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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Wish us "Break a Leg!"

Today is our first big Theatre Competition for our competition show. The kids are really excited and the process has been relatively low stress.. (Isn't it wierd that when you are ttc the usual "stressful stuff" seems easy?)

Anyway.. we will meet at the school today at8:45... Leave for contest at 10:15... stop for breakfast on the way... get in our dressing room at noon... have our "official- one hour technical rehearsal at 1:45... rest... get ready... lots of old age make-up and great hair... and finally we perform at 8 PM... Awards and critiques at 10... and hopefullly back to the school by 12 AM........WHAT A LONG DAY to spend with 20 high school kids!!!! But they are GREAT kids and we will have a BLAST!

So wish us "break a leg" today!
If we win tonight we will go on to district next week!

Here is a fun list of other theatre superstitions that my students loooove... just thought I would share it with you...

Super SuperstitiousBy Heather Fagans Drama Correspondent

Does it ever seem like some theatre superstitions come from out of nowhere? Test your knowledge of theatre superstition origins by reading the list of superstitions below and guessing how they originated, then check your answers in the list that follows. Finally, correct any theatre blunder by checking out the advice for fixing any theatre faux pas. Enjoy!

The Superstitions List:

1. No mentioning the "Scottish Play" in a theatre or while talking about theatre. Actual recitations from that particular play can cause even more consternation, especially the bit with the three witches. (I still have a hard time mentioning it by name AT ALL!)

2. No whistling in a theatre, especially backstage.

3. When baby dolls are off stage during performance, set them face down on the props table instead of face up.

4. Never look over someone's shoulder at them in a mirror.

5. Never actually knit onstage.

6. Don't use peacock feathers onstage.

7. Don't use yellow in sets or green in costumes unless absolutely necessary.

8. Always leave the ghost light on.

9. Tripping before an entrance or backstage in general is good luck.

10. Canes good. Crutches bad.

11. Never say the last line in the play until opening night.

12. NEVER wish an actor "Good Luck!"... the proper way to bless an actor is by saying "Break a Leg!"
And, of course, the usual superstitions carry even greater weight (walking under ladders, spilling salt, etc.) except for black cats. They're good luck.

Not to mention the resident ghosts that all theatres seem to have and the individual peculiar things you could do to anger them. For instance, my college theatre was haunted by a little boy named Tommy who had fallen to his death from the grid over the audience (while no one was there). One of my professors had the dubious luck of finding the body.... Anyway, unless you asked him nicely not to, or left a ball in the hallway to the dressing rooms for him to play with (he was, after all, only about 10 when he died), he would enthusiastically help you move set pieces during performance or refocus the lights.

The Reasons (Respective to the List):

1. Apparently the first performance was positively riddled with tragic accidents, mistakes, etc., so that the mere mention became enough to strike horror in the hearts of production companies everywhere. I can actually attest to things that have inexplicably happened to shows when someone has said The Name.

2. Some people believe that whistling attracts evil spirits, boggums, gremlins and faeries to come in and wreak havoc with your production. In fact, whistling used to be the signal of "all clear" for the rigger to drop in the sand bags for checking and re-filling between shows. So you can see how whistling on stage could be construed as a dangerous occupation (whistling also used to be used for calling cues up to the fly operators during performance. Same thing goes - if you whistle, calling the wrong cue, you could be beaned by a baton).

3. The baby doll one actually comes from China - it is believed that if the baby doll is left face up, its spirit (kinda like a poltergeist) will emerge from its eyes and do poltergeist-like things in the theatre. We had a guy from the Peking White Opera who was absolutely fanatical about this one.
4. This can cause bad luck to the person you look at - usually sickness or death (possibly related to the idea that the undead have no reflection).

5. Knitting will entangle the production. Think of the Fates weaving the Tapestry.

6. Anything with an eye (peacock feathers) will attract the notice of the Evil Eye to the production.

7. Yellow in sets and green in costumes represented Satan in the old Miracle plays.

8. So the ghosts can see, of course! The reason most theatres are "dark" (not performing) on Mondays or at least one day a week is because it used to be called the Ghost Night - the night when the ghosts could perform their plays. The more practical reason is so anyone entering the dark theatre doesn't accidentally fall off the stage.

9. Who knows. Maybe because you've therefore gotten it out of your system. But if you trip on the hem of your costume (as opposed to anything else) you need to kiss it for good luck.

10. Canes indicate success and health; crutches failure and serious injury.

11. The play is not complete until an audience is present, so you can't "complete" it until opening night!

12. Origin: "Break a leg" is sourced in superstition. It is a wish of good luck, but the words wish just the opposite. It was once common for people to believe in Sprites. Sprites are actually spirits or ghosts that were believed to enjoy wreaking havoc and causing trouble. If the Sprites heard you ask for something, they were reputed to try to make the opposite happen. Telling someone to "break a leg" is an attempt to outsmart the Sprites and in fact make something good happen. Sort of a medieval reverse psychology. Of course it has became a popular wish of luck
for theater performers.

General Cure-All for Theatrical Faux Pas:
Having done the aforementioned, one good way to "reverse the curse," so to speak, is:

1. Exit the theatre (to outside, not the lobby).

2. Walk around it three times (or, if impractical [like in an amphitheatre] spin around three times). (three being a lucky number)

3. Whistle (or sing or hum). (This is to attract the faeries and bad spirits.)

4. Recite Puck's last speech from Midsummer Night's Dream (i.e., "If these spirits have offended/Think but this and all is mended...." and so on).

5. Then knock three times and ask nicely for permission to re-enter the theatre.

I've also heard spitting is good, but honestly, it's never worked for me....


Blogger Jen said...

Break as many legs as necessary! What show are you doing?

Hope your kids behave themselves and have a good show!

7:31 AM  
Blogger Pusillanimous Wanker said...

Hey, thatnks for this list! My wife and I have been involved for a long time, but I had not heard most of these.

Anyway . . . Break a Leg, indeed!

9:01 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

How cool. I've always wondered where these superstitions came from.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous oliviadrab said...

I was a drama major for three years and had never heard most of these. Wow, how cool. Thanks for the list!

Break a leg tonight!!

4:28 PM  
Blogger Lesley said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:35 PM  
Blogger Lesley said...

Jamie, sorry about the double post.. Anyway, I deleted the first so you did not think you were going mad. lol Break A leg girl!
I wish you luck and hope to hear more about it. I loved the superstioions and all.. I did not know them all. Very informative and funny! Have a good one. Hope your feeling good too.
Hugs from Lesley

4:38 PM  

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