Theatre Superstitions

Anyone who knows at least a thing or two about theatre would know that it is considered bad luck to say “good luck” to an actor or actress before a performance.  Until writing this article, I never knew why; it was just common sense.  Just like you wouldn’t say Macbeth in the theatre, you wouldn’t say good luck to an actor or actress.  You’re meant to say “break a leg” or some other variation.  Traditionally, the cast will gather together before a performance to avert the bad luck by wishing each other bad luck or cursing.  When I did theatre in high school, my friends and I would  get creative and say things such as, “break every bone in your body” or my personal favorite, “I hope you pee yourself”.  While this might seem ridiculous, a lot of performers have superstitious rituals they like to repeat for every performance (cue Ryan and Sharpay’s warm up in high school musical),  so I decided to ask a few different emerging college actors and actresses their own superstitions and rituals around showtime.  Some are expected, some are hilarious, and some are just downright weird. Brrr Brrr Mah Mah may not seem so strange after you hear some of these.

  1. “You can’t say “Macbeth” when you’re in a theatre during a production. In fact, I’m always afraid to say it at all. We refer to it fondly as “the Scottish play” or “McBoo” or my personal favorite “McBed n Breakfast.” If for some reason McBoo is referenced in a theatre, the referencee must run outside and scream obscenities while spinning in a circle. Only then will Dionysus, the god of theatre, decide if your obscenities can counteract the mentioning of McBednBreakfast. If not, everything that can go wrong with the current production will go wrong.  Before every show at Arcadia, the cast must always play the game of ‘Bugaloo.’” – Katrina Naxera, Arcadia University ’15
  2. As an actor: Cup of green tea with honey or lemon. Absolutely no caffeine. Always, always: Have a handful of cough drops. Listen to a good song. Stretch. Never ever say the Scottish play. Ever. As a stage manager: Lots of caffeine. Probably some nicotine too. Triple check lights, sound, props. Remind your actors of things 3 times. Tell your ASM (Assistant Stage Manager) you love and appreciate all of their hard work. Not kidding, tell them before EVERY show. Eat a snack in the booth even though your not supposed to. Still never ever say the Scottish play.” – Kara Mendez, Ramapo College ’16
  3. “You can’t whistle in the theatre. The superstition started when crew members had to whistle to each other for cues, so whistling would interfere with cues…. But it’s bad luck and you should never do it.  Saying “good luck” instead of “break a leg” to someone is liable to ensure that they befall some tragedy/just have a crappy show.  I personally don’t have many superstitions, but before I get on stage I isolate myself from everyone else and put headphones on, and I listen to “Astonishing” from Little Women… I feel like it makes me have a better show.”
    – Maggie Biedenkapp, Montclair State University ’15
  4. I have had some weird pre-show rituals. Over the years (since I first got involved with theater and performing) they’ve changed…one that’s always been the same is my consumption of large amounts of caffeine. Coffee, redbull, you name it and I’ve drank it before a show…at one point I’d have 5 large cups of coffee before a show. Another thing I used to do was watch the “college humor batman” videos to get a laugh and get loosened up a bit. But the the nerdiest by far is this; there’s always some route I always take to walk on the stage the night of the show. Just as we’re taking places I imagine I’m Bruce Springsteen backstage at Madison square garden, I hear the crowd of 20,000 people in my head when in fact there’s only 200 (if I’m lucky). That visualization really gets me pumped and puts my head in the right place before a performance.” – Anthony Capuano, St. Thomas Aquinas College
  5. “Every time before a scene, I speed run through the scene, acting it out, both parts, blocking and all in the wings, muttering to myself like a madmen. I’m sure it’s quite fun (frightening?) to watch from an onlookers perspective.” –  Jeff Barth, Arcadia University Alumni
  6.  “An after show ritual, is that you always leave a ghost light on stage after you turn out the lights and lock up. The light must be on, its supposedly for the “theater ghost” because every theater apparently at least has one.” – Nazeer Harper (Nozzy), Arcadia University Alumni
  7. “Before every performance (even when there’s more than one in a day), I get to the theatre really early, even before call time. Ideally, there will be no one else there, but that’s more a bonus, really. I put my headphones on and listen to an entire album (whichever I fancy at the moment) while I walk through the whole space: the audience, the stage, even up in the loft or catwalks. Only once I’ve finished the whole album do I ever feel ready to perform. The best part is when people see me at it, one of them will try to talk to me but then someone else is just like, “No, no; Ian’s doing his thing.” – Ian Agnew, Arcadia University ’15

What superstitions do you believe? What rituals do you perform before a show? Leave a comment below and let us know how you keep the odds in your favor.

Featured image credited to Andy Roberts via Flickr/Creative Commons

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *