Thursday, April 12, 2012

Language causes broken legs and skulls

By Alex Domine, A&E Columnist

Let's say you want to ruin an actor’s life.

There are a lot of ways to sabotage a performance. You don’t even have to touch anyone.

The curses of the theater are powerful.

They can effectively ruin a potentially brilliant performance, injure a performer or even kill them.

Dare I say “Macbeth” on opening night of a big production? I might as well throw a prop at myself and bid farewell to a promising career.

In the theater world, saying the word “Macbeth” can make even the most grounded thespian shiver in his or her jazz shoes. It brings about an unstoppable force of bad luck.

The origins of the superstition have been long debated by my actors. Many of the superstitions require that you believe in witchcraft. A common tale is that Shakespeare hexed the play so that no one could ever direct it like he did.

There are other tales, such as the possibility Shakespeare took the title from a coven of witches who were disappointed with the final product.

Similarly, some say that the witches cursed the show because the original props master stole from the coven.

If you’re an aspiring actor, don’t mess with a witch.

Another popular superstition among thespians is the spell that is cast if you wish an actor “good luck” before a performance. Instead they say "break a leg."

Again, you might as well huck a backdrop at them yourself. This superstition also has many origins.

Some believe that the term came from the tradition of audiences throwing money on stage after a performance. The actors then needed to ‘break’ the position of their legs to pick up the money.

Similarly, some believe that the term is a reference to the curtains.

The curtains are referred to as ‘legs’ in actor lingo.

If a performance was so breathtaking that the audience demanded multiple bows, the opening and closing of the curtains would cause the ‘legs’ to ‘break’

Dancers, however, never say "break a leg" due to the distinct possibility of it actually happening. Instead they say "merde," a French expletive.

There is a lot of witchery going on this week with the foreboding Friday the 13th among us.

I implore everyone to exercise caution in the theater when dealing with witches, curtains and Shakespeare.

Unless your arch nemesis is an actor, you better watch your language in the Eastvold Auditorium.