The Green Room
My friend Sara and I were talking this morning about the life of the typical actor in New York City. We talked about how most actors really struggle with the time in between jobs because they identify themselves so closely with what they do. Speaking for myself, I know that a lot of my identity is wrapped up in being an actor. I love learning lines, working with new people, discovering the world of the play, and I just absolutely delight in being in front of an audience. I think a lot of actors feel the same way. And it’s hard to go from being on stage in some beautiful costume, sharing the stage with brilliant actors, working on a great part, and basking in the applause of the curtain call to sitting at home alone on a Saturday night in a cold apartment with a glass of wine and a space heater WRITING about how great it is to be in a play. It’s hard not to feel a little down. Sara hilariously detailed her feeling that in between shows she feels as if she’s wasting valuable oxygen, burning up fossil fuels by keeping the lights on in her apartment, and single handedly keeping the Bourbon industry in business.
After talking about the difficulty of getting and keeping a “survival” job for a while, we opined that there should be an actor owned company in New York City that was specifically created to generate income for actors in the down time. We tried to brainstorm what kind of company it would be and what kind of service or product it could create. So we did that for about five minutes before we realized that there were already thousands of establishments that already serve the need we were articulating without that service being in anyway the purpose of the establishment. Of course we’re talking about bars and restaurants. Every bar and restaurant in the city employs actors, and other artists who are trying to stay in the city, ply their trade, and pay their rent. But none of them were created for that express purpose.
There are definitely “theatre restaurants” in New York City. Joe Allen, Sardi’s, Angus McIndoe, Orso, and all of the restaurants in hells kitchen are to some extent “theatre” restaurants because of the proximity to Broadway and because of the number of theatergoers and theatre artists who patronize these establishments. Most of the time, actors end up in these places after shows with friends, family, and fans when they’re in the midst of what we actors call the “good times”. Sardi’s is an “actor restaurant” but the wall is full of caricatures of actors who haven’t waited tables in years and probably never will again. But where is the place for people to go, work, and celebrate a life in the theatre during the unfortunate and often long periods of “down time” in between shows? Well, I think we might have a plan.
I’m putting a COPYRIGHT on this idea as of 11 p.m. April 4th, 2009.
The Green Room. The Green Room will be the official bar of the New York theatre artist. The Green Rooms’ dedicated mission is to employ, celebrate, understand, facilitate, and nourish theatre people. Here are some of the brainstorming characteristics I have for how this bar should operate. Call it a list of intentions and objectives.
• This bar will hire actors and theatre people that are in between jobs.
There should often be openings as I’d expect the wait and bar staff to be leaving the bar to do theatre work often.
• This bar will make every attempt to rehire returning “company members” or actors who have spent time at the bar in the past. They will need little to no training and be able to snap back into place quickly, provided an opening becomes available.
• This bar will have “understudies” who are bar-backs learning the ropes of how to tend bar, work the registers, wait tables, etc. They can and will be “on book” as they learn. There will be no shame in an “understudy” looking up how to make a Manhattan or an experienced “company member” needing to call “line” and look up how to make a specially requested or difficult drink.
• This bar will offer $4 pints and $6 top shelf pours to actors with a valid EQUITY, SAG, AFTRA, or other theatre union card.
• There will be free wireless high speed internet and a wireless printer. For .25 a page, actors can print out sides, appointment sheets, etc. “Understudies” can run to the back room and bring the pages out for patrons using the printer.
• The bar will be located in Hell’s Kitchen because not only are there a lot of theatres in the area, most auditions are in walking distance from the neighborhood.
• There will be many “casting couches” to recline on and lots of coffee tables to hold drinks, computers, scripts, design mock ups, etc.
• There will be an enormous bulletin board for people to put up post cards, flyers, sublet information, classes, etc.
• There will be a big chalk board where we will celebrate people who get jobs. If our bartender Greg Derelian books a big part at The Old Globe for the summer, then we’ll write “CONGRATULATIONS GREG! (AKA CORIOLANUS!!)”
• Patrons will be encouraged to support each other. If an actor needs someone to work on an audition with, this should be a place they can come and ask a complete stranger to go over it with them and have that stranger say, “Sure; as long as you don’t mind going over mine with me when we’re done!”
• There will be lots of bookcases in which everyone can deposit their old books, plays, and theatre texts. The books can be “checked out” on the honor system that a patron will bring the book back when they are finished with it.
• Peanuts will be served at the bar for both nutritional and humor value.
• There will be a mirror back by the bathrooms. The mirror will be classy with a nice frame around it. A hand-painted sign above the mirror will read, “You are vast. Every role that has ever been written is already alive inside of you. Be at peace. You are enough.”
• The Bathrooms will have doors marked, “Women’s Dressing Room A” and “Men’s Dressing Room A”
• The bathrooms will have big mirrors with lightbulbs all around them. However, these light bulbs will be on a dimmer and at night will simply conjure the feeling of a dressing room, not be lit like one.
• The bar will be stocked with great booze at reasonable prices.
• Anyone who gets “the call” while in the bar that they just booked a job gets a free beer and shot on the house.
• Anyone who brings in a residuals check under $1, can exchange it for a beer
• There will be a large projection TV so that anyone who is on an episode of television that night can bring their friends in and watch.
OK, so these are my initial ideas. Anyone who has other thoughts, I’d love to hear them.