Theatre Superstitions

Theatre people, as a whole, tend to be superstitious, even if normally they are fairly rational. There are a few relatively well-known superstitions, but I thought I would briefly explain for those not as familiar ...

MacBeth -- This one is sometimes confusing, because folk tend to not really understand it. It's perfectly fine to name this play at any time, unless you happen to be involved in a production of the play. There have been "bad things" that happened if someone named the play when they were in production but not actually at rehearsal or a performance. There are variations on this, that include quoting the play inside a theatre causing bad luck; even just performing it causing bad luck (even death in the troupe!); some believe citing the "spell" used by the three witches in the play can cause something horrible to happen.

I cannot recall any specific details, but ... The non-superstitous (or perhaps more cyncial) side of me just says "It's all coincidence". There are those who believe this one strongly, however. This has led to the references you may have heard to "The Scottish Play" -- just about anyone who has worked in theatre is familiar with that term, and what play it references.

The Golden Stag Player version of this is: Ralph Roister Doister. This play was so difficult (details in the description of the play) that the troupe members have tried to blot it from their memories. It is highly recommended that one only reference this play as "The English Play" to avoid having a member of the GSP who is normally calm, collected, and funny, to shriek in horror, clam up, and in some cases curl up into a tight little ball ... (For what it's worth, I've watched the video several years after the performance, and it's not as bad as they remember, but it's hard to get them to even consider it ...)


Break A Leg -- this phrase is used to mean "Good Luck" to actors. This is because saying "Good Luck" is tempting fate -- wishing an actor good luck fills them with confidence, and too much confidence means the actor will make a major error in the play because they were overconfident. This one goes back at least to Elizabethan times, and likely before.

I bring this one up, because I made the mistake of telling a member of i Sebastiani to "Break a Leg" recently. I got told in no uncertain terms that they don't use this phrase, because someone once told a member of the troupe to "Break a Leg" and they did! (They were able to bring in an understudy, and the play went on just fine, but still ... once can see how they'd be leary of the phrase after that!)

I was told:

For a while, we just said "Good luck" or "Have a good show" or any of those things that one is not supposed to say to actors. I'm fuzzy on who first told us about "en boca lupo" (Jay, was it the two Italian performers who were travelling with Revels?). The way English-speakers say "break a leg", Italians -- especially commedia players -- say "En boca lupo" or 'into the wolf's mouth'. The response is "Creppi!" (which I may be misspelling) or "choke it!"; i.e., "the wolf will choke on me."
I found that rather charming. I don't know if the GSP will start using "en boca lupo" and "creppi!", but it's rather spiffy sounding. Maybe we'll use it only when we do Commedias ...?


There's a whole bunch of other superstitions at various other websites:

More Theatre Superstitions
Theatre Superstitions and Saints

I think you'll find that many of these overlap each other ...