If you have people in your life who are performers on the stage, they will more than likely have a superstition or tradition they follow as an actor. Some performers won’t speak the day of a performance in hopes that they save their voice and some performers will only wear a certain type of clothing to auditions for shows. Let’s explore some of the more common theatre superstitions that have made their way into theatre tradition.
The Scottish Play
There is a play that was written by William Shakespeare that actors strongly hesitate to utter the name of. Macbeth is a Shakespearean tragedy that has become a superstition regarded among most playhouses around the world. It’s believed that you shouldn’t say the name “Macbeth” in a theatre as it will result in bad luck. There is a story that the man who originally played Macbeth died in an accident and that Shakespeare himself had to go on in the original actor’s place. Since then, it’s said that this actor has haunted subsequent productions. Luckily, there is a remedy. If you have said Macbeth in the theatre, simply recite the following line from another one of Shakespeare’s plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended, that you have but slumbered here, whilst these visions did appear.”
In most theatres, you’ll find a ghost light that is kept on during non-performance periods. This began as a tradition when theatres weren’t wired for electricity and still powered their lights by gas. Keeping the gas lines shut off during non-performance times meant that the gas in the lines could build up leading to potentially hazardous consequences. As a result, theatres began to leave their gas lines open by keeping a single light on during non-performance periods that remained on stage. Furthermore, it is a widely held belief that having a ghost light remain on during non-performance periods keeps the spirit of Thespis, who is widely believed to be the first actor, from doing anything mischievous to thwart a production.
Bad Rehearsal Means a Successful Performance
Ask any actor and they will almost unanimously state that having a bad rehearsal prior to opening night ensures a successful opening night performance. While productions are based off planning and hard work, with a final dress rehearsal being perhaps the most exhausting of all rehearsals, performances are a different matter. Combine opening night jitters with an enthusiastic opening night audience and the actors will suddenly feel confident in their abilities to put on a great show.
Live theater is a joy to experience and be a part of. Specific venues may operate small details differently than others but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t hold these superstitions close at heart.
Most of us have visited a theatre at one point in our lives whether it was Broadway, regional, community, or even high school theatre. As patrons, we enter a theatre expecting a great time and a chance to go on a journey with the characters that are being portrayed. However, there are simple rules of etiquette that we should abide by out of respect to not just the actors on stage but the theatre itself.
Turn Your Cell Phones Off
Though there are usually announcements made before the show begins, some people may forget to turn their phones or electronic devices off before a show begins. The main reason for this is out of respect for the performers on stage. The actors and actresses are playing someone other than themselves for anywhere from one to three hours and have to maintain focus on the character they’re portraying. Having an electronic device make a sound or ring an alarm is very distracting to performers and, even worse, it becomes a distraction to the audience as members of the audience begin to look around attempting to locate where the sound is coming from. Besides being a distraction, recording a performance in any manner, unless otherwise provided for by the theatre’s licensing agreement, is illegal.
Don’t Sing Along
You may feel that it’s appropriate to join in and sing along with the performers, especially if the number that’s being performed is injected with high energy. However, you’re watching a live performance of a musical, not sitting in the bleachers at a concert. It’s appropriate to allow the performers to do the job they’re being paid to do. Sometimes, however, there are certain shows that invite the audience to participate such as Hair and RENT.
Respect the Actors at the Stage Door
This is a huge part of theatre etiquette. Heading to the stage door for an autograph or picture with one of the performers in the show is a tradition usually held on Broadway. If you do stage door a production, be respectful of the actors when they come out to greet you. They have just poured all of their energy into performing for you for a few hours and, most likely, will be tired. It’s okay to ask for a picture with them and for their autograph. Just be respectful and don’t invade their personal space. Remember: they have many audience members they have to meet as well.
Going to the theatre and taking in a show is a great experience to have. Keep in mind these simple etiquette rules and you’ll enjoy your time even more.
The highly sought after Tony Award is something every performer or Broadway community member hopes to receive one day. They all do what they do for the love of art itself but there’s nothing like being recognized by your peers for putting your everything into a show, performance, director’s chair.
The American Theatre Wing has specific guidelines that it operates under in order to nominate these shows and performers for a Tony Award. For example, with the exception of a revival, the shows that are nominated are new productions that have hit Broadway within a set timeframe.
A production must make tickets available to all Tony voters
These type of tickets are also known as complimentary tickets. Productions must offer up tickets to all Tony Award voters in order for that production to be considered for nomination. The 2017 revival of Sunday in the Park with George was a limited engagement that, after seeing how successful the run began, decided to extend their engagement. However, the removed themselves from consideration because, per the production team, they wanted to allow for other new shows to have the chance at the awards. Many have believed that their main motive was to not have to offer up 1,600 tickets as complimentary tickets that would otherwise be sold to a regular audience member.
A performer can only win once for a role
This may sound strange but sometimes performers reprise a role they originated. This was the case in the 2017 revival of Sunset Boulevard. Leading lady Glenn Close originated the role on Broadway in 1994 and subsequently won the Leading Actress in a Musical award. When she reprised the role in 2017, she was immediately deemed ineligible for a nomination in the Leading Actress category for musicals. Instead, the Tony Award went to Bette Midler.
You have to be there opening night
A performer must perform in the role on opening night in order to be eligible for a nomination. This sounds obvious but when Andy Karl was in previews for Groundhog Day, he became injured. He finished that performance and came back a few nights later to open the show before allowing his understudy to go on. This was to ensure that he could be nominated for his role (he was).
Where your name appears, matters
Stephanie J. Block is Broadway’s perennially ignored performer. A consummate performer, who should have several Tony Awards at this point, she found herself in the revival of Falsettos but was then nominated for Featured Actress in a Musical regardless of featuring heavily in the show. Why wasn’t she nominated as Leading Actress in a Musical? It was simply a matter of the placement of her name.
When the production puts forth it’s billing, the Tony Awards considers a performer automatically eligible for the “leading” category if their name appears above the title of the show on the show promotional materials. If their name appears below the title, they are considered only for a “featured” nomination. Producers are able to request that performers be considered for different categories but that’s all it is. A request. The Tony Awards administration committee has no obligation to comply.
On the other end of the spectrum, Broadway’s instant hit Dear Evan Hansen had no performers names above the title so the Tony Award administration committee overruled their guideline and nominated Ben Platt in the Lead Actor category.
About Pedro J Torres
The Brooklyn Academy of Music has had a long and illustrious history long before Pedro J. Torres arrived on the scene a few years ago. Beginning in 1861, the inaugural performance included Mozart and Verdi on the program. First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln attended a performance during their opening week.
One of Pedro J. Torres favorite things about BAM are their incredible and historical venues, like the opera house in Fort Green on Lafayette Avenue. The Howard Gilman Opera House is known for its ornate tall ceilings. Known for its Beaux arts style and start of the art sound system, the venue is frequently sought after for major stars, orchestras, and events.
With Pedro J. Torres immense business experience in Venezuela, he is able to offer his guidance and expertise in BAM’s different business areas. BAM turned their former ballroom into a café to offer dinner to patrons before live events. This café even has an event series of free concerts for the public to enjoy.
The café began in 1999, and the performances are currently curated by Darrell McNeill. The café has a helped many artists launch their careers and has also served as a home for intimate performances by established artists. Artists include Licorice, Early Grehound, Sekou Sundiate, Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR), Haale, ETHEL, Travis Sullivan’s Bjorkestra, Eisa Davis, Morley, Carl Hancock Rux, and Stew.
Established artists include TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone, Jeffrey Gaines, Joe Bataan, Corey Glover, Marc Ribot, Don Byron, Gary Luca, Fishbone’s Angelo Moore aka Dr. Madd Vibe, Grady Tate, Vernon Reid, and Marshall Crenshaw.
BAM offers a professional development program that Pedro J. Torres is excited about contributing to. The 14 month long program, which is located at the new BAM Fisher facility offers professional development and deeply discounted theater and rehearsal studio rentals to a group of Brooklyn non-profits and organizations. The program is a collaboration with DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center. Every year they focus on a new discipline to help their participates have long term success.
Pedro J Torres is excited to be a part of this legendary institution.