What Are You Not Supposed to Say in a Theater? Unspoken Rules You Need to Know

When it comes to theater etiquette, there are a few things that one should avoid saying in order to not disturb the performers or other audience members. One of the most well-known taboos is speaking the name Macbeth while inside a theater. However, there are a few other phrases that should also be avoided:
  • Any form of cellphone use – this includes texting, taking photos, or answering calls.
  • Excessive talking – whispering is fine, but full-on conversations should be reserved for before or after the show.
  • Noise-making – rustling food wrappers, crinkling candy bags, or unwrapping cough drops can be incredibly distracting, so try to open any concessions before the show starts.
  • Criticizing a performer or the production during the show – even if you don’t like what you’re seeing, it’s important to respect the hard work that goes into putting on a show.
  • Leaving or arriving late – while sometimes unavoidable, it’s best to try and get to the theater early and settle in before the performance starts.
  • By following these simple rules, you can help ensure that you and the other audience members can fully enjoy the performance and appreciate the hard work that goes into creating a theater production.

    The Superstition Surrounding Shakespeare’s Macbeth

    If you’ve ever worked in the arts or have a friend who has, you’re probably aware that uttering the phrase Macbeth inside a theatre is not permitted when one is performing or is in the middle of the production of Shakespeare’s dark drama. Many people believe that it invites bad luck or even catastrophe. The superstition is so strong that many theatre professionals refer to the play as The Scottish play instead of using its actual title. The origins of the superstition are unclear, but there are several possible explanations. One theory is that Shakespeare included real spells in the three witches’ dialogue, and uttering those words inside a theatre can summon evil spirits. Another theory is that the play has a history of disasters, including deaths and fires during performances. Whatever the reason, theatre artists take the superstition seriously and go to great lengths to avoid saying the name of the play out loud.
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    Words and Phrases That Are Banned in Theatres

    The Macbeth superstition is not the only one in the theatre world. In fact, there are several words and phrases that are considered taboo and are banned inside theatres. Here are some examples:
    • Whistling: It is said to bring bad luck and should not be done in a theatre, especially during a performance or rehearsal.
    • Break a leg: This phrase is used as a way to wish someone good luck before a performance, but it is considered bad luck to say good luck directly. Instead, theatre professionals use break a leg.
    • The French play Voltaire: This play is believed to have been cursed since its debut in the 18th century. Many productions have experienced accidents, injuries, and even death, leading to a widespread belief that uttering the play’s name brings bad luck.
    These are just a few examples of the many theatre superstitions that exist. They may seem strange or irrational to some, but to theatre professionals, they are taken very seriously.

    The Origins of Theatre Superstitions

    Theatre superstitions have been around for centuries and are rooted in history and folklore. In ancient Greece, for example, actors would pray to Dionysus, the god of theatre, before performances to ensure a successful show. In Elizabethan England, where Shakespeare’s plays were first performed, there was a belief in witchcraft and the supernatural, and many superstitions arose from these beliefs. Superstitions were also practical in nature. Many early theatres were constructed quickly and with little regard for safety, leading to frequent fires and collapses. As a result, theatre professionals developed superstitions around anything that might contribute to accidents, such as whistling or the use of real swords in fight scenes.
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    Historic Examples of Theatre Curses and Their Effects

    Theatre curses and superstitions have been blamed for a number of historical disasters. In 1847, for example, the Astor Place Riot broke out in New York City during a production of Macbeth. The play had been so popular that two rival productions were being staged on the same night. Audience members of one production, incensed by the competing show, began throwing stones and chairs at the other theatre. The riot resulted in 25 deaths and more than 120 injuries. Another famous curse is that of the drama critic Kenneth Tynan. In 1963, Tynan wrote a scathing review of the musical Oh! Calcutta! and declared that the show would run forever if it could survive its opening night. The show opened on June 17, 1969, and did indeed run for several years…but Tynan himself died on that very same day.

    How Theatre Superstitions Are Passed Down Through Generations

    Theatre superstitions are often passed down from older theatre professionals to younger generations. Aspiring theatre artists learn to respect the traditions and superstitions of their craft from mentors and peers. This passing down of traditions helps to keep theatre culture alive and thriving. Some superstitions are also reinforced by the camaraderie and teamwork required for theatre productions. Theatre professionals rely heavily on one another, and superstitions help to foster a sense of community and shared experience. By adhering to these traditions, actors, directors, and technicians feel connected to those who came before them and to their fellow theatre artists.

    The Importance of Respecting Theatre Traditions

    Theatre superstitions may seem silly to some, but they are an important part of theatre culture. They help to build a sense of community and history among theatre professionals, and they remind us of the risks and dangers inherent in live performance. By respecting these traditions, we pay tribute to the generations of theatre artists who came before us and help to ensure the success and longevity of our art form.
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    It’s important to remember that theatre is about more than just entertainment or making money. It’s about creating an experience for the audience and for the artists themselves. By respecting the traditions and superstitions of our craft, we can continue to create meaningful and impactful theatre for generations to come.

    Exploring the Psychology Behind Theatre Superstitions

    While theatre superstitions may seem irrational, they are rooted in human psychology. Studies have shown that people tend to believe in superstitions when they feel powerless or uncertain. In the case of theatre professionals, the uncertainty and unpredictability of live performance can create feelings of anxiety and vulnerability. Superstitions help to provide a sense of control and security in an otherwise uncertain environment. Superstitions can also serve as a form of group cohesion. Theatre professionals work long hours in close proximity to one another, and the shared experience of adhering to superstitions can create a sense of camaraderie and mutual support. This can help to build trust and collaboration among team members, leading to a more successful production. In conclusion, theatre superstitions are an important part of theatre culture and history. They may seem strange or irrational, but they serve a purpose in providing comfort and security in an unpredictable environment. By respecting these traditions and passing them down through generations, we can help to preserve the art of live theatre and create memorable experiences for audiences and artists alike.

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