- Rachel Pickup, as Lady Chiltern, greets Logan DalBello, as Prinz Friedrich, in 'An Ideal Husband.' (Photo by Scott Suchman)
Goodness gracious, no.
You can't just curtsy any old way you'd like in the presence of royalty. That's why Keith Baxter, director of the Shakespeare Theatre's An Ideal Husband and proper Brit that he is, brought in an etiquette consult who knows exactly how low you must prostrate in the presence of a higher class: Lady Nicholas Gordon Lennox, Lady in Waiting to Princess Alexandra, the Hon Lady Ogilvy. Princess Alexandra is presently the 39th in line to the throne.
Because Lady Nicholas Gordon Lennox ("[Baxter] said she is always to be addressed by her full name," says Lindsay Mady, publicist at the Shakespeare Theatre) is familiar with the protocol of state dinners, Baxter asked her for assistance with a scene early in Oscar Wilde's satire of politics and social classes, when Prinz Friedrich (Logan DalBello) arrives at a party. No ordinary curtsy will do.
"When we first rehearsed the Prince's entrance, Keith asked all four of us ladies who were on stage to do a full and fairly lengthy curtsy to the floor," says Rachel Pickup, who plays Lady Chiltern, in an email. "We worked with that for a couple weeks, but as we started running the play we all felt it was taking up too much time and holding up the action, so Keith asked us just to do a half curtsy, and that is what we have stayed with. Other than that, the only extra piece of etiquette was that I should not extend my hand to the prince on greeting him, until he had offered his to me first!"
Baxter, too, is no stranger to etiquette of the aristocracy. The actor and director is a member of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and travels in royal circles.
"Since [Baxter] stays at Sandringham sometimes, and does seem to know Prince Charles and Camilla, I think we all feel pretty confident in his expertise and accuracy," says Pickup of the director's own knowledge of etiquette.
Therefore, Baxter knows that a proper thank you is one of the most important acts of graciousness — and that's why this note appears in the program: "The director wishes to thank Lady Nicholas Gordon Lennox for her advice on protocol and etiquette."