There’s a lot that can go wrong at a theater. Anything from a bad opening night to an injury can be catastrophic and ultimately bring production to a halt. For this reason, theater folks can be some of the most superstitious people, and here at Parkway Playhouse, we’re no exception! So what are some of the theater superstitions people believe in?
#1 The Ghost Light
A ghost light is a single light left on stage after everyone goes home for the night. Practically, this light is to ensure safety as everyone exits the theater for the night. However, many theater folk also believe that this light wards away evil spirits or that the light pleases the spirits by illuminating the stage for them or keeping them company.
#2 Break A Leg
You might have heard people say “Break a Leg” to someone before their performance. There are two versions of why this saying came to be. Many at the theater believe that good luck means bad luck, so saying “Break a Leg” is a way to say good luck without cursing the performer. Another story is that performers used to have to stay behind the “leg line” if they weren’t performing and weren’t going to be paid, so saying “Break a Leg” was you saying that you hoped they got to perform that night and receive payment.
#3 A Bad Dress Rehearsal
Many believe that a bad dress rehearsal means a great opening night. The origin of this probably came from a matter of probability or to make actors feel better after a less-than-perfect rehearsal. Either way, it comes as a comfort to some and gives them the boost needed to make opening night wonderful.
#4 The Scottish Play
Many believe that saying Macbeth out loud in a theater is bad luck and it’s often referred to as “The Scottish Play” to avoid this. The lore surrounding this bad luck includes a string of accidents in theaters where this play was produced such as actors dying mysterious deaths, props being replaced with real objects resulting in actors being stabbed with real knives, falling stage weights almost crushing actors, in-house riots between actors causing hundreds of deaths, and actors walking off the stage plummeting into orchestra pits.
#5 No Whistling Backstage
Starting in the 17th century, it was common for dockworkers to take jobs as stagehands during their off-season winter months. Because they often communicated with whistling, they brought the practice to the theater. These whistles communicated everything from queues to entrances and set changes. For this reason, whistling backstage could result in chaos or even injury. While it’s not common to whistle to communicate backstage anymore, the practice of not whistling to avoid stirring up bad luck has stuck around.
Do you believe in these superstitions? Let us know!