Top 10 Theater Superstitions

We theater people are generally pretty superstitious. But have you ever thought about how certain superstitions came to be? Here are the top ten theater superstitions and how they got their start!

  1. Mirrors onstage – It is believed by many that having a real mirror onstage is terrible luck. It’s well known that breaking a mirror can cause seven years of bad luck to the mirror-breaker, but breaking one onstage is said to bring seven years of misfortune to the theater as well! Makes me wonder is the famous mirror from A Chorus Line ever got a little chipped….
  2. Scripts under the pillow – Some actors believe sleeping with their script under their pillow will help them learn it faster. However, some think it’s actually bad luck. No one is sure of the reasoning behind this one, but I say don’t risk it and just learn your lines normally!
  3. Peacock feathers – Veteran actors have many a tale of sets collapsing and forgotten lines along with other theatrical nightmares. The common factor? A peacock feather was onstage. This seems to have stemmed from the observation that the blue and green design resembles an evil eye.
  4. The last line ­– Saying the last line of a play without an audience present is also considered bad luck because the show isn’t really complete until performed for the first time. Directors avoid this one by having dress rehearsals with family and friends in the audience.
  5. Bows – Often, directors do not stage bows until the day before the opening. This is because the actors shouldn’t bow until they deserve it!
  6. Bad dress….good show! – I’ve heard about this one tons of times! Faulty dress rehearsals can often be attributed to a cast’s first real run through of a show. The final product is only achieved when the cast and crew realize their mistakes and fix them for the next night.
  7. Whistling – Whistling on or off stage is usually considered bad luck. Back before the invention of walkie-talkies or intercom systems, the crew would coordinate their actions based on whistle signals. If the wrong person whistled onstage, these could be interpreted as cues and lots could go wrong!
  8. Ghost light – As any theatergoer knows, all theaters have some legend explaining how they’re haunted. The ghost light, which is a light that is onstage or backstage and always left on, is used to ward off any ghosts that might lurk after hours.
  9. Break a leg – Any performer knows the worst thing you could do is say “good luck!” right before a show. But saying “break a leg” instead has a few possible origins. The one I’m most familiar with is that of Shakespearean times: stages would be supported on thin wooden legs, and a spectacular performance would cause such a tremendous ruckus that a leg would break!
  10. The Scottish play (Macbeth)– This is another superstition with a few alleged origins. Some say that Shakespeare got the witches’ chants in the play from true witches, and they were not impressed with their portrayal. In retaliation, they cursed the show and there are endless stories of deadly stagings. Others say it’s merely because there’s so much violence in the play that it’s easy for something to go wrong in any given production. Either way, if you say “Macbeth” in a theater, the only way to reverse the curse is by going outside the theater, spitting, and turning around three times before BEGGING to be let back in.

Which have these have you seen before? Heard any other reasons for their developments? Which ones did I miss? Comment below and let me know!

Photo credit: Bard.org

Comments

4 Responses to “Top 10 Theater Superstitions”
  1. Abby says:

    I don’t do bows until a bit before

    I guess I believe in the bad dress

    We do Macbeth

    I may have heard of the whistling

    Break a leg -yes – but once the lead messed up his leg on stage so kinda

    My director burns sage around the theater so yeah…hhaha

  2. Abby says:

    we also usually have a cough drop before curtain

    some put soap on their hands before staging

    my theatre also says “thank you five” or something when where told we have 5 till curtain!!!

    • Vicky says:

      Abby:

      Don’t you love superstitions in the Theater? Just an FYI, “Thank You, Five” is considered a courtesy to the Stage Manager to acknowledge that you heard their call, and possibly in case someone else didn’t hear the call.

      Vicky, SM

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