A ROOM IN THE BACK
The space that performers use while they wait to go on stage is often called the “green room”, a place to wait and prepare before they go on. The term “green room” was first referenced about 1671. Why the green room? No one knows for sure but we know that no one painted the rooms green. Maybe it was because the rooms for the actors were often greened by storing bushes and shrubs along with other scenery. It is thought that the “scene room” became the “green room”. For most people green is a soothing and calming color and that is a good thing for tense performers. The green room has become a common word for any lounge.
At the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe, down the hall near the service entrance is a room reserved for the musicians. The green room at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe isn’t your average employee’s lounge. There aren’t any vending machines, hard folding metal chairs, plastic plates or paper napkins. It is much closer to an executive lounge or what we would like to find in an executive lounge. It is more like a catered executive suite with comfortable leather couches and chairs, handsome pictures on the walls and an inviting dining area. Also, there is a private bathroom and a separate changing room. What’s going on here? I think it is to show respect for the artists playing at the Dog, something that comes naturally for the proprietor, Gretchen Valade. Gretchen has a scheme and that is if you treat the musicians as being special they will give us back something special. It seems to be working.
In the theater the green room was often used to receive guests. Wealthy benefactors had access to the actors. Respect often lost out to the quest for greenbacks. Gretchen has rejected that idea. I have been privileged to spend some time with the musicians and hear their banter. Although serious business takes place as playlists and charts are shared, instruments adjusted, and new ideas discussed, there are times when the room fills with raucous laughter and brilliant banter. What a joy to spend this time with these generous, astute, humorous and smart professionals. The veterans and the new guys exchange insights and stories. The conversational glue is the common regard for the music and those who can play. Great stuff.
One evening I asked Gretchen if she ever went back to the green room to visit and share the warmth. I knew how welcome she would be. As is her manner, she summed up her feelings in a few words, she said, ” I have too much respect for the artists to do that”. The musicians, in turn, respect Gretchen and those who are fortunate to hear them perform.