This Friday the 13th will you be spotted dodging black cats? Will you be caught hunting out a second magpie to pair with that first mischievous one that flies into your eyeline? Going out of your way to avoid walking under a ladder perhaps?
Friday the 13th, along with all elements related to that dastardly number 13 is traditionally seen as an unlucky day. Millions are lost annually across the global economy on this day due to superstitious folk refusing to fly, make big business deals or buy property. Similar to the way many hotels omit a thirteenth floor and how additional numbers were tacked onto the end of car registrations in Ireland in 2013, generally even rational minded folks don’t like to take risks when it comes to potential bad luck.
Those who work in theatre are particularly superstitious, with a long list of serious “Don’ts” in existence that you should bear in mind when working on a play, no matter what day it may be.
Break a Leg
Wondering why your good luck wish was met with a killer death stare? In this eccentric realm of theatre it is bad luck to wish good luck. “Break a Leg” is deemed a more acceptable salutation – the origin of which is said to come from the act of bowing at the curtain call (you bend your knee or “break a leg” to do so).
Do you dare take the risk of suffering the wrath of a ghost? Well keep on their good side by leaving them a light to perform their own plays under, during the dead of the night. Many theatres will keep a single bulb lighting on stage so as not to hinder paranormal performances.
The presence of ghosts is also cited as a reason for closing the theatre one night a week – not to give the actors a rest, but rather to give those spirits their time to shine!
Whistle while you work – at your peril.
In the mid-seventeenth century theatres really began to up their game with the appearance of more elaborate set pieces. With the advent of this came the need for ample bodies to rig them out – quite often sailors fit the bill, and with them came their sea-faring habits. As on a ship the sailors would communicate in the theatre through whistling, thus if any unsuspecting actor crosses the stage whistling, they could find a set-piece flying in their direction. Now that’s bad luck if ever I heard it.
There’s no money in theatre (or jewellery for that matter).
It is thought to be unlucky to use real money or jewellery on the stage. Hence the term “Costume Jewellery”. There are a few theories as to why, with the leading one being that it began to prevent theft from the prop table!
Bad Dress, Great Opening.
Whether the theory of a bad dress rehearsal foretelling a good opening night is reverse psychology or not, this is one theatre superstition that has been bandied about for years.
You don’t give me Flowers
It’s considered unlucky to give an actor flowers before the show opens – one must always hold off until the end. The theory behind this one is that the flowers have yet to be earned.
Knock me down with a feather…
In one of the more obscure theatrical superstitions, some people believe that peacock feathers should never be brought on stage as a costume or a prop. Many veteran actors and directors have chilling tales of sets collapsing and other such events during performances with peacock feathers. Luckily it hasn’t had a negative effect on one of our much loved Dublin performance spaces – The Peacock.
Avoid the Blues.
It is considered to be bad luck to wear the colour blue onstage – this stems from how expensive is was to make blue clothers in the early days of costume.
This could be seen as an act of desperation rather than a superstition. Can sleeping with a script under your pillow help you learn your lines faster? Although it most certainly doesn’t feature on the Gaiety School of Acting curriculum, age old theatrical superstition stands by this technique of line-learning.
The Scottish Play
Need we say more – the title of this famous Shakespearean play must NEVER be uttered in a theatre!
We asked our Gaiety School staff what superstitions they adhere to in theatre or otherwise.
Patrick Sutton, director of the school, will never place new shoes on a table and abides by the “no whistling in a theatre” rule.
Karen Lee, Coordinator, would religiously wear earphones right up until the curtain is raised. Initially a practicality to block out the noise of the audience grew into a ritual!
Leanna Cuttle, Coordinator, never EVER puts an umbrella up inside and will not walk under a ladder if she can avoid it.
Happy Friday the 13th – and if you have a show opening (on a Friday? Dear god no, never on a Friday, it’s bad luck.) break a leg!