(Notable Quotables is a meme originally brought to you by the Bewitched Bookworms. Every Monday you’re invited to share a favorite quote or two from the books you’ve been reading.)
College taught me lots of things, including the fact that I would not make a good actress. Not because I can’t act, but because I just don’t have the drive required to make a living doing it. I’m also really not keen on constantly being judged on my looks, but that’s neither here nor there.
Although I know now that acting is not for me, I still feel very much at home in a theatre, and on a stage. I love the cold of the auditorium and the heat of stage lights; the cakey stage makeup that seeps into your skin and will never come out; and even the superstitions:
- Don’t whistle in a theatre. I’ve seen a tech director yell at people for doing this. Generally it’s just considered “back luck,” but there’s history behind it: in the past, scene change cues were given via whistles among the crew, up in the rigging. Whistling at the wrong time could be deadly, as you might get beaned in the head by a set piece or set drop that weighed hundreds or thousands of pounds.
- Never, never say “Macbeth” in a theatre. Saying that name in a theatre will supposedly bring his ghost back from beyond the grave to play pranks and possibly harm people. I’ve seen it in action: once I was in a show where an actor was repeating it over and over again, making fun of the superstition, when a piece of the set broke off and bounced into the audience (no one was hurt, thankfully). This rule is so ingrained in most actors I know that we all just say, “The Scottish play” instead, even when we’re not doing a show. The only exception to this rule is when the play itself, Macbeth, is being performed in the theatre.
- For heaven’s sake, never tell an actor “Good luck.” That’s just asking for it. Say “Break a leg” instead.
There are lots of theatrical superstitions, but my favorite by far is the tradition of the Ghost Light.
“There is a custom in the theatre, this place that is the crossroads of custom and innovation, of the ghost light. The custom says no stage is ever left in total darkness. A light burns, always, to honor the memories, the ghosts of all the moments that were made there. As this light shines alone in the darkness of an empty theatre, so theatre itself stands along, a ritual in a time when rituals are dying. We invoke that light, that ritual, now. We come together in this oldest of ways, we make the living moment, the sacred circle, and within it we bring you tales, not of time nor place, but of humanity. We light this stage in honor of those who have gone before us. We honor them, and your presence honors us.”
I love theatre, the tradition and the storytelling. Being in a play is an extremely stressful experience, but it’s so worth it. It’s an ancient skill, and one that takes years to perfect. I wish I had the guts to go for it; but since I don’t, I will continue to shine a light for those behind me, that they may see the splendors of this world as well.