Over reading week, I was pretty productive. I finished some big school assignments, moved my fiancé across the country to be closer to me, and most importantly, I started watching The X-Files.
I’m halfway through the first season (no spoilers, please), but for some reason, I can’t get enough of Mulder’s ridiculous alien theories and obnoxious know-it-all attitude, when Scully is clearly the smart one (she’s a DOCTOR) around those parts. Let’s not forget those 1993 special effects, either. That’s the good stuff.
Binge-watching X-Files got me thinking about superstitions in theatre (related: X Files: The Musical is a thing). There are a lot of them – the theatre is a spooky place. Many theatres are very old and many are believed to be haunted and have their own ghost stories. There are many superstitions, but here’s some common things you should avoid doing when enjoying a show.
Whistling in a theatre is considered bad luck because before the days of walkie-talkies, the stage manager would whistle to the technicians. Someone whistling in the wrong spot would generally end up in them being fired.
The Scottish Play. Don’t do it. Saying “Macbeth” in a theatre is considered very bad luck. There are a few possible origins of this tale – involvement of witchcraft, that Shakespeare plays had lots of swordplay and people were more likely to get hurt, or that Macbeth is usually put on by struggling companies and your theatre could go bankrupt after that.
Lin-Manuel Miranda decided to dance around this rule in Hamilton – writing a letter to Angelica, he begins it:
My dearest Angelica
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
I hope you’ll get my reference to another Scottish tragedy
Without me having to name the play
They think me Macbeth
Ambition is my folly
Miranda said on Twitter that the curse only applies to when you refer to the play, not to the character itself. Hamilton‘s success says this is true.
It is bad luck to wish good luck. That’s why “break a leg” is used in its place. It’s not wishing the opposite on the actors, though, there’s a few reasons for this phrase. When an actor puts one leg behind the other and bends in a bow, they would “break” the line of their leg. There’s also an Elizabethan-era legend of audiences throwing money on stage to actors after a good performance, then they would bend down and pick up the money, once again, “breaking” the line of their legs.