Superstitions and the Theatre

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back…

A broken mirror means seven years bad luck…

Don’t walk under a ladder…

And just stay away from black cats!

Those superstitions pale in comparison to some that are true in the world of theatre. So on this Friday the 13th, while everyone else is avoiding open ladders and making sure to cross their fingers for good luck, we here at CAPA are keeping these theatre superstitions in mind!

1)  The Ghost Light

This ghoulish superstition is meant to keep those pesky theatre ghosts at bay. A single light bulb is placed on a wire frame on the stage after everyone has gone. It is said that this light is for the spirits of actors that used to dazzle the stage, to give them a light to continue to perform in the afterlife.  If the light is not left on, these spirits haunt the theatre and cause problems for performers. Ghosts also need some rehearsal time!

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2)  “Break a leg!”

Said to actors before they go on stage for a performance, this strange phrase is meant to bring good luck. “Break a leg” is believed to come from the idea that a performer must go on stage and hopefully perform well by “breaking through” the side curtains, known as “legs.” But let us not take this one too literally of course… we’re talking to you, understudies.

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3)  No Whistling

Contrary to the beliefs of Snow White and her seven companions, whistling while you work is NOT welcome at the theatre. Long ago, whistling was used by stage hands to signify the changing of an act. If actors or audiences whistled during a scene, it caused major confusion for all involved, most likely resulting in some big problems. Though this practice was discontinued many years ago, it is still considered bad luck to whistle at the theatre.

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4)  No Peacock Feathers

Beware of this deadly fashion accessory! Peacock feathers are generally banned in the theatre due to their history of bringing back luck. It is said that the evil eye in the peacock feather is blamed for bringing destruction to many a theatre production.

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5)  Don’t Say “Macbeth”! (But we can type it, right?)

Probably one of the most iconic theatre superstitions, the curse of Macbeth is sure to scare even the most steadfast actor. Dating back to the 17th century, there are dozens of theories about when, where, and why performers started avoiding the play’s title—instead referring to the drama as “The Scottish Play.”  Some believe that the play’s fictional incantations—“Double, double toil and trouble…” etc.,—are authentic examples of witchcraft, and should be avoided like the plague. But not to fear!  If a mistake is made and the word is said, there is an antidote: Exit the theater, spin three times, spit, and utter a Shakespearean insult (or an equally vulgar profanity). No damage done!

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6)  Bad Dress, Good Opening

Perhaps this one may be more to the encouragement of some bad acting, but many stage actors swear that a bad dress rehearsal foretells a great opening night. This superstition’s origins are unclear, but it’s certainly a beacon of hope for stage managers and directors alike.

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7)  Sleep with Your Script Under Your Pillow

Can sleeping with a script under your pillow help you learn your lines faster? Science says no, but theatrical superstition says yes! The practice is said to help actors learn “by diffusion,” but we suggest you hedge your bets and memorize those lines with some good old fashioned practice.

 

Don’t worry, we are certain all the actors in our upcoming shows are taking extra precautions and leaving that ghost light on!

By Alli Sweeney

 

 

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