located in the midst or rear of other buildings, the nature of the site precludes a good arrangement of the main fresh-air ducts for the auditorium.
Absence of fresh air is not the only sanitary defect of theater buildings; there are many other defects and sources of air pollution. In the parts devoted to the audience, the carpeted floors become saturated with dirt and dust carried in by the playgoers, and with expectorations from careless or untidy persons which in a mixed theater audience are ever present. The dust likewise adheres to furniture, plush seats, hangings, and decorations, and intermingled with it are numerous minute floating organisms, and doubtless some germs of disease.
Behind the curtain a general lack of cleanliness exists—untidy actors' toilet rooms, ill-drained cellars, defective sewerage, leaky drains, foul water closets, and overcrowded and poorly located dressing rooms into which no fresh air ever enters. The stage floor is covered with dust; this is stirred up by the frequent scene shifting or by the dancing of performers, and much of it is absorbed and retained by the canvas scenery.
Under such conditions the state of health of both theater goers and performers is bound to suffer. Many persons can testify from personal experience to the ill effects incurred by spending a few hours in a crowded and unventilated theater; yet the very fact that the stay in such buildings is a brief one seems to render most people indifferent, and complaints are seldom uttered. It really rests with the theater-going public to enforce the much-needed improvements. As long as they will flock to a theater on account of some attractive play or "star actor," disregarding entirely the unsanitary condition of the building, so long will the present notoriously bad conditions remain. When the public does not call for reforms, theater managers and owners of playhouses will not, as a rule, trouble themselves about the matter. We have a right to demand theater buildings with less outward and inside gorgeousness, but in which the paramount subjects of comfort, safety, and health are diligently studied and generously provided for. Let the general public but once show a determined preference for sanitary conditions and surroundings in theaters and abandon visits to ill-kept theaters, and I venture to predict that the necessary reforms in sanitation will soon be introduced, at least in the better class of playhouses. In the cheaper theaters, concert and amusement halls, houses with "continuous" shows, variety theaters, etc., sanitation is even more urgently required, and may be readily enforced by a few visits and peremptory orders from the Health Board.