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Theater students ‘knock on wood’ with superstitions

Many theater students are avid believers in superstitions. Photo by Maddie Meilinger

Many have heard of the common superstitions: breaking a mirror or spilling salt or even a black cat walking past. What some may not know is that the theater is one of the most superstition oriented places in history.

Most have heard of the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare – students were required to read it sophomore year. Did you know that in the theater saying “Macbeth” is a huge superstition? Or did you know that most theater carry something called a ghost light to keep all of the negative spirits out of the building? How about the fact that you’re never supposed to bring a banana into a theater? These are all just a few of the many superstitions that all theater goers take seriously.

Erin Beatie, Bear River’s Theater Manager, described some of the many superstitions she has heard of.

“Many superstitions in theater are based off of practical reasoning,” she says. “For example, the need for a ghost light may mean that you are trying to keep a ghost from taking residence of the theater, but the practical reason behind it is so people who don’t know the space as well don’t get hurt while trying to turn on the lights. Or whistling meant someone would lose their job which dates back before headsets when cues happened via whistling.”

Junior Amber Bell listed some lesser known theater superstitions that she has heard of in the past.

“Don’t work under a ladder,” she said. “Don’t say the Scottish play and don’t bring a banana into the theater.”

The Scottish play? Mrs. Beatie explained that it is another name for Macbeth along with ‘The Bards Play’ in order to avoid saying the superstitious title. She continued to explain her own experiences with this superstition.

 “When it comes to The Bards Play, I have done the show once and, yes, someone got hurt,” she said. “Many of my theater friends have done the show as well and all seem to have their own horror story.”

All theater enthusiasts take these superstitions very seriously, but without proof, it’s hard to believe such a far-fetched belief. Well, according to Bell, something did take place during Bear River’s fall play, ‘Our Town’, two years ago.

“I’ve heard that Our Town was cursed … because someone said the Scottish play,” she said.

Both Freshman Gena Chavez, who is new to theater, and Senior Leo Jackson commented on their dedication to these superstitions.

“I believe in the Scottish play,” said Chavez. “ … Apparently someone said Macbeth in the theater and everyone ended up getting the stomach flu.”

“I believe in many superstitions, mainly the Macbeth one,” said Jackson. “I’ve seen how seriously people take it and I’ve seen it really happen, like … when someone in ‘Our Town’ said Macbeth and didn’t try to break it.”

To those who believe that superstitions are exactly that, an excessively credulous belief, Mrs. Beatie described the level of devotion many theater enthusiasts exemplify, which shouldn’t be ridiculed by others.

“Many theater people hold on to their superstitions tightly and take it very seriously, which (out of respect) is something you don’t mess around with,” she said. “To toy around with people who believe heavily in these matters is simply not a funny matter and causes unnecessary drama, distraction, and anger for cast and crew alike. Even if you don’t believe in these superstitions, you should understand that many exist for practical reasons that assist in keeping people safe. So if a small superstition is all it takes for someone to remember safer practices, than spread the word!  Safety is really the most important thing for all of us regardless of the profession.”

All of those in theater wish to inform you of these superstitions, and hope with the knowledge of what they can cause, you will take heed and never say Macbeth or even bring a banana into the theater.

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Theater students ‘knock on wood’ with superstitions