9 Beliefs That Are Very Popular Among Theater Actors

9 Beliefs That Are Very Popular Among Theater Actors

Theater actors are not immune into coming up with superstitions so as not to spoil their performance. This may as well be connected to the fact that many are naturally drawn to the drama, and if you happen to be a theater actor yourself, you may have come across some of these superstitions amidst your run in the theater.

There isn’t anything wrong with observing these  superstitions yourself or encountering co-actors or producers who do. As long as they don’t harm your confidence when taking on that stage, then go ahead and continue your beliefs, but try not to let it get into your head that much.

So here are some of the most popular superstitions that many theater actors have been passionately following over the years:

1. Sleeping with the Script Under the Pillow

sleeping with scripts under pillow

Theater actors think that it would help them remember their scripts better once they literally sleep with it tucked safely under the pillow. Does it make them dream about the play at night? That unfortunately cannot be proven because although there hasn’t been any scientific proof that this actually works, many theater actors claim it does.

There is a contrasting thought, though, as some have said this is bad luck for an actor. But the verdict here is that there isn’t any harm in memorizing your lines the normal way.

2. Ghost Light Tradition

ghost light, theater

This is possibly the most notorious in all of theater folklore. Legend has it the spirit of Thespis, the first actor from Ancient Greece, has a tendency of making an appearance in theaters. Generally speaking, theaters do have that naturally eerie vibe to it so it wouldn’t really matter if was the ghost of Thespis or some other restless soul that happens to be lurking in the theater.

To combat these alleged “ghosts”, what most theater actors (or any production staff) do is follow the ghost light tradition, which is leaving a light set onstage or backstage on. It is said to ward off any ghosts that might lurk after hours.

3. Break a Leg

break a leg, theatrical expression

Many people may know this by now, but break a leg is unarguably the most used idiomatic expression in theater. It is the equivalent of the phrase “good luck” or to encourage the performer to do his best on stage.

There is no precise history of this phrase, as different accounts have claimed its origins. One possible origin is the Vaudevillian practice where companies would book more performers than could possibly make it onstage, but would only pay those who performed. Most theater actors had to break the stage curtain “legs” just so they could be made visible to the audience. Other references include the translation of the Yiddish phrase “Hatsloche un Broche” (“success and blessing”) to the German phrase “Hals- und Beinbruch” (“neck and leg fracture”), mistaken for its similar pronunciation.

4. Saying Macbeth Is Taboo

Macbeth warning, superstition

This is another urban legend surrounding the theater world. It speaks of the famous Shakespeare play, which is assumed to be cursed. There has been a grim history of unexplained deaths during Macbeth performances, so it is not a shocker that many try avoiding the word entirely.

In case someone says the dreaded word, he or she has to go through a lengthy purification method, which involves exiting the theater, turning three times, spitting once, and saying an equally vulgar insult. To add to this, the person must beg to theater guards to be let back in.

5. Flowers Come After the Show

flower bouquet, theater

Don’t think about sending flowers before theater actors perform because that might spoil the show. According to the superstition, receiving a bouquet or any gifts in general before the show is just calling for the theater gods to ruin their performance.

6. Peacock Feathers

peacock feathers, theater supersitions

Peacock feathers are said to resemble the design of the dreaded evil eye. It is said to have long caused bad luck to theater actors, causing them to trip onstage, mess up their lines, or some other serious accidents.

Now if you think there isn’t anything to worry about as nobody really goes around bringing peacock feathers in their purses or pockets, then wait until you get a hold of other things banned on stage.

Other items include mirrors, real money, and real jewelry. The mirrors are said to interfere with the light, while the jewelry and money are said to encourage on-set thievery.

7. Whistling Is Strictly Prohibited

whistle, theater superstition

Whether you are on stage, or off stage, theater actors believe it’s absolute bad luck to whistle. This belief stems back to the day when the production staff were composed of sailors, who applied the same safety practice as they did when working in vessels, by warning actors of any falling lights or other stage accidents waiting to happen.

8. Bad Dress Makes Great Performances

ugly dress, theater superstition

Many theater actors swear by this practice by dressing bad for the final rehearsals so their opening night becomes a success. It is said to be just something that directors do to make their actors more confident onstage; either way, if it works, then it ends up being a win-win situation.

9. Actors or Audiences Cannot Wear Blue

blue costume, superstition

This can be traced back to the fact that blue dye is the most expensive dye when it comes to making costumes. But when sticking to the topic of superstition, blue is known to be a hue that brings bad luck. To counter this, theater-goers and actors wear silver along with the blue.

10. Bowing Should Be Strictly After the Play Is Done

theater, bowing after performance, superstition

The rule about bowing after the actual play comes from simple logic: you can’t bow until you actually deserve it, so most actors don’t even consider practicing their bow during rehearsal so as not to curse the actual performance.

Those were the most popular superstitions arranged in no particular order. So for those theater experts out there, what traditions have you practiced or heard of when it comes to prepping for that big night? It can range from the common to most bizarre, but whatever works well for you is well worth the practice.

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