There have been a range of different myths and superstitions that have plagued theatre for many years. Most stemming from the olden days of theatre, it’s surprising to see that some of these myths are still alive and well.
Thespians can be surprisingly superstitious folk, this could be as they were trained to be that way, or just a clutch for anything that could prevent mishaps on stage. Regardless of why, there are some pretty strange superstitions which are ongoing until today.
Trio Of Candles
In the past years of theatre, lighting candles on stage was never considered a great move. The fire risk was generally considered to be a risk which just wouldn’t be worth the potential atmosphere it granted. It’s understandable that myths would slowly have stemmed against the use of open fire on stage, but that isn’t what became of it.
The myth is to never have three candles lit on stage together. According to the superstition, the person who stands closest to the shortest candle in the trio of lit candles, will die first. It is difficult to understand why particularly three candles is the issue, and there remains no way to find out as the source of this myth is long forgotten.
Whistling backstage is one of the biggest superstitions around today. No matter who you are or why you are backstage, whistling is a sure way to get yourself in a fair amount of trouble. It may seem pointless, and it is pointless today, but this superstition has solid roots and was very logical in years gone by. In old theatre before prop movement and lifting was automated, everything was done by lifters who would rig the props and lift or drop them as needed.
To keep the riggers out of sight, pulley systems were used, meaning the riggers often had no direct view of the stage. To communicate actions and keep time, riggers would communicate by whistling. A whistle at the wrong moment could have resulted in a sandbag or prop being lowered directly into a scene, or worse, onto an actor. It’s no longer relevant today, but the superstition against whistling remains strong.
Bad Rehearsal Means Good Opening
A common and still very prevalent myth is that having a bad final rehearsal will result in a great opening night. This superstition seems to be more wishful thinking than anything else. There have been coincidences throughout the years to prove this true, but in the same vein there have been just as many when opening night hasn’t gone exactly as planned.
The superstition itself is probably for the best, as it will hopefully help ease the nerves of actors and actresses. Having everybody on stage being calm and confident will likely result in a better performance.
A light is commonly left on to either ward off or appease the ghost of Thespis who is in all theatres of the world. While it may seem silly, this superstition has good roots in obvious safety.