Hello again, readers, and Happy October!
I love this spooky time of year and despite the fact the leaves never change in Houston, there’s still a slight change in the temperature to remind us that it is autumn. Adding to the spirit of all things frightful, TUTS will begin their new season next week with the opening of Jekyll & Hyde the Musical. The thrilling musical is based on the Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella, "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and probes into the good and evil of the human psyche. The theatre is the perfect place to tell a haunting tale like Jekyll and Hyde because it is steeped in history of ghost stories and eerie superstitions.
Theatre superstitions originated centuries ago and may seem silly, but the traditions carry on even today. Did you know you should never tell a performer “good luck” before a performance? It sounds like a kind phrase of well wishes but it can actually cause an adverse affect. Instead you should say, “Break a leg.” Another thing you should never do is whistle backstage. Many years ago, theatres would hire out-of-work sailors to run the fly loft, or the area of ropes to hold scenery and backdrops. Because they were a whiz at knots and ropes, sailors were an ideal tech crew for early theatres. The best way for these guys to communicate with each other during the show was to whistle signals and cues. If somebody else were to whistle it could confuse the fly loft workers and a set could accidently get changed, or worse, hit the actor with a falling sandbag!
Ever wonder why TUTS or other theatres do not perform shows on Monday nights? It was believed years ago that any ghost who inhabits a theatre needs at least one night a week to have a chance to perform on their own. Traditionally this has always been on a Monday which conveniently gives actors a day off after a full weekend of performances. When the theatre is left empty, a “ghost light” is always left burning and placed downstage center, or near the edge of the stage. Just like the name implies, it is a light left in the theatre for ghosts who feel the need to perform. If you fail to leave the light on, strange and unexplainable mishaps begin to happen. More than likely the origins of a ghost light developed to prevent people from tripping over the sets and getting hurt.
Here are a few additional superstitions:
- It is bad luck to wear the color blue onstage, unless it was countered with something silver.
- Never use real money or jewelry on stage.
- Having three lit candles onstage is bad luck.
- It is bad luck to have mirrors on stage. (Possibly debunked with the success of A Chorus Line!)
- Avoid using peacock feathers on costumes, props or set pieces.
- Saying the word ‘Macbeth’ in a theater will result in extreme bad luck. Theater folk avoid using it, referring to the play as ‘The Scottish Play’
- The cast should not practice their bows until they feel they truly deserve them.
- Never wear brand-new stage makeup on opening night.
- Shoes and hats should never be placed on tables or chairs inside the dressing rooms.
- Always exit the dressing room with your left foot first.
Have you ever heard any ghost stories happening in a theatre? What do you think about the above mentioned rituals and superstitions?
Until next time,