Theatre superstitions

I’m in theatre and its common knowledge that theatre folk are rather superstitious. For example, and my topic, we say “the Scottish play” instead of “Macbeth” because according to theatre tradition, witches cursed the play and saying the name of it in a theatre causes mishaps. Also, one of the remedies to saying the name in the theatre is to leave, spin around three times, spit, curse, and then knock on the door. What do you all think about it? Do you think the curse is real?

thank you!!

edit: I still say Macbeth, but only outside a theatre, as per tradition

Just call it macbeth I always have.

Catholics don’t believe in that sort of stuff. Be better if you say a pray before for God’s help.


Another fond West Wing memory except the word that could not be spoken was “recession”, turning, spitting, cursing were all required.


Superstitions are a pet peeve of mine.

Once when we were in Poland, I shook hands with a friend of my "ex-"wife through a doorway. She told me not to do that, it’s bad luck.

In a moment of pique and weakness, I replied by blurting out an equine barnyard expletive. Shouldn’t have done that, but it just struck me the wrong way.

No bad luck ensued.

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:smiley: It took me a few seconds to work it out. I have never heard it called that before. :smiley:

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Is the play cursed? Most certainly not. Is it okay to follow the theatre ‘superstitions’? Possibly, as long as you don’t actually view them as having any magical power and instead do them out of tradition of the art and camaraderie with your cast mates, in which case it’s probably fine.

The ‘counter curse’ to saying Macbeth does sound rather silly though.


Sounds pretty harmless to me. Good conversation starter though. :slight_smile:

The first word was “horse”, whereas “bull” is more customary. Just ask President Trump. (I was not expecting him to drop that bomb during his speech yesterday on TV! Not necessarily sinful, just unpresidential.)

I spent many years in the theatre business. Here are some superstitions that I remember…

Never whistle in the box office. It’s bad luck. I have actually been chased out of a box office for whistling by the Ticket Manager.

When the Stage Manager calls “places” or lets the actors in the dressing room know that they have “X-minutes to places,” everyone answers, “Thank you.” It is considered to be bad luck to do otherwise. The reason for responding is that the Stage Manager needs to know that all actors are in “place” (i.e., in the dressing room regardless of whether they are going on stage immediately or not). If they do not respond, it means that they are not in the dressing room - which could mean trouble for show and a substitute will have to be found. In modern theatre, the Stage Manager seldom if ever enters the dressing room to call “places” - it’s now generally done on an intercom. Nonetheless, the actors will still call out “Thank You” even if it the message comes over the intercom. It is considered to be less than professional (bad luck) to do otherwise.

There are a number of so-called “bad luck plays” besides Macbeth in the history of theatre. I remember doing a play by Carlo Goldoni (I believe it was “Servant of Two Masters” which was considered to be a bad luck play - mainly because several of the lead actors had died or were injured shortly after the original performance back in the 1700’s). This, I was told by the director of our performance (I was interviewing him for our PR effort before the play was staged), that this was something which must “never be spoken - it will bring bad luck!” It is my understanding that there are many of such plays and operas.

Never give flowers to a performer before the performance. It’s bad luck. If you must give flowers, wait until the curtain call.

Never turn off the “Ghost Light” on stage. Every theatre has a single bulb lamp illuminating the stage which is to remain on at all times. I suspect that in the pre-electric days, that lamp would’ve used gas which could be highly volatile. Don’t mess with the lamp (i.e., don’t burn down the house).

On the subject of lighting, it is a fact that in a Union house (IATSE), the House Management is only allowed to touch certain specific light switches, and the IA folks will cause havoc if the House activates any lights that are under their purview. Turning on the wrong lights by the wrong people could end up becoming a labor dispute.

There’s lots of other stuff like this, but this is all I can remember for now. I’ll come back with some more if they come back to me.

Break a leg!


I have read Richmond Noble and some works of Wilson Knight , and I think that Macbeth is a kind of - - Book of Revelation.
I dream to find some full dictionary-book or commentary-book on Macbeth.
But Shakespeare was a Christian.
Yes, the human beings are not studied till the end, I would be more scared to perform on Friedrich Nitsche, or Gioethe’s - “Faust” , than on “Macbeth” :grin:
Shakespeare’s demonology is looser, and Good has victory over Bad.

When shall we three meet again in thunder lightning or in rain when the hurlyburly’s done when the battles lost and won that will be ere the set of sun where the place upon the heath there to meet with Macbeth I come Graymalkin! Anon fair is foul and foul is fair hover we through the did I forget the line (voice to text)

Fair is foul and foul is fair hover through the fog and filthy air. Nailed it.

I don’t think the curse is real and there is nothing wrong with saying “Macbeth” You can go ahead and say it. :slight_smile:

I was familiar with the Macbeth superstition but the ghost light is new to me, as is the one about whistling in the Box Office — and I actually work in one.

Personally, I’d respect theatre tradition and my fellow actors and not say it. Just because you don’t believe in the superstition doesn’t mean you have a right to stress out other performers who do.


That is true. It isn’t fair to be rude to the other actors. :slight_smile:

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I heard of a superstition where you go to a theater ALONE, you do some ritual ( no horror stuff, just say some words, and not open your eyes) SUPPOSEDLY if you do it right you will become VERY lucky…BUT…you must NEVER return to THAT theater…or you will suffer a HORRIBLE faith

Do you “Paper the House” when ticket sales are not doing well? Papering the House is a strategy for selecting seats at the point of sale that will visually spread the audience around rather than to have a show where the audience looks like the house is empty (or emptier) than it needs to be. What this means is that, sometimes, a late-comer can get some of the best seats in the house. If the show isn’t selling well and it’s an opening night, we would paper the house to make sure the newspaper reviewers wouldn’t think that the the show is a stinker. The box offices I worked at used to do this regularly (unfortunately). Also, we used to always set Press seats (always two, even if only one person shows up, “just in case”) on the aisle so that our newspaper reporters could get out fast at the end of the show. Often their deadline was midnight and, if a show went until, say, 10:30, they didn’t get much time to write a review. Better to get 'em out than stand 'em up. Posting a review in the pre-computer days was a lot more difficult than it is today.

God bless!

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