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Theatre Superstitions

October 15, 2012

I hate to bring it up, but there’s no use pretending that superstition in the theatre doesn’t exist, as someone tried to convince me in the coffee shop just the other day. Unsuccessfully, I might add. The fact is, theatre folk are at least as superstitious as professional athletes, maybe more, and believe you me, that’s saying something.

Yet my friend remained unconvinced. He has heard, of course, of “this whole Macbeth business,” as he called it. So have you and I and everyone else. That’s the reason we never, ever say the “M word” in the theatre. If we have to mention Shakespeare’s masterpiece at all, we refer to it mostly as “the Scottish play.”

Leaning across the cluttered table and speaking in a stage whisper that was clearly meant to be heard all the way to the counter, my friend said: “That’s one. What else have you got?”

What else have I got? “Don’t get me started,” I replied, and then, in less time than it takes to say “Plain bagel, toasted, with peanut butter, please, and a small coffee with cream,” I had rattled off about half a dozen. Here they are, in no particular order, and with one proviso: Don’t ask for explanations, just follow the rules!

1. When you’re at the box office buying tickets, do not complain bitterly (or at all) when you’re told that you can’t buy tickets for Monday’s show. There is no Monday show. On Mondays, the theatre is dark. It is widely assumed this has something to do with contractual agreements between theatre managers and the people they hire to produce plays. This is merely a cover. The reason is that every theatre is haunted by a ghost, and ghosts demand to have the theatre all to themselves for one night of every week. God only knows what they do with it. I’m afraid to ask.

2. Avoid the temptation to send flowers to the director or the actors before the performance. I know you mean well, but let’s face it, they haven’t earned it yet. Flowers before curtain have known to trigger disaster. Save them for after the show.

3. If you see anyone on the stage who is wearing something blue, report it immediately to the nearest usher. That is, of course, unless this person is also wearing something silver. Please take note of the distinction. It’s important. Silver suggests affluence, you see, whereas blue (not red) has long been associated with theatres that aren’t doing so well at the box office.

4. Same rule applies if you see peacock feathers onstage, be it as a prop or an accessory to a costume. Failure to remove peacock feathers from the stage could (and probably would) result in a variety of technical failures. I think it has something to do with the evil eye.

5. Not that Ruth Smillie would let you get away with it, but please, please, please refrain from whistling in the theatre. (Not even on nights when she isn’t there. Trust me. Word will get back to her.) This isn’t hockey and we aren’t Russians. Superstition has it, whistling in the theatre will result in someone being fired. Yikes!

6. Theatre being theatre, it is bad luck to wish someone good luck. Use “break a leg” instead. Go figure.

“Well,” my friend said, one eye on his watch, the other on the exit. “I’m impressed.”

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Globe Theatre website at www.globetheatrelive.com.

Nick Miliokas is a freelance writer and editor based in Regina. You can reach him by email at rozenstern@rocketmail.com.

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