A green room is a room in which people change clothes for performance, theatre, or the like. Some believe that the term "green room" may have originated from the old days of outdoor theatre when people would change right behind the stage backdrop, on the grass behind the backdrop, which would hide them from view of the outdoor audience. Green rooms are usually located backstage, but sometimes under the stage, or to the side. When they are located under the stage they are often also called "trap rooms" because many stage setups, especially for magicians, involve a trap door that goes to a room under the stage. In a magic trick, a performer may drop down into the trap room, through the trap door, onto a padded surface like a mattress, to "disappear" and change into another outfit. Green rooms are usually not separated by gender, because performers often operate "like one big happy family" and help each other change. For example, a husband and wife team of circus performers might need to "rig" each other up with various wiring, cabling, safety harnesses, and the like. The green room at Canterbury Theatre in Canada's Wonderland is a large co-ed space in which large numbers of people are usually in various states of undress, including being completely naked at times. Although there are often small gender separated spaces in some green rooms (to meet building codes, etc.), the changing activities of a green room typically spill out into the main area back stage, where there are dressmakers, tailors, and other staff, frantically working on getting everyone ready for the next production. There is little or no time or place for modesty in a green room where "the show must go on" and everyone works together like a team to help each other get dressed, regardless of gender differences. A green room is one of the few changerooms in which nakedness of mixed-gender groups is usually acceptable.
Traditionally, before the advent of modern plumbing, there existed a number of cleansing stations for cleansing one's clothes and one's person. Cleansing stations were separated by gender, and combined the function of cleaning clothes with cleaning of the body. The closest modern equivalent would be a combination laundromat plus locker room with showers. Interestingly, each of the 2nd floor swimming pool locker rooms at the Delta Chelsea hotel in Toronto has two coin operated washing machines and two full size (30A, 208V) electric clothes dryers. Thus a person can put their clothes in the washing machine, and have a shower or relax in the sauna while they wait for the clothes washing cycle to complete.
Because of the privacy afforded by changerooms, they create a problem in the tradeoff between security and privacy, wherein it may be possible for crime to be perpetrated by persons using the cover of privacy to sell drugs, or steal clothing from a department store. Some department stores have security cameras in the changerooms (See Phil Patton's article "You don't have to smile", excerpt included in Netcam Privacy Issues). Some department store fitting rooms post signs such as "keep your underwear on because you are being monitored by security". Other fitting rooms have staff to count out clothing samples and count them back in after each customer is done.
Communal changerooms are less of a problem that fitting rooms, because there is not total privacy. In particular, the perpetrator of a crime would not know whether or not other users might be undercover police or security guards. Also modern changerooms often have labyrinth style entrances that have no door, so that persons of the other gender cannot see in, but security can walk in at any time without the sound of an opening door alerting persons inside. Washrooms in which changing clothes is merely a secondary purpose often also have such labyrinth openings. It is this possibility for persons to suddenly appear without warning, that often makes modern style changerooms and washrooms safe from drug dealing and other crime. Many washrooms have security cameras, not in the toilet stalls, of course, but only in the main area with a view of the sinks and possibly the urinals from a viewing angle that would only show the back of a user. However, when a washroom is located near a fountain, wading pool, or the like, and is likely to be used for changing clothes, some believe that washroom surveillance cameras would be a violation of privacy. Therefore a noiseless entry (e.g. doorless labyrinth) is often considered the best form of security.
Trends in changeroom design
Towards the end of the 1900s changerooms evolved from almost always communal (though gender segregated) changerooms toward changerooms that provided individual privacy, not just gender privacy. By the late 1990s changerooms had evolved toward more "family" changerooms in which a spouse could assist an elderly person of the other gender, or in which parents could help children of the other gender change.
More recently, the trends of the late 1900s are being reversed. The pendulum had swung from group (gender) privacy to individual privacy. The late 1990s was the "me genderation". As of 2004 the pendulum is swinging back toward open-style changerooms.
This trend is partially motivated by emergency preparedness and homeland defence, terrorism, and the military influence on urban architecture. In the army, changrooms are almost always open, and they usually do not even have stalls around, or dividers between toilets. As we design urban architecture to withstand terrorist attacks, changerooms are being designed for "dual use". In particular, many emergency planners are considering the possible use of changerooms for emergency decontamination, the first and most important step of which is clothing removal. "Open concept" changerooms are easier for emergency workers to supervise, in such a mass decontamination scenario.
Additionally, as was necessary in the first half of the 1900s (due in part to World War 1, and 2), civilians, especially men, needed to be prepared for the less-than-private conditions of the army. It was felt, therefore, that overcoming the initial fear of changing in front of others (at least in a gender-segregated space) was a necessary part of social development and socialization that all individuals should adapt to.
As the world became "less military" and less on the verge of war, during the late 1900s, the need to train able bodied men through sports, and through adjusting to less than total privacy, was no longer present. However, Today we see a return to the need for able bodied men, and now for women as well, to be socialized into accepting their own body image, and learning how to deal with their body differences. Additionally, with recent bioterror attacks such as the anthrax scares, many people have been traumatized by communal stripdowns.
Many feel that by getting used to our bodies in day-to-day life, and acclimatizing to changing together in groups (though limited to gender-specific groups), people will not be so traumatized by future mass decontamination. Additionally, large number of popup changerooms (tents, metal frame articulated structures, inflatable structures) are being designed, built, and deployed for emergency use. These portable and temporary changerooms are divided down the middle. Men change on one side, and women on the other. These futuristic emergency changerooms are largely influencing the design of their more permanent counterparts. In an anthrax scare when a person is commanded to undress, by police in biohazard suits and riot gear, there will be no opportunity to find a private stall. Private stalls use more space, are harder to clean (decontamination) and do not allow emergency responders to properly supervise the changing of clothes.
Additionally, new innovations in locker design eliminate the rows of lockers that prevent supervision of the otherwise large open spaces. Between rows of lockers, people can hide and deal drugs, or store contraband in lockers. Thus employee locker rooms are almost always now of the "open concept" design.
There are only two secure methods of storing employees' clothing and personal effects, overhead LOCKERBASKETS and floor lockers. In industries where the employees work in conditions of heat, dampness, dirt or contaminants, such as mining, foundries, steel mills, glass plants, paper mills, environmental remediation etc., it is imperative that, between shifts, the employees work clothes be suspended full length in moving currents of warm air to properly dry and aerate the clothing and render it comfortable to wear during the next shift.
Learn more about changing rooms.