theater, entertainment, theater education, acting, Fear, backstage, stage, stage managment, stage manager, theater superstition, disney

What’s Haunting You…or Did You Break A Theater Superstition?

Ever have a time in your life where you felt like you just needed to stop doing what you were doing and just play and have a good time? It’s been such a year that I did just that this past weekend. Disney was celebrating a “Boo Bash” on Sunday night and I thought it was a “hauntingly” great time. If you ever have a chance to experience that I would highly recommend it!

What holiday appeals to theater people? Why, one where you can dress up and pretend to be another character of course! Halloween is full of superstitions and well, so is the theater!

Here are a few of my favorites and why they exist.

1. No whistling backstage.

Have you ever heard that you should never whistle in a theatre? This superstition started in the 1600’s . About that same time much of the scenery began to “fly” in–or in audience terms–be raised and lowered with ropes and pulleys. Sailors were often employed as stagehands in theaters because of their extensive knowledge of ropes. They would communicate with each other by whistles to bring backdrops in or out. So a mistimed whistle would..well, make you a part of the scene.

2. Always leave a light on.

This light is more of a safety measure than a scare tactic. It is to be placed on the stage as a safety measure so that there is always enough light to keep workers from falling or tripping. Long ago people started arguing that the real purpose was to chase away unwanted spirits or to keep the ones that live there happy!

3. No peacock feathers on stage.

Yes, they are beautiful, but did you ever look at the pattern? Many people think it looks like an evil eye! They’ve been rumored as the cause of forgotten lines and broken sets as the “evil eye” curses the show.,

4. Don’t say the ‘M’ word!

Probably the most famous of all theatrical superstitions. Saying ‘Macbeth’ in a theatre will immediately bring you bad luck. According to folklore, the play’s history of bad luck began at its very first performance (circa 1606) when the actor scheduled to portray Macbeth died tragically and the show has been cursed ever since.

5. Never light three candles.

They said good things come in threes but I guess not in this case! Tradition states that the person nearest the shortest candle will either be the next to marry or the next to die. Why? The best we could discover is the thought that open fire is always dangerous on stage and more candles means there is a greater chance that a fire could get out of control. Did you know that Shakespeare’s Globe was burned down during a production of Henry VIII?

6. Break a leg.

Most of us know that you should never wish an actor “good luck.” There is a theory that this tradition started from the idea that the word leg doesn’t mean an actor’s leg. Instead, it refers to a curtain that masks the backstage. If you “break a leg” it means you’ve crossed from the backstage into the playing area. That means you are in the spotlight– which is exactly where the actor wants to be!

7. Give those flowers at the correct time.

The traditional method of giving flowers to lead actors after a show is a nice thing to do, but make sure those flowers are never given before a performance. You must not reward an actor for their work before they do it otherwise it might cause the production to close early.

8. Mirrors are a no-no.

By having a mirror on stage, you run the risk of it getting broken, but practically speaking they also reflect light and might wreck the lighting design. A misplaced reflection could blind an actor and potentially cause them to tumble off the stage. So instead people began to say that a mirror was a gateway for evil spirits.

9. Never wear blue on stage.

Many people haven’t heard of this one-perhaps because the reason behind it doesn’t exist anymore. There was a time when blue dye was the most expensive fabric covering. So, producers started a rumor that blue costumes were unlucky. It was all about the money.

I loved learning more about the history of some of these thoughts that theater people talk about! Many times there are practical reasons we do what we do. I don’t tend to be superstitious and I certainly don’t believe that evil spirits are roaming about on our stage. However, I do love to dress up and can’t wait to open our next show.

I hope you all get lots of candy this weekend….and if you give me flowers–give them to me AFTER the show!

Until next time–this is just me-talking to you–from the wings.

acting, backstage, directing, stage, stage manager, stage managment, theater, theater education

What Does a Stage Manager Do Anyway?

When I first began directing over thirty years ago my team was made up of me…yep, just me. (I’ll bet some of you have been in that position!) My best friend, Sue, got talked into turning the lights on and off and I convinced a parent of one of the students to help make a few costumes. In my wildest dreams I never could imagine that I would be lucky enough to have the resources to have a stage manager!

In fact, at first, I simply had done things by myself for such a long time that I didn’t know what to do with a stage manager! Then, they became indispensable to me. I literally don’t know what I would do without one!

But what does a stage manager actually do?

A better question might be, “What don’t they do?”

Stage managers are in control of anything that happens from the front of the stage and back. They represent the director to make sure the production runs smoothly. They are liaisons between the director, actors, stage crew and technical team. They give support to the actors and anticipate their needs during performances.

( Kate Hart-stage manager of Noah!)

The stage manager and director often work together during rehearsals. The stage manager records blocking and notes for the actors and communicates what is decided during rehearsals to the rest of the team.

The stage managers responsibilities might include:

1) scheduling and running rehearsals
2) communicating the director’s wishes to designers and crafts people
3) coordinating the work of the stage crew
4) calling cues and possibly actors’ entrances during performance
5) overseeing the entire show each time it is performed
6) notifing cast and crew of rehearsal times.                                                                                         7) Scheduling  costume and wig fittings.

In the beginning stage managers can  aid the rehearsal process by mapping out the set dimensions on the floor. They also provide props and furniture as soon as possible.

It is important for stage managers to attend as many rehearsals as possible. It becomes their duty to record all blocking, light and sound changes in a master copy of the script. This book is called a prompt book. This book becomes very important in technical rehearsals.  If you are fortunate enough to be able to have a stage manager that calls cues, this prompt book will have all the information the stage manager needs to run the technical rehearsal. (Thus freeing up even more of the director’s time.)

I haven’t been able to “give up” any of my shows, but in professional theater the director’s job is over when a show opens. At this point the stage manager becomes responsible to carry out the the vision of the production until the production closes.

Each stage manager has different aspects they love and different aspects that are their strengths. Join me for this episode From the Wings.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWXOGjliWCY&feature=youtu.be

There is something incredibly magical about a stage manager and their connection to the cast and director.

I would be lost without one.

Have you ever tried stage management? Do you have a memory of how a stage manager helped you through a show? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Also, it would be ever so kind if you followed this blog or subscribed to our YouTube channel!

Until next time!

P.S. A special thanks to my FROM THE WINGS team of Rebecca Leland and Brianna Valentine. You guys are so talented!