Scary superstitions

Halloween stores are open, Thanksgiving is around the corner and trees are changing to vibrant colour, so it must be fall. 

I am a Libra and love this time of year, not just because it is around my birthday. 

It is mostly because I adore creepy, mysterious stories/plays and autumn is when you hear and see the best ones.

Some of the most famous stories about theatre are based around superstitions.The most notable is that you should never, ever say Macbeth in a theatre. It is well known as a curse to the present show.

With our own production of Macbeth opening on Oct. 6, it is worth revisiting the origins of this famous theatre superstition.

Wikipedia says that this superstition is based around the tale that during the first production of Macbeth the actor who played Lady Macbeth died and Shakespeare had to assume the role.

Although there is no evidence this happened, the legend has stuck.  

Actors avoid saying Macbeth at all costs when in a theatre and use the euphemisms The Scottish Play or Mackers.  

They also avoid saying Lady M’s name or even quoting the lines from Macbeth before performances, particularly the Witches' spells.

As the superstition goes, outside a theatre and after a performance, the play can be spoken of openly.

If an actor speaks the name Macbeth in a theatre prior to one of the performances, he or she is required to leave the theatre building, spin around three times, spit, curse, and then knock to be allowed back in.  

It seems like a lot of silly fun, but actors really do take it seriously.They do not want to risk cursing their production and being blamed for a theatrical mishap.

I feel it is the complexities of Macbeth that make it tricky, but I won’t disclose our own excitements lest I curse our own production by revealing director Kendra Hesketh’s secrets before opening night.

Other theatre superstitions include never saying good luck, but break a leg or merde instead. 

Break a leg refers to a vaudevillian performer’s goal of getting onstage (past the curtains or "legs") and therefore getting paid for their work that night, instead of being stuck as part of the backstage line-up.

Merde is French (you can look up the translation) and often used by those delicate, sweet beautiful dancers you see before a show. Strangely, this coarse saying is most commonly used by ballerinas.

Actors should also never whistle backstage, a throwback the times before PA systems when rigging crew changed sets based on whistling.

There should also always be a light on somewhere in the theatre; it should never, ever be entirely dark. 

The practicalities of this are that often you have to go through a huge theatre to get to the backstage lighting system. If there are no lights on, then it is dangerous to make it back there, but also very creepy.

Yes, there are also countless accounts of theatres that are haunted throughout the world. 

I have performed and had many supernatural experiences in famous haunted theatres including: the Canmore Opera House, Arrata Opera Centre, The Plaza Theatre, The Garry Theatre and Pumphouse Theatres in Calgary, where I worked for many years.

Tours to The Walterdale Theatre, Central Alberta Theatre and the theatre in Jasper gave me ghostly vibes, but pretty much every theatre has its own charms and phantoms of past performances. It is almost expected.

One of my favourite rituals may seem strange. There is nothing I love more than having the theatre’s cast and crew empty out and sitting alone for 30 minutes or so after the show to reflect on it and to enjoy the opportunity to have the theatre to myself. 

There is nothing like that quiet, but I am also a firm believer that a good run must also include some post-show celebratory drinks.

The size and duration of these celebrations is determined by the personalities of the cast and crew, but for me this is a must do.

We hope you are not too superstitious to come out and celebrate the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with us and see Macbeth.

We will be serving mead, there will be swordplay, music and incredible performances.  

You could call it one killer wake to The Bard himself, 400 years in the making.

Macbeth runs Oct. 6-8 and Oct. 13-15 at 7 p.m. nightly, and Oct. 16 at 2 p.m. at The Black Box Theatre.

Advance tickets are $20 from and $30 (cash only) at the door.

For more info, contact us at or call 778-214-1456.

More Bonnie on Stage articles

About the Author

Bonnie Gratz is an actor, director, and playwright. She is the Artistic Director of Kelowna's New Vintage Theatre, and a member of the Playwright's Guild of Canada and The Literary and Dramaturges of North America. 

For more on Bonnie, check out www.bonnie-gratz.com or check out www.newvintage.ca

Contact Bonnie at:  [email protected]


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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