Actors and theatre-workers appear to be one of the most superstitious of all occupational groups, and indeed many seem to regard being superstitious as a badge of the trade. Many of the superstitions are well known - *whistling anywhere in a theatre being very unlucky, and *Macbeth being so unlucky as to be referred to as 'The Scottish Play' rather than by its real name. Others are less well known - actors will not say the last lines of a play in rehearsal, to place an umbrella on a table during rehearsals spells disaster, and some unlucky tunes - such as 'Three Blind Mice' and 'I dreamt I dwelt in Marble Halls' - are studiously avoided. Knowl-son also devotes some paragraphs to the beliefs of 'front-of-house' staff such as ushers and box-office workers. Few of the reported superstitions can be traced back before 1900, and most are considerably later. Some exceptions are those printed in the Folk-Lore Record of 1879 which include a dislike of the colour blue for costumes, unless counteracted by silver, the dread of rehearsals on Sundays, and the belief that if the first customer to enter the auditorium on the first night is a woman the play is doomed.
   Folk-Lore Record 2 (1879), 203-5; Opie and Tatem, 1989: 228, 395-7; Knowlson, The Origins of Popular Superstitions and Customs (1930), 225-9; J. B. Booth, Pink Parade (1933), 95-116; Roy Harley Lewis, Theatre Ghosts (1988).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.


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