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Theatre Superstitions

Discussion in 'Stage Management and Facility Operations' started by HighWattageKid92, Oct 7, 2008.

  1. HighWattageKid92

    HighWattageKid92 Member

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    I said to an actor I know "good luck" and some other actor comes up to me and goes "you *****hole" you dont say good luck to an actor you have to say break a leg. As a techie i say to all the techies in my school good luck and never once thought it would be that big of a deal. Is there a very special "code" of the actors i should know about or does it not matter if a techie says good luck instead of Break a leg?
     
  2. elite1trek

    elite1trek Active Member

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    Re: I was yelled at

    Actors are weird like that. I assume you are familiar with the M****** word.
     
  3. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Re: I was yelled at

    The answer is best stated as follows (from The Producers):

    ROGER:
    Ah, it's Bialystock and Bloom. Well, gentlemen ... merde!

    CARMEN:
    Toi, toi, toi

    FRANZ:
    Hals und Beinbruch!

    LEO:
    And I just want to wish everybody ... good luck!

    CARMEN:
    Ahhhhh!

    ROGER:
    Mr. Bloom, hasn't anyone ever told you...
    It's bad luck to say "good luck" on opening night
    If you do, I tell you
    It is certain by the curtain
    You are through!

    MAX:
    Good luck!

    CARMEN:
    It's bad luck to say "good luck" on opening night
    Once it's said, you are dead
    You will get the worst reviews
    You've ever read!

    MAX:
    Good luck!

    ROGER:
    Even at the Comedie-Francaise,
    On the opening night they are scared
    "Bon chance, mes amis", no one says
    The only word you ever hear is...

    ROGER, CARMEN & FRANZ:
    Merde!

    MAX:
    Good luck, good luck, good luck

    FRANZ:
    It's verboten, vishing "luck" on opening night
    Take advice, don't think twice
    Or your show will surely end
    Up in the Scheiss!

    MAX:
    Guten lucken.

    CARMEN:
    At the famous La Scala in Milan On opening night it's a rule
    "In boccu lupa" they say with elan
    And just for luck they all shout...

    ROGER, CARMEN & FRANZ:
    "Bah fongool!"

    LEO:
    I got it!
    Now I'll never say "good luck" on opening night
    That's the rule, I'm no fool!
    What do I say, I beg?

    ROGER, CARMEN & FRANZ:
    What you say is "break a leg"!

    LEO:
    Break a leg?

    ROGER, CARMEN & FRANZ:
    Yes, break a leg!

    LEO, ROGER, CARMEN & FRANZ:
    If you're clever...

    MAX:
    Good luck!

    LEO, ROGER, CARMEN & FRANZ:
    You'll endeavour
    To never, never, never, never
    Ever, ever, ever say...
    ...on opening night!​

    It is kinda like saying "Macbeth" in front of actors. In general most crews are not superstitious, though many believe in ghosts, so crews won't mind, but actors are just plain strange.
     
  4. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    Re: I was yelled at

    That's just standard superstition.

    Though really, I don't recall hearing "break a leg" recently (which could be good, since those hard legs are bothersome to repair time and time again), nor do I recall "good luck" either. I think it becomes understood between everyone that we all wish everyone the best, and we just do our jobs. And then make our way after performance to the cast party, where the celebration happens.

    But yeah, "good luck" to an actor = bad, as is the M word.
     
  5. philhaney

    philhaney CBMod CB Mods

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    Re: I was yelled at

    To some people it does not matter. However, I have found that most if not all of the time actors will get rather angry with you if you do not follow theatre tradition (or superstition). Crew members as well.

    Among them are:

    - Never say "good luck" instead always say "break a leg." I used to know the origin of this but have forgotten.

    - Never say "Macbeth." Always refer to it as "that Scottish play." Actors are very superstitious over this one. I was running sound for a production of "Lion in Winter." Before we opened the house one evening, an actor was rehearsing his lines on stage. He stepped up on a platform, held out a dagger in front of himself, and said "Macbeth." All eight or nine people (techies, actors, etc.) in the house turned in unison said, "What?" Well, that night, the lead went up skipping two pages in act one, a major prop broke, we had a lamp burn out in act two, etc.

    - Never whistle on stage unless it is part of the play. The reason for this is that most theatres were in sea ports. They were hemp houses, and they employed sailors ashore to run the rigging. The sailors would whistle commands to each other. So, whistling on stage was an open invitation to have a batten or sandbag fall on your head.

    However, as I am the flyman at my venue and I was in the Navy, I whistle on stage from time to time (except when I'm within ear shot of certain crew members as they really don't like it. I figure I can be a self-centered jerk or I can be polite. I choose polite).

    - Always leave one lamp on stage on at all times. This is the ghost light.

    - Don't break the fourth wall. This means never go from the stage to the house, or vice versa, by going through the invisible wall that would be there if the curtain was solid and the stage was a separate room from the house. Always go through a door backstage that leads into the house or a hallway that goes to the house. At one venue where I work, this means going out the back (stage) door and around to the front of the theatre (and yes, I do it, every time ;) ).
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2008
    dvsDave and (deleted member) like this.
  6. Pip

    Pip Active Member

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    Re: I was yelled at

    Haha what a great thread! Philhaney - fantastic post!

    We had something similar happen to us last year where an actor freaked out when one of us wished a fellow tech good luck on his show... So we started to saying "break a line set" as a tongue-in-cheek way to wish each other good luck/ make fun of the actors at the same time :p
     
  7. NickJones

    NickJones Active Member

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    Re: I was yelled at

    Hehe, yeah, the main thing to remember about all actors is they are all idiots.
     
  8. Sony

    Sony Active Member

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    Re: I was yelled at

    Why this is posted in Lighting and not General Advice is beyond me...

    It's just superstition, tell them to get the hell over it...
     
  9. Pip

    Pip Active Member

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    Re: I was yelled at

    Haha I wondered that too lol

    And yes. :)

    Woah! It was moved *right* as I posted this! xD
     
  10. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    Re: I was yelled at

    I hear it comes from the olden days (vaudeville maybe?) where the theatres had hard legs rather than velour, and in curtain call the flymen would bang the hard legs against the deck to add to the energy of the appaluding crowd. If you did really well, they broke some of the hard legs.

    I suppose you could translate it to modern lighting-speak as "blow a lamp" (or "blow an ACL"), for those Bump Button Bonus cues and curtain calls where you fire off stuff.

    Or I could have heard completely wrong, though I do believe it was at college I heard that from a reputable source.
     
  11. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    Re: I was yelled at

    If you do a Google search break a leg origin, you'll get a slew of possible origins. The one thing that most sources seem to agree on is that no one really knows the origin of the phrase.

    Now the origin story that I learned in college had to do with a 19th. century actress. I don't recall the name. Just before a performance, someone said "Good luck!" to her. During the performance, she fell and broke her leg. Hence the superstition regarding "Good Luck!" and the substitution with "Break a Leg".
     
  12. Pip

    Pip Active Member

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    That's interesting... Seems *slightly* far-fetched, but at the same time i can see how it would make sense... ^^
     
  13. WillowEllery

    WillowEllery Member

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    Re: I was yelled at

    Hm, I beg to differ. Without actors, tech would be out of a job, and without tech, actors would be out of a job. It's a symbiotic relationship. Don't call those people who make the techie craft possible idiots. :p


    As far as superstitions: don't walk under ladders, don't peek between the small splits in the curtains behind the actors to view what's going on from backstage, (got in trouble for both of those, because I did them when I was first starting out in drama in hs... lol.)

    There are other superstitions mentioned here.

    Theatrical superstitions - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     
  14. Pip

    Pip Active Member

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    Re: I was yelled at

    That's a good point. I definitely don't agree that actors are idiots. A bit crazy at times, yes, but I think you make a great point about the relationship between actors and techs.

    On the other hand - I walk under ladders all the time. I occasionally whistle on stage, blah blah blah, and I have had no problems with crazy random happenstance occurring in otherwise unexplainable ways... xD
     
  15. sk8rsdad

    sk8rsdad Well-Known Member Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    The origin story for "break a leg" that I learned isn't listed on the wikipedia article. I'm not saying it's a TRUE origin but it makes a good story...

    The term comes from vaudeville, where you did not get paid unless you performed. "Breaking a leg" means moving from the wings on to the stage. If an actor made it on stage they earned wages for the day.
     
  16. seanandkate

    seanandkate Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Yup. Back in vaudeville days, producers would always book more acts than the evening could accomodate (in case some acts got canned / boo-ed off, etc) so you would only get paid if you broke the the visual plane of the stage. ie got past the leg curtains and onto the stage. Hence: "break a leg" = "Hope you get onstage and actually get paid."
     
  17. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

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    For dancers (particularly ballet), "Merde" is used instead of "break a leg". (See the lyrics posted by Icewolf08, earlier in the thread.)

    [Merde is French for sh*t.]


    Joe
     
  18. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Re: I was yelled at

    An actie without technicians is a person standing naked, unheard, on a bare stage, in the dark, trying to emote. A technician without acties has marketable job skills.:twisted:

    Back to Sayings and Superstitions:
    Can anyone explain the meaning and origin of "making one's 'nut'" as it relates to theater?
     
  19. sk8rsdad

    sk8rsdad Well-Known Member Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    Re: I was yelled at

    The first sentiment is untrue. There are all sorts of entertainers who can manage to dress themselves and perform without benefit of technical support, buskers for example.

    The second expression probably evolved from "Make one's bones" which has been attributed to a rite of passage in organized crime by killing somebody, thereby earning a reputation.

    I am not sure how it relates to the theatre unless it involves over-tightening a cast c-clamp without a safety chain attached, thereby killing an innocent bystander below. :grin:
     
  20. Pip

    Pip Active Member

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    Re: I was yelled at

    Hahaha :rolleyes:
     

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