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.