Probably the most well known theatre superstition involves William Shakespeare's play, MacBeth -- often called, by actors, 'the bards play' or 'the Scottish play'.
The superstition follows that any company performing the play will be beset with horrible luck, ranging anywhere from uncanny accidents on the set to actual deaths within the company!
In fact, in many parts, it is not only the production of the play that will strike fear, but quoting from the play or even the mere mention of the name MacBeth inside a theatre, be it the stage, the house, the lobby, or especially the dressing rooms will lose a person aquainted with the stage nearly all his or her theatrical friends.
There are many origins for this superstition. Old actors believe the witches' song in MacBeth to possess the uncanny power of casting evil spells.
Many actors, especially in England, avoid Matthew Locke's music for the play, quoting numerous stories of ill-fates befallen to those who have played, sung, or hummed it within the theatre walls.
|However, the ACTUAL reason for this fear is much more sensible . . . and rarely known by theatre peoples:|
|The superstition actually began in the old days of stock companies, which would struggle at all times to remain in business. Frequently, near the end of a season a stock company would realize that it was not going to break even and, in an attempt to boost ticket sales and attendance, would announce production of a crowd favorite . . . MacBeth.|
If times were particularly bad, even 'the bard's play' would not be enough to save the company,
therefore, MacBeth often presaged the end of a company's season, and would frequently
be a portent of the company's demise.|
Therefore, the fear of MacBeth was generally the fear of bad business and of an entire company being put out of work.
The Defying MacBeth Theatre Group seeks to challenge these superstitions, and flaunts their
arrogance by putting the cursed word directly into the name of the theatre company . . .|
Indeed, we Defy MacBeth . . . and all the curses that go with it!!
|(Consequently, we are plagued with bad-luck and poor attendance, which I blame whole-heartedly on the curse. It has NOTHING to do with my actors. And I know the scripts are good because I write them! IT'S THE CURSE, I TELL YOU!! -- JMV)|