So I’m casually writing this a week early as this Friday is a pretty hard day for me- it’s the anniversary of something I don’t know if I feel comfortable discussing so I’m just trying to take all the stress out of the day so I don’t feel like I have anything I need to do and can just concentrate on getting through it.
Anyway, as a Pagan and an actress I feel that it is my solemn duty to run you through some old theatre/acting superstitions. The hilarious thing about all of these is how much they are still around, even amongst drama students of my age.
THE SCOTTISH PLAY
Of course, I have to start with good old Macbeth- it’s fine, don’t panic, I am allowed to type the word. There are many variations of this superstition and what to do if someone does actually accidently say it. Generally the superstition states that you must not say the name of the play in a theatre, however no actor I’ve ever worked with has been willing to say it in rehearsals, even if we’re in a completely innocuous space. Personally I refuse to say it at all, there’s just something about it that I don’t like.
If someone does accidently let the name slip there are a lot of ideas about what to do- some people advocate leaving the building, spinning around three times on the spot and then spitting, others go for the less offensive practice of reciting a line from another Shakespeare play.
The superstition is supposed to come from the fact that Shakespeare took the idea from the play from a coven of real Witches who then cursed the name after seeing their unflattering portrayal- other people think that it was Shakespeare himself who cursed the name so that no-one but himself would be able to direct it properly.
A more practical origin for the superstition is that it comes down to the amount of swordfights in the play, and therefore the increased potential for something to go badly wrong.
The superstition goes that you should never whistle on stage, this actually comes from the fact that back in the good old days they used to use sailors to hoist up the lights and scenery, the sailors would communicate by coded whistles so a stray note from a bored actor could bring the set literally crashing down on you.
‘BREAK A LEG!’
It’s considered very, very bad luck to wish an actor or actress ‘good luck!’ before a performance- it’s basically considered to be tempting fate- so instead we stick with ‘break a leg!’ I think it comes from the fact that when we bow/curtsey at the end of a performance we bend one leg- but don’t hold me to that, I’ve heard several explanations as to the origin of the expression.
THE GHOST LIGHT
A light must always be left burning on stage, this is said to be so that the ghosts can perform their plays- however it also helps any unwitting actors or techies from falling into the pit 😉
- No real money or jewellery on stage (a practical precaution against theft.)
- Bad dress rehearsal = good opening night. Weirdly I find this to be quite true- I think it’s a case of scaring the cast into thinking ‘shit, we could fail at this…’ so that they put everything into the actual performance.
- Flowers AFTER the show, never before.
- Don’t wear blue (unless countered with silver) green or yellow.
- Peacock feathers = evil eye, therefore should never be allowed on stage.
That’s all the weird knowledge I have for know, so ’til next time: