I have decided to blog about the history of ‘theatrical superstitions’ this week. Most people have heard of not whistling in a dressing room, not saying ‘Macbeth’ in the theatre, etc, but It turns out there are many more superstitions I hadn’t heard of and some of them really made me laugh!...
Giving The Director A Bouquet From A Graveyard.
When a production closes, it is considered good luck to give the director a bouquet of flowers stolen from a graveyard! This macabre gesture obviously signifies the end of a production, and its ‘death’. Actors don’t make a lot of money, so I’m guessing this was a cheap way of saying thank you! I'm glad this particular tradition doesn’t happen in The Green Room Productions, given that I direct most of the plays!
Blue Should Never Be Worn On Stage.
Perhaps this superstition has not survived as strongly as some others because the reason behind it is no longer relevant. At one point in theatre history, blue dye was the most expensive of all the fabric colourings. Producers, in an effort to save some money (a job all producers take VERY seriously), started a rumour that blue costumes were unlucky. Clever ploy eh?
Never Bring A Peacock Feather On Stage.
Peacock feathers may be pretty, but an actor is never supposed to carry one on stage. This superstition relates to the pattern on the feather that, to many, looks like the evil eye. No production wants to risk offending an audience with this malevolent curse, which is supposed to bring misfortune or injury to anyone in it. Luckily I cannot think of one production we have ever done that required a peacock feather (or any other part of a peacock!).
Sleeping With Your Script
Whilst I don't recommend that any GRP actors rely on this superstition, I do like the idea of keeping your script close to your heart (or head) and sleeping with it under your pillow – it could lead to some very interesting conversations! Some believe that it will help the lines sink into your memory …. did you see that pig fly by?
Putting Your Best Foot Forward
It is said that, for good luck, actors should lead with their left foot as they exit a dressing room. On the other hand (or foot) audiences should apparently enter a theatre leading with their right foot … not quite sure what happens to the audience if they don’t!
Monday Night - Unwanted Visitors
Theatres that close on Mondays are not doing this to set up for the production opening on the Tuesday night. Oh no, they are apparently shut because some believe that the ghost of the theatre likes to visit once a week to perform their own shows! This superstition apparently goes back to Thespis (mentioned in our blog ‘It’s All Greek To Me’) who people believed would visit the theatre one night per week to return to the stage and cause unexplained mischief.
I did enjoy reading about a tradition they have at the National Theatre (one of my favourite theatres, which I talk about in my blog ‘You Never Forget A Good Teacher - And One Of Mine Has Shaped My Life’). The dressing rooms at the National are all located around a central courtyard, so the windows all face each other. On press nights, everyone in all three theatres comes to bang on the windows when beginners is called… love and support for your fellow actors, how cool is that?
So there you have it - some weird and whacky superstitions/traditions for that business we like to call 'show'.
This blog could not finish in any other way than to watch this…