Theatre And Supper Parties
To invite friends to go to the opera or theatre is an easy and pleasant way of showing them attention and of repaying one's social obligations. People who have a box for the season, or for a series of concerts or plays, offer it to a friend for a certain afternoon or evening. Such an invitation, if given in good season, is much appreciated by the recipient, who then has time to arrange; a pleasant little party. No one is much complimented when he receives tickets at the last moment, perhaps after he has made another engagement for the evening. If we ask people on short notice, it is well to consult them over the telephone, in advance.
A box owner often has a couple of seats to spare for a certain evening, and sends these to a Iady or a gentle-man. If he is going himself, he may arrange to call for his guests in his carriage or automobile, or to take them in the cars, returning with them after the performance. This is a courteous attention which is usually much appreciated, but it is not obligatory, under ordinary circumstances. If the guests were young women without escort, the host or hostess would not allow them to go home alone.
Many persons who are not subscribers invite their friends to go to the opera or theatre. A man who wishes to ask a young girl, should invite her mother or some married lady to accompany them, since etiquette will not permit the young woman to go with him alone. Or he may suggest that she select her own chaperon. He will probably prefer to accompany them to and from the theatre. If the married lady does not live with the young girl, he will call first for the former and they will proceed together to the house of the latter. On returning, they will see her safely home, waiting until she is admitted, or lets herself in with her latch key. The host of the evening will then escort the chaperon to her door. If the girl's mother is of the party, or if she has been requested to invite some lady of her acquaintance to act as matron, the young man can send them the tickets if he prefers to do so, and meet them at the theatre. In this case, he will escort them to their carriage or motorcar at the close of the performance and help them to get in. If they come in a stage or streetcar, or on foot, he should not allow them to return home alone.
A theatre party, to deserve the name, must include either a dinner or a supper. If there are many guests, the hostess should arrange the seating beforehand. Those who sit next one another at the theatre or opera, should have other partners at supper. To each man may be handed an envelope containing two tickets and the name of the lady who is to be under his care at the play. The ladies receive similar envelopes, enclosing the names of their theatre partners. All should arrive at the dwelling of the hostess, at the appointed hour. One late-comer may interfere seriously with the pleasure of all. An omnibus may be engaged, to carry the whole party, or an opulent host may take them in his automobile. People of more modest means find the streetcars sufficiently comfortable, on a pleasant evening. After the performance is over, the guests are taken home in the omnibus, first the ladies who are guests, then the hostess, then the men, unless the latter prefer to walk. If there is to be a supper, all are brought from the theatre to the house of the lady giving the entertainment, or to some restaurant of unimpeachable reputation. In a city like New York, great care must be exercised in the selection of the hotel. Fashion there is extremely fickle. When a place of entertainment becomes very popular, fast people sometimes flock to it in such numbers that the careful New Yorker abandons it in disgust. Such a place may retain its vogue with persons from other parts of the country, but the wise Gothamite avoids it.
If the supper is at the house of the hostess, it is not necessary for her to send her guests home, unless she prefers to do so. In this case, the maids would call for their young mistresses. The omnibus or other conveyance would of course wait and take the ladies home, from a restaurant.
Bachelors often give theatre parties, asking some married lady of suitable age and good position, to act as chaperon, if young women are to be invited. All assemble at the house of the matron of the evening, the bachelor being on hand to receive his guests and to present to this lady those with whom she is not already acquainted, and to make such other introductions as may be necessary. At the opera-house or theatre, he goes first down the aisle, in order to show his guests which seats he has assigned to them. He enters the box or row of seats, after all the others. The best places should be offered to the married women, but they often take those in the rear, allowing the young girls to occupy the front of the box. The persons who have the best seats, should offer to change with those sitting further back, in the course of the evening.
If the places are in the orchestra or the balcony, the chaperon may be asked to enter first, or she may sit next her host, who should take the outside seat. At the opera, it is quite usual for a large part of the audience to go out between the acts, and walk up and down in the corridor and foyer, or sit at small tables, where ice-cream and cooling drinks are served. The host pays, of course, for these refreshments. All should return promptly to their seats, at the warning signal. It is a part of good-breeding to be very quiet and refrain from disturbing others, while the performance is going on.
Our bachelor may give his friends supper at his own apartments, if these are sufficiently large, or at a restaurant of undoubted reputation. Some men's clubs have a dining-room set apart for ladies. The bill-of-fare should be selected and all arrangements made before-hand. The guests enter the supper room without formality, the host going first. The chaperon sits at his right, or opposite to him. He should escort the ladies to her house, when supper is over.
A combination theatre party is sometimes given, one hostess providing tickets for the play, and the other furnishing supper at her residence, followed, perhaps, by an informal dance. The guests must be careful, at an occasion of this sort, to bid good-bye and express their pleasure in the evening's entertainment, to both the ladies who have invited them.
In the days of our parents and grandparents, it was customary to eat three meals a day, and to call them respectively, breakfast, dinner and tea or supper. Probably the majority of American families still keep the old arrangement and the old names.
The modern custom of dining late and of taking luncheon in the middle of the day, is English and fashionable, but it is also sensible and convenient for many people. To eat a hearty meal and then rush back to business, cannot be considered as wholesome. In families where the members cannot return at noon, it is pleasanter to have the chief meal at the close of the day, when work is over, and all can be together. Since the late dinner has been so widely adopted in our country, it is deemed correct to reserve the word supper for the late evening meal, using the term as the English now do.
A sleigh-ride, an automobile or coaching excursion ending in a supper party, may be a very merry affair. A theatre party usually terminates in this way, as we have already said. The meal has the advantage of great elasticity, for it may be simple or elaborate, formal or informal, as occasion demands or taste dictates.
Common sense prescribes certain general rules which should be observed. A repast served late in the evening, when every one is rather tired after the long day, should be lighter in character than the earlier ones, in order not to overtax the digestion. As few people feel robust hunger at the hour when supper is served, it should be dainty and attractive rather than heavy, solid and therefore unappetizing. A few dishes nicely prepared are preferable to crude abundance. Salad in its various forms is especially appropriate, as are oysters, lobster, jellied meats, chicken and birds. Beef is thought too heavy, although the fillet is occasionally served at a sit-down supper. Green pease sometimes accompany a meat dish, but with this exception, hot vegetables never form part of the bill-of-fare. For a formal supper the service and arrangements of the table are usually rather more simple than those for luncheon or dinner, but there is little difference otherwise. In addition to flowers, fruit, and compotes containing bonbons and dried fruit, little cakes and sandwiches may be placed on it.
The first course consists of oysters on the half-shell, for which little neck clams may be substituted, in summer. These are set at each place, before the entrance of the guests. The next course consists of bouillon in cups, which should be eaten with teaspoons, never with soup-spoons. An entrée follows, either lobster, sweetbreads, chicken croquettes or some other dish as may be preferred. Game with salad comes next. The plates are changed after each course, and the crumbs are removed, before the sweet dishes are set upon the table. The first of these are the ices of which one kind is sufficient; the fruit and bonbons are passed afterward, followed by after-dinner coffee in small cups. Several kinds of wine were formerly served, but the temperance movement has made a decided change in this respect. Some hostesses give their guests " cup " or champagne.
It is by no means necessary to serve so elaborate a meal, and many people prefer a simple bill-of-fare. Some oysters, cold fowl with salad, and ice-cream make a sufficient menu for a theatre-party.
There is nothing merrier than a chafing-dish supper, where young people full of life and good spirits, officiate as amateur cooks. It is well to select those who have some knowledge of the culinary art, otherwise sad results may follow. The electric chafing-dish and toaster, enable one to prepare oysters in the most delicious way. The cooking should take place on the side-table or in the butler's pantry, for obvious reasons. The fun begins when a pair of fine-looking young fellows or pretty girls don large white aprons, tie napkins around their necks, and put white paper caps on their heads. The prudent hostess will have the table all set beforehand, with a change of plates on the sideboard, where there is to be a second course, and everything in readiness that is likely to be needed. People usually wait on themselves at a chafing-dish supper, considering it a part of the fun. Welsh rare-bit and ale or beer are very popular with those who can digest them. Broiled or creamed oysters are safer for persons of mature years. Sometimes the chafing-dish is used in connection with a menu of several courses, and in this case it is well to have one or more servants in attendance.
Where there are many guests, supper may be served at small tables, four or six persons sitting together. While this is considered the most elegant form of service at a ball for a supper party, a large table is to be preferred. Unless the company is too large to allow general conversation, it is gayer and more social to have all sit together around the mahogany tree.
The entrance to the supper room is usually quite informal, the host or hostess leading the way.
A combination sleigh or automobile ride, ending in a supper-party at the house of a friend in the country, makes a merry and informal occasion. It is sometimes arranged to have the hostess supply a certain part of the bill-of-fare — hot coffee and a rare-bit, oysters, or whatever may be preferred, the guests bringing the rest, picnic fashion. A Virginia reel puts every one in good humor and warms them up, before the return trip.
( Originally Published 1911 )
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