Very Superstitious!

Upon the release of the last Rae Hatting novel, Blackout, I thought I would write a post about some of the commonly held superstitions by theatre folk. I’ve been involved in the theatre since I was 10, and there are many common (and obscure) things practiced by us actors, mostly to keep terrible things from happening during the course of rehearsals and shows. So, please take your seats. The performance is about to begin!


thomas_keene_in_macbeth_1884_wikipedia_cropThe Dreaded Scottish Play

The superstition goes that saying the word “Macbeth” onstage or off could result in disastrous events. If you say this word, there are a number of rituals you can do to be “allowed” back in and “forgiven.” The main one is: The person is required to leave the theater building, spit, curse and spin around three times, before begging to be allowed back inside.

Why? Some believe it’s because of the witchcraft element. Others, because of the high risk of injury to the actors and the running trend of people dying during the course of the show. Some believe Shakespeare himself put a curse on the play. Another involves how some theatres used the play as a last ditch effort to get them out of debt. Unfortunately, the theatres often went broke anyway.


Whistling

The superstition goes that someone whistling backstage meant someone would be fired from the show, and not always the person whistling.

Why? In the days before technology, stage managers would use whistling to cue actors. If someone else whistled, it could cause an actor to miss a cue or go on too early. Not good!


It’s bad luck to say good luck on opening night!

So says the famous song from The Producers, but why do actors insist you say “break a leg”? There are a number of theories. One involves understudies. The “legs” of the stage are the curtains hanging at either side. “Breaking a leg” meant you went onstage and got paid. Another comes from Elizabethan England, where money was thrown at the actors and you could “break the leg” to get the coins, i.e. leave the stage. Whatever superstition you believe, any actor would rather hear “break a leg” than “good luck”!


ghost-1175137_960_720It’s a ghost!

Some theatres are known to be haunted. Yes, I know it sounds crazy, but I know ours is! There is a superstition which states there should be one night during the run of a performance where the ghosts are allowed free reign of the stage.

According to one article: “…there is one specific ghost, Thespis, who has a reputation for causing unexplained mischief. Thespis, of Athens (6th BC) was the first person to speak lines as an individual actor on stage, thus the term “Thespian” to refer to a theatrical performer was born. To keep the ghosts of the theater subdued, there should be at least one night a week where the theater is empty, this night is traditionally a Monday night, conveniently giving actors a day off after weekend performances.”

Is it true? Well, from personal experience, when our theatre added in a Sunday show, usually the day we had off, the performances were poorly attended. Lack of interest, or our ghost having a bit a revenge for taking away her night? You decide.


Blue moon!

One of the more interesting superstitions I learned about was how wearing blue onstage was a sure way to a failed play, unless countered with silver. This is because blue dye, in the early days of theatre, was expensive to make. Failing companies would dress their actors in blue to give the illusion of success. Using silver as well counteracted the blue, as it showed the theatre had money behind them from a wealthy patron.


BlackoutI hope you enjoyed my little foray into theatre superstitions, and be sure to grab a copy of Blackout in paperback or ebook from Amazon!

Kind thanks to the following articles:
Top Ten Theatre Superstitions

13 Theatre Superstitions

Special Blackout Excerpt!

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Luke

 

New York whirled around us, people bustling to get to where they were going. JFK had been packed, but we managed to hail a cab and get ourselves to the loft in Manhattan, where we would be staying. It was easy to get to Theatre Row, our undercover location, from the high-rise building. Our backstory was simple. Rae and I were from a company out in California, and we were looking to move to New York. We wanted to try out a couple locations before deciding to make a permanent decision.

Rae insisted we maintain that we were friends, so as to avoid complications. Hell, our friendship was complicated already after New Orleans, but whatever made her feel comfortable. I flung down my bag on the queen bed in the sparsely furnished room. The Bureau made sure we had the necessities, so that was nice.

“There’s a tech meeting at the theatre tonight.” Rae leaned on the doorframe with a sigh. “Certainly not the Ritz, huh?”

I chuckled. “Nope, but it works. You okay?”

She raised and lowered a shoulder. “Usual zone. Feeling more uneasy about this one than I was when Madame Evangeline was telling my future.”

I had to admit, I missed Sabine’s grandmother. I missed New Orleans. I missed…well, I missed holding and kissing Rae. “Heh.”

“Should we get something to eat first? I’m sure there’s a pizza place.”

I loved how Rae knew when to break obvious building tension. “Order in?”

She smiled and walked to the olive green kitchen. “Geez, you’d think they’d make some decorating changes since the 70s.” She thumbed through a stack of takeout brochures by the fridge, settling on one and placing an order for a large pepperoni pizza and a bottle of Coke. I hated this on duty crap. Pizza and Coke just wasn’t the same.

I slumped into the sofa, sinking into the middle. Clearly they were trying to keep us in the façade that we were struggling theatre people. “Damn,” I groaned, adjusting my position. “Hey, Rae, wanna experience true torture?”

Rae laughed, crossing her arms and watching me shift uncomfortably. “Nope, I’m good.”

“Aww, come on. Cuddle up with me on the couch of death.” I patted the empty spot.

She huffed and walked over, sitting down with a small scream. “What is this? I think a spring just poked me. Undercover, or not, we’re replacing this monstrosity tomorrow.”

“And that’s why I love you, Rae.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I coughed, realizing what could be implied. “I mean, in the platonic sense. Hey, let’s see what’s on TV.” I grabbed the remote from the side table drawer and turned on the old set, my heart longing for my flat screen at home. I found an old Friends episode, and we lapsed into uncomfortable silence. Shit, I thought. You sure put your foot in it this time, Thompson. But, I did love her. Maybe this time around she’d finally let me in.


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