Top 10 theatre superstitions you can’t ignore and how they came to be

Have you downloaded our theatre traditions infographic yet? Here’s our top ten list of spooky superstitions just in time for Halloween…

But where did these superstitions first come from?

1. Macbeth is a no go

Don’t say the name of Shakespeare’s “Scottish play” inside a theatre. Some think the witchcraft in the play conjures up evil spirits that will wreak havoc on the current production!

2. Blue’s banned

Legend has it that, back in the day when blue dye was particularly expensive, producers wanted to discourage big spending! By spreading a rumour that wearing blue on stage was bad luck, they avoided costumiers and actors demanding the most expensive fabrics. Sneaky, eh?

Successful companies used to counteract this tradition by lining blue costumes with silver. This showed they could genuinely afford expensive costumes and weren’t just using blue fabric to show off.

3. You can leave the ghost light on

The ghost light should always stay turned on in the centre of the stage, even when all other lights have been turned off. It makes sure people stay safe when entering a dark theatre. Rumour has it that the ghost light is there to give spirits a spotlight to perform in!

Some people also believe ghosts should be given one night a week alone in the theatre as a mark of respect. A few theatres even have seats permanently bolted open so their favourite ghosts have somewhere to sit.

4. Take your peacock feathers elsewhere

The feather’s pattern looks a little too much like the evil eye for many thespian’s liking. No one wants a cursed production now, do they?

5. Mirrors will bring seven years of bad luck

They also reflect light, which can have a significant impact on a production! That’s why it’s bad luck to have mirrors on stage.

6. Sleep with a script tucked under your pillow

Can sleeping with a pillow under your script help you to learn your lines? Probably not. But some superstitious thespians believe it will help them learn by osmosis.

7. Don’t whistle while you work

Before technology took over, scenery used to be manually lifted into the air by stagehands using ropes. And how did stagehands cue each other? Whistling. An actor who whistled backstage could be inadvertently delivering an important cue, which could result in chaos! The superstition still stands to this day – don’t whistle.

8. Send ‘congratulations’ flowers, not good luck ones

Since a bouquet of flowers donates congratulations, it can be bad luck to send an actor flowers before a show. Did you know actors used to pick flowers from a graveyard to send to the show’s director? As actors were typically poorly paid, this was an inexpensive way to show gratitude whilst representing the show’s death symbolically.

9. Wish your actors to break a leg

Seems a strange tradition, doesn’t it? But perhaps ‘legs’ are referring to the base of theatrical side curtains. These ‘legs’ are the boundary between backstage and into the limelight, so breaking this boundary is what every actor hopes to achieve!

10. A bad rehearsal doesn’t always spell disaster

Producers, directors and cast members found comfort in this superstition. A bad rehearsal equalling a great first night gave the cast a much-needed morale boost!

So there you have it! A comprehensive list of theatrical superstitions. Do you follow your own traditions? We’d love to hear all about them. Chat to us over on Instagram.

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