Thursday, October 7, 2010

Theatre Superstitions 101

A worked in opera professionally, for a short period. It totally counts! I had lunch with John Moriarty, twice!
Opera means different things to different cultures. Most people associate Opera with the Italian Operas. I am planning on seeing the Italian company of La Boheme this weekend. Italian Opera is known for a few things: Tragic story telling (normally ending in somone killing themselves), grand scale design work, singing in group chorale and presented solos which is distinctly different to the more modern musical theatre where the the solos are worked into the story rather than the songs being presented.


Break a leg is a famous theatre saying taken from Shakespeare's days. Back in those days you could only appear in the downstage below the 1st leg if you were presenting a solo piece to the audience in a opera or a monologue. Back then, they would step forward and present the speech then step backward into the piece to kill their wife. (Makes no sense in story telling, but those were the days!) You would tell an actor to break a leg in order for them to get their chance to show their stuff. If you were chorus back then you were stuck in the upstage which at that time was tilted at 45 degree angle like a ramp to help with visibility. (Hence, Upstage.)

 The Drury lane theatre, 1675, one of the best examples of a raked stage. Also look at KA's stage for Cirque.

The master of the flies is the role in the theatre who controls the fly rail or the rail where the backdrops move up and down. Before the time of mechanical/ balance run rails flies were ran by gravity and weight systems. Mainly sandbags and rope. Remember those episodes of The Muppet Show where Gonzo would get hit by a sandbag. That totally would have broken his neck. Back then in a dark theatre people would control the fly master to drop a backdrop by whistling. Different whistles for different rails. Whistling in the theatre would mean taking your life in your hands.

During the Victorian Era during a production of Macbeth the theatre caught on fire. This was not because of the play but because they were using real fire in the burlesque foot lamps. One year later the actor playing Macbeth in London was killed onstage in a sword fight. Macbeth despite being a play known for being incredibly violent only has 3 onstage deaths. One of these is the death of a small child and a pregnant woman. The religious groups said at the time that the play was cursed for mocking these evil deeds and presenting witches on stage.
And theatre kids these days are still refusing to say the name of our tragic hero....

Part Two, coming up!
(The crazier, less known ones...)

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