10 Ways to Maintain a Positive Greenroom Environment

Written byMeghan Mitchell

May 9, 2017

Working in close quarters has its ups and downs, and the greenroom is no exception.  Sure, Equity has its own rules for backstage etiquette, but here are some easy ways to make your life, and the lives of your fellow cast members/techs, much more pleasant backstage.  From listening to music to cleaning out the fridge, it’s the simple things that make performing less like ‘work’, and more fun!

1. Headphones!

Everyone has their own process to get ready; whether you’ve done a show a million times, or it’s your first day going in, greenrooms are typically small and it’s polite to keep your sound to yourself.  Headphones are a great way to get ready your own way!  It’s also completely acceptable to ask a room, “How do you guys feel about 80s rock while we get ready?”  Chances are, people will love the idea of comradery.  Conversely, while on a break, someone sitting next to you may not be enthused to hear an entire Snapchat story from your friend.

2. What’s for lunch?

There are do’s and don’ts of break spaces, and I think it’s safe to say that as a rule of thumb, broccoli and fish are out.  Apparently, microwaving eggs is also a new thing?  Whatever your lunch may be, there are certain nose courtesies that should be followed.  That being said, I’ve been the guilty one too, saying, “Sorry guys, I brought tuna.  I’ll eat it fast!”  But please, forewarn your cast mates if the room will carry your lunch smell for the next few hours.

3. Potlucks galore!

“I brought cookies!”—a joyous phrase.  People are always bringing in food and treats to work, however, some people may have crazy dietary restrictions.  Be aware and let everyone know that the cookies you brought are “dairy free, but still were made with flour” in case Mike is only lactose intolerant, but maybe Beth is gluten free.  Also, potlucks are a great time for whatever you may be celebrating, but if you forgot the day, and didn’t bring anything to share, let others get in on the action first before diving fork first into the mac and cheese.

4. Drips, spills, and more.

We live, eat, work, and play (theatre is fun y’all) in the same place.  But, you don’t have a ‘Mom’ running around all the time to clean up after you.  Protein bar wrapper not make it into the bin?  Pick it up and put it in.  Spilled some pizza sauce in the microwave?  Take an extra second and wipe it out.  Be courteous, and pay it forward. Wipe up the makeup counter that is covered in YOUR makeup before you leave. At the end of the day, no one likes to sit on ‘the old shrimp scampi’ stain.

5. Bobby pins and safety pins.

Most places you work will allow you to use a communal stash of something—be it bobby pins, mic tape, or whatever.  Be polite and don’t horde them all to yourself!  When you’re done with something, put it back.  If it’s communal, keep it as such.  Now, if something else is just yours?  By all means, if someone asks to borrow it?  Your discretion.  But many supplies and hair accessories have their own courtesy when sharing.  It’s easy—just share away!

6. Hot or cold?

Fans are a great way to cool down after a hot performance, but not everyone may operate at the same body temperature.  As with music or anything else that will affect the room at large, just ask everyone before turning on or off fans, or turning up or down the temperature in a room.  It’s just polite if nothing else.  Which brings me to…

7. Freshen up!

Body sprays and colognes smell wonderful on your body, but drenching the whole room in a scent may not appeal to all noses.  Ask before you spray; it’s just easier than getting a talking-to by management because someone was allergic to a floral scent of sorts.  With that being said, body odor and overall hygiene are a must when in tight, typically sweaty, environments.  You never want to get that talking-to either!  Which brings me to…

8. Hygiene.

Spending hours a day with other actors/dancers/singers?  Sharing costumes or wigs?  Deodorant is your best friend.  Performers get nervous on stage, and the sweat begins.  Nervous sweat is always smellier than normal sweat anyway, so… be sweet with your sweat!  Even if you applied in the morning, bring some with you, ‘just in case.’  It’s courteous to know when you need to reapply.

9. Warming up.

It’s best to have a routine to get ready for shows, but singing that high C in a cramped dressing room may not be ideal.  Going outside, warming up in the car, finding your own space, or using a “belt box” may be the better option when getting ready.  Sometimes group warmups seem arduous, but you at least have a space and time allocated for warming up.  No matter the limitations, be sure to take whatever time and space you need to perform your best—it’s good that most theaters are full of nooks and crannies to sing and stretch!

10. Common sense.

A lot of what is said here is—let’s face it—common sense.  You know those people who blast their music from their car while cutting you off in traffic, or sit next to you on the subway and smell so bad you have to give up your seat.  Just don’t be that ‘guy’—then you should be good to go! Theatre Etiquette 101: treat others the way you want to be treated, and don’t let your leftover pizza go moldy in the refrigerator.

Need some advice? We’ve got you covered.

Meghan Mitchell is a working actor who graduated cum laude from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois with a B.A. in Musical Theatre. She loves Shakespeare and nightly fireworks, and after working regionally and on ships, she is now proud to call Orlando her home.