Superstitions of Actors and Actresses

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Actors can certainly be considered “birds of a different feather.”  Here are some eccentricities that actors have been known to show on a regular and even a compulsive basis.

It is considered bad luck to wear yellow onstage during a performance.  No one really knows where this one came from, however, it is true that the color yellow appears white when it is illuminated with stage lights with colored filters.  This of course presents huge headaches for the costume department.

Whether by tradition of by fear, most actors will seldom refer to Shakespeare’s play MacBeth by it real name.  It is usually referred to as “The Scottish Play” because of the unlucky history of flops and mishaps that are believed to be associated with a curse that plague productions of the play.

Tell an actor to “break a leg” instead of wishing them good luck before a performance.  Since wishing someone luck is considered bad luck, wishing someone bad luck is in reality wishing them good luck.  By telling someone to break a leg, while hoping they really don’t, is actually a blessing.  Confusing isn’t it?

The ancient expression”Merde” is often said to ward off bad luck.  It is thought to bring good luck before a performance, and is often said after a mishap while dressing or before going onstage.  Merde is actually an ancient expletive that was certainly not positive, but the logic in this one follows that behind “break a leg.”

It is never acceptable to whistle in the dressing room.  Doing so is thought to ensure a bad performance.  If it is done accidentally, they only way to counteract it is to run out of the dressing room, turn around three times and say “merde.”

If you are going to see a friend perform in a play, you are obligated by “stage etiquette” to visit them backstage afterward.  You are also expected to tell them how much you liked their performance.  Incidently, you are also expected to lie to them if you didn’t like their acting.

When an actor is backstage waiting to perform, it is considered bad luck to have someone look at them.  There could be some merit to this, considering the fact that having someone stare is a sure way to be distracted from what someone needs to be thinking about.

Although actors are known to sneak a peak through a peephole in the curtain (most theatres have them), it is considered bad luck to be told who is in the audience.  It makes actors nervous if they are told that friends, critics, or important people are there to watch their performance.

Rituals can also be comforting.  Actor Jack Lemmon always spoke the same line before he went onstage or did a “take” in a film.  He would always say “It’s magic time.”


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