It’s Not Just Break a Leg

 
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    February 3, 2011 at 6:00 am

    I don’t know about you guys but I’ve heard that theater folk are kind of a weird bunch.  It’s not all that surprising is it?  But what I didn’t know is that along with the “break a leg” superstition there are many more out there that many people in the stage acting field adhere to.

    I decided to choose five that particularly stuck out.  Weird stuff man….weird stuff.

    The Unlucky Rule of Three


    Superstition: Having three lit candles onstage is bad luck.

    While it is adhering to the ‘rule of three’ having lit three candles on stage is considered bad luck, it is said that the person nearest to the shortest candle will be the next to marry, or the next to die. Before electric lights were commonplace in theater, the stage was lit by candles, although this is not the origin of the superstition – the unlucky candles had to be on the stage (i.e. – part of the set). Logic prevails on this one as with dim lighting, busy people and highly flammable fresh paint on the set, you are running the risk of burning down the theater

    Peacock Feathers


    Superstition: Peacock Feathers should never be brought on stage, either as a costume element, prop or part of a set as chaos will ensue.

    Many veteran thespians tell stories of sets collapsing, curtains catching alight and other disastrous events during performances with peacock feathers. The feather is said to represent a malevolent ‘evil eye’, that bestows a curse on the show. The association between peacock feathers and the evil eye is best illustrated by the Greek myth of Argus, the monster whose body was covered with a hundred eyes, these eyes were transferred to the tail of the Peacock.

    Graveyard Gift


    Superstition: It’s considered good luck traditionally to give the director and/or the leading lady, after closing night, a bouquet of flowers stolen from a graveyard (never give flowers before a performance – They are yet to earn them so it’s bad luck!)

    Graveyard flowers are given on closing night to symbolize the death of the show, and that it can now be put to rest. The rational origin is that theater was, as most people who have worked in the industry will tell you, never a greatly profitable profession and despite being macabre, graves were a great source of free flowers.

    Mirrors on Stage


    Superstition: It is bad luck to have mirrors on stage.

    The myth is that many believe that mirrors are a reflection of the soul and breaking one can mean seven years bad luck, not only for the breaker but for the theater itself. However, having a mirror on stage can cause technical issues, such as reflecting light into the audience or into places never intended to be lit. It can also be a source of distraction for vain actors. The mirror superstition has since been challenged with the successful musical Chorus Line, and its famous mirror scene.

    Good Luck


    Superstition: To wish someone ‘Good luck’ before a show is bad luck.

    Generally, it is considered bad luck to wish someone good luck in a theater, the expression “Break a Leg” replaces the phrase “Good luck”. There are many theories of the origin of this superstition of wishing luck to the actors, but here are a few:

    – After a good performance during Elizabethan England, actors were thrown money on the stage and they would kneel down to collect the money thus ‘breaking’ the line of the leg.

    – Similarly, for the curtain call, when actors bow or curtsy, they place one foot behind the other and bend at the knee, thus ‘breaking’ the line of the leg.

    – If the audience demands numerable curtain calls and the actors are moving on and off stage via the wings they may ‘break the legs’, ‘legs’ being a common name for side curtains/masks.

     
     
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