Do you consider yourself a superstitious person? Do you worry about events that fall on Friday the 13th, or perhaps black cats or stepping on a crack in fear of breaking your mother’s back? If this describes you, then you may fit in well with theater lovers. Historically, there are a number of superstitions that are commonly believed, or at least discussed, when it comes to theater. In fact, you may follow some of these yourself even if you aren’t headed to the theater. For example, have you ever told someone to “break a leg” when they were headed to a big event? That superstitious saying stemmed from the fear of actors hearing “good luck” before a performance believing that evil theater spirits would do the opposite of the words they heard spoken. Let’s take a look at a few other common superstitions that haunt theaters to this day.
- The Ghost Light – Once the lights come on in a theater everything is illuminated and bright, but prior to that time or after the show is over, theaters can be a dark and scary place. The Ghost Light is known today to help guide the first and last person in and out of the theatre, especially in the dark. The ghost light tradition is to leave a single lit bulb upstage center when the theater is empty. Not only is it meant to ward off mischievous specters, but it also allows the stage managers, crewmembers, and actors to find the light switch when entering a vacant theater so that they don’t break their necks while crossing the totally dark stage.
- Bad Dress Rehearsal, Good Opening – Many stage actors swear that a bad dress rehearsal portends a great opening night. This superstition’s origins are not clear, but maybe a producer or director trying to boost a cast’s morale, but it’s a comforting concept when the final dress goes horribly wrong.
- Broken Mirror is Bad Luck – We all know of the superstition that breaking a mirror is seven years bad luck. It is believed that breaking a mirror on stage will cause seven years of misfortune for a theatre. Reflections from mirrors can also be distracting for lights, actors, and audience members.
- Blue and Silver – It is bad luck to wear the color blue onstage, unless it was countered with something silver. In the earliest days of theater costuming, it was extremely difficult to make blue dye, and thus expensive to purchase. So blue costumes were countered with silver, thus proof of the success of a theater company.