younger brothers go to the green room during an interval…and surely they had no pass! Then again, one of them is wealthy and high-ranking, and the other sneaky, so I’m not sure it would have stopped them…)”

One of the members of the Beau Monde (the only one who answered my question) also thought that invitations were not required for the Green Room.

Sigh!

The way I see it, I still don’t have a strong, clear answer to my question. You’ll see how I solve this problem when the book is published! I still don’t know.

What do you think? Do I have enough evidence to keep my respectable soldier, but not a gentleman, out of the Green Room?

What do you do when you don’t have the answer to a research question and you have to get the book done?

Diane’s website is being updated today. Take a look! dianegaston.com
The theme for February on the Wet Noodle Posse Blog is Isn’t It Romantic? Come and see.

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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19 Responses to Green Room Woes

  1. I’ve posted your question to Candice Hern’s board.

    If you know them, a few people to email directly and ask: the History Hoydens, Nancy Mayer, the Word Wenches, and Dee Hendricksen. There’s also the message boards of the Regency Society of America (http://regencysa.proboards59.com).

    My gut feeling is that if a gentleman was known to frequent the green room at a particular theatre(s) or had a publicly-known ongoing affair with one of the leads, then he wouldn’t need a pass. The lower down on the food chain you are, introductions and/or passes were required, with the passes coming from the cast, crew, or management.

  2. Diane,

    From a long-time theatrical historian:

    I saw your query on the Beau Monde listserve and intended to answer, but life and responsibilities intervened.

    Expect an email soon.

  3. O Divine One, I do know that in my opera experience (centered in Germany, Austria and Eastern Europe) access to the Green Room after performances was strictly by invitation only AND we had a sort of doorman who knew who was allowed in and who was not. That said, invitations were issued by management, principal performers, the orchestra conductor, the opera director. More often than not this included any local nobility in attendance, political and town officials, members of the opera board, family and friends of performers. Now, I would imagine that your soldier returned from the war would be considered a local celebrity of sorts. We were often visited by soldiers returning from overseas and I think it was a courtesy thing offered by the opera house as a sort of patriotic duty.

    And the more research books I get, the more I realize I don’t know enough! Usually my research gives me more questions than answers!

  4. “Usually my research gives me more questions than answers!”

    Oh, Louisa, I hear you there! 🙂 It seems the more I learn the more I don’t know (especially when I need a small, but crucial factoid)

    Diane, does your hero possibly have an acquaintance with a girlfriend in the cast? Maybe he could go in with him…

  5. I’d say this is the case for an educated guess. Yes, we know gentlemen were received in the green room, and either by invite, by bribing the stage doorkeeper, or just saying “I am the Duke of Moneybags and I wish to meet Miss Bosom after her splendid performance.”
    The doorkeeper might have a list of people who should NOT be admitted as well as a list of those who should, but I’d think rank and wealth would help a lot.
    Really, why flog a half alive horse? Get them in there, have them do their stuff.
    Security in modern theaters is incredibly tough and it’s not the same thing at all. But I’ve gone backstage with people who are “on the list” even if I’m not.

  6. You could also try the Folger, Diane. Right here in town.

  7. Delle Jacobs says:

    Oh dear. He’s not a gentleman.

    I think you’re in the marvelous position where you can make the circumstances fit what you want to happen. Fudging, weaseling- that sort of thing sometimes makes the best writing.

    It could also depend on his rank, to some degree. Generally an officer was considered a gentleman, while an enlisted man, regardless of his esteem in the ranks, might be considered mere cannon fodder to the general public. There wasn’t a lot of crossing of that barrier, but it did happen.

    “Terribly sorry, Sergeant. Only gentlemen may be admitted.”

    “Of course, Sergeant. Men of honor are always welcome.”

  8. I think Delle’s answer is the best–succinct, believable, with no more fuss needed.

    Because I always think you should just make it up if you don’t know it for sure, and have relatively exhausted your means of knowing.

  9. Cara King says:

    I was going to type “Margaret Evans Porter knows an amazing amount in this area!” but then I saw she’d already responded, with an offer of aid! Yay Margaret, how kind!!!

    Cara

  10. Ladyhawk says:

    It depends on who you know and how popular the production or the stars in it, as well as whether or not they want to meet you. I’ve attended local shows where I was welcome to come back to the Green Room. I simply showed up. A friend interviewed the actors in LOTR musical, at Theatre Royale Drury Lane, and she was only allowed backstage by invitation. However, I also agree that Delle has the right of it. He could believe he needs a special invitation, regardless of whether or not he does. Or the backstage manager could dislike him for whatever reason and turn him away. Looking forward to the book!!
    ~Judy

  11. Diane Gaston says:

    OH, this is the BEST group of blog commenters!!!
    Actually, I should be clear. I do not want my hero admitted to The Green Room!

    Keira, thank you so much for asking on Candice’s board! I figure through Beau Monde, I reach most of the folks you mentioned, but I never heard of the Regency Society of America!

    Margaret, you darling!! You can send to diane@dianegaston.com or my personal email address if you have it.

    O Doggie One, I expect times haven’t changed that much. So you greeted local nobility??? Wow.

    Amanda, I’m with you and O Doggie One (Louisa)- only I say the more books I have, the more I need.

    Janet, I have to LAUGH. I never think of using all the resources we have in DC, like the Folger…or even the Library of Congress where my husband works!

    With Megan’s and Delle’s support, I may go with Janet’s idea of the educated guess…. Unless Margaret gives me the real scoop! (or I get up the nerve to phone the Folger)

  12. Diane Gaston says:

    Cara, you were the most helpful by far, so far.

    Judy, I ordinarily would never have the nerve to go backstage! Good for you to just DO it. I did see the backstage of Phantom of the Opera on Broadway in 2006 because a high school classmate’s sister was a member of the cast. She’d been in the Broadway production since its opening and only had about 6 weeks left before retiring so I made it right in time!

  13. Santa says:

    Is needing an invitation to the Green Room the reason so many heroes and their cohorts resorted to standing by the door until the Miss Bosom nodded their way?

    I say make this particular theatre require an invite. That way your soldier will be kept out or kicked out or rejected.

  14. Diane Gaston says:

    Well, Santa, if YOU say so, then that is the way it must be!! 🙂

    I just found out today that you will have to wait until 2010 to find out what happens to my soldier!

    Thanks, everyone. I appreciate the help!

  15. Santa says:

    You’re quite welcome, Diane!

    2010? Really? Okay, I’ll be patient….

  16. Julia Justiss says:

    Diane, it’s just such nitpicky little details that drive an historical writer crazy, knowing that if you don’t dig deep enough and uncover the TRUTH, some reader out there will have and will nail you (probably as publically as possible on amazon or some board.)

    That said, this is fiction and after a reasonably diligent search, you are free to make up whatever you want as long as it is plausible. As Nancy, our Beau Monde GURU always says, the norm or the rule is only that and you can break just about any of them as long as it’s justified.

    That said, I’ll bet Margaret knew your period-specific answer. And WAAAAH on waiting until 2010!

  17. Anonymous says:

    If you want the man to be denied entry, have there be an exceptionally large crush of noblesand aristocrats there that night so that many were turned away. Perhaps the Duke of Clarence was in attendance.
    If anyone knows differently and tels you, you can tel us. It is not a serious matter.
    Tom and Jerry of Egan’s Life in London did not travel in the highest circles. Their friend the Corinthian had entre palces they didn’t. very often the criteria was how affluent one looked.

  18. Diane Gaston says:

    Margaret was indeed helpful, JJ. No formal invitations required but not just anyone could get in.

    Anonymous, that was my thought, too, that one had to look affluent to be allowed entry. My hero is not a Tom and Jerry, but neither is he a gentleman.

  19. Todd says:

    Diane wrote:

    Then I had a really great idea.

    I asked Cara.

    Huh! That’s usually the great idea I have first! But then…I suppose that’s only natural…

    Todd-who-also-often-asks-her-last

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