Considerations for all things food in the backstage greenroom
A lounge for performers and an area for quiet mingling, the green room can also be a place to show appreciation for the performers and anyone else who is there to help behind the scenes. Food can indeed keep everyone happy! From the type of food, amount, and variety in the spread, food in the green room can significantly improve morale. Here are five key areas and some food for thought to consider.
“Some of the most thoughtful, delicious, and caring spreads have come from groups that have very limited budgets. They had people volunteer their time, prepare food, or order from places on the dime then present it thoughtfully.”
Display and Care
The act of presenting food with plates, napkins, and set out on serving dishes does make a difference. Think back to some of your most memorable gigs. It would not be surprising if they also involved a nice food or snack spread that was presented thoughtfully. I remember performing a gig that was for a big corporation, and while I do not remember the food standing out or what we performed, I do remember that in the green room, they provided plastic silverware that looked like actual silverware, and that the contact person on location was there making sure everyone had what they needed and were happy. I felt valued.
Content of Spread
Most times, groups or ensembles are not required to provide anything in the green room. Sometimes, you will get a small packed lunch or dinner if the performance has rehearsals spread out throughout the day and not enough time to get anything in between. For these gigs, the ones that stand out to me, are the ones that took the time to plan before and check people’s food or dietary restrictions and that there is enough of a particular option. Also, when they let people know ahead of time how much is being provided so the performers can plan ahead. Performing hungry and tired does not equal a happy performer. My wish list (not expectation) involves something salty (pretzels or some sort of snack mix) something sweet (cake pops/bites or donuts!) something savory, (tiny spring rolls, bacon wrapped dates, mini quiche), something healthy (veggie plate of carrots, celery, crackers, fruit and hummus) and more fancy… roast beef or chicken salad sandwich wraps, fried chicken (don't judge), roast potatoes or roast carrots, caesar salad. Drinks - bottled water, sparkling water, lemonade, and coffee. Ideally there would be a way to take things for the car ride home (especially for wind and brass players that might not be able to eat during intermissions or before performances).
Some of the most thoughtful, delicious, and caring spreads have come from groups that have very limited budgets. They had people volunteer their time, prepare food, or order from places on the dime then present it thoughtfully. There is no correlation, (from what I have experienced from almost two decades of performing) between the type of gig/group/venue and the food being offered. For something that makes such a big difference to everyone's mood, it seems that this is something that should be given way more priority to every ensemble! Performers have spent decades perfecting their craft, hours learning their parts, spent tens of thousands of dollars (or more) on their instruments, driven hundreds of miles to perform - the gesture of food will make us feel valued - and in turn sound and perform better (and perhaps complain less).
Auditions and Competitions
Most people in other professions are shocked that musicians pay their way for auditions. The costs add up from airfare, several nights in a hotel, and everything else from getting your instrument ready and also performing for other seasoned professionals beforehand, as well as the money you lose from the concert you are missing out on playing to take said audition. Sometimes the last thing on your mind at an audition is food while other times performers are caught off guard by a long wait and nowhere nearby to get anything to eat. Competitions run into the same issue for performers as well as adjudicators. Nothing is more frightening than to be performing for a hungry and tired judge! Food of course is not a reason or expectation in any of these circumstances. But, if it is something that can be provided, even on the dime, it is a small and much appreciated gesture that can make an already stressful situation a little less stressful.
BYO to share
Bring your own to share, as in colleagues take turns bringing food to the green room for intermissions, has led to many tasty and often overlooked treats! Sometimes it can turn into a competition itself of one performer outshining another in their skills at baking and ingenuity (but really what is wrong with that). This, I personally like as it shows good will among players, and the only drawback I see is people with allergies having concern or issue. BYO to share only works though for more established ensembles instead of the one week gig contracts.
Essentially, food in the green room has less to do about the actual food than it does about showing appreciation and value. Showing appreciation and value is something that can fit any budget.
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