Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: February ::
Re: The Scottish Play
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0089.  Thursday, 9 February 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Gregg Henry <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 08 Feb 95 08:15:00 PST
        Subj:   RE: SHK 5.0076  Re: The Scottish Play
 
(2)     From:   Edward Gero <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 8 Feb 1995 09:35:49 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0076 Re: The Scottish Play
 
(3)     From:   Timothy Reed <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 8 Feb 1995 08:01:23 -0700
        Subj:   The Scottish Play
 
(4)     From:   Ed Pechter <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 08 Feb 1995 10:15:16 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0084  Re: The Scottish Play
 
(5)     From:   Peter Greenfield <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, February 8, 1995
        Subj:   The Scottish play and indoor performance
 
(6)     From:   Kathryn M. Moncrief <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 9 Feb 1995 00:00:22 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0084 Re: The Scottish Play
 
(7)     From:   Tom E. Hodges <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thuursday, 9 Feb 1995 14:00:09 GMT-6
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0084  Re: The Scottish Play
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gregg Henry <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 08 Feb 95 08:15:00 PST
Subject: 5.0076  Re: The Scottish Play
Comment:        RE: SHK 5.0076  Re: The Scottish Play
 
To add to the discussion about the Scottish Play . I was playing Teach in
_American Buffalo_ ten years ago. The cast's pre-show ritual was to play some
gin. I quoted from "that play" (although, I can't, now, for the life of me
remember what I said) when I won. The other two actors tsk- tsk'd me. In the
final scene that night, when I was trashing the junk shop with the "pig
sticker", I very freakily smashed my nose and finished the play with blood
pouring down my face.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Gero <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 8 Feb 1995 09:35:49 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0076 Re: The Scottish Play
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0076 Re: The Scottish Play
 
The superstition regarding the "Scottish Play" or one I heard most recently,
the "Plaid Play" is observed to this day in my circles.  At the slip of the
tongue, (while in the theatre only) the offending person is asked to leave the
dressing room, spin around three times, repeat "goats and monkeys" from Lear
and formally request readmittance.
 
The genesis of this superstition and the whistling derives apocryphally from
the 19th Century.  Tradition has it that when traveling companies were having
financial problems at the box office, the producer would announce a performance
of Macbeth, assuring two things: (1) That the box office would have a terrific
take, and (2) The company would be disbanded thereafter.  In the 19th Century,
Macbeth apparently meant unemployment. The phrase "the ghost walks", on the
other hand, meant that Hamlet was on the bill and the company would surely be
paid.  Consequently, "the ghost walks" on Thursdays, the official Actor's
Equity pay day.
 
The whistling superstition stems from the 19th Century as well.  Hemp houses,
theatres that had rope and pulley to fly sets [before the advent of
counterweights et. al.], were often operated by sailors; their rigging
expertise put to good use.  They would use a system of whistles to communicate
directions concerning which rope and pulley to lower or raise.  So, any
interference from anyone other than the master flymen could result in a bag of
sand landing on your, or someone else's, head, or some other sort of disaster.
Hence, no whistling in the theatre.
 
Traditionally yours,
Edward Gero
Shakespeare Theatre
Washington, DC
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Timothy Reed <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 8 Feb 1995 08:01:23 -0700
Subject:        The Scottish Play
 
Evidence in support of the Macbeth superstition is like the daily newspaper
horoscope; theatre people who believe in it will vividly remember and recount
the one or two  coincidences that support the theory and discount the hundreds
of times it doesn't work.
 
My stage experience, both in performances of Macbeth and other plays, shows no
evidence to support the superstition; nor do the experiences of many of the
actors I work with. Many  of the theatre people I know are openly scornful of
anyone who takes the superstition as  anything more than an amusing in-joke.
 
(Interesting sidebar: During a performance of Henry IV, Part I, some of the
actors spent their long breaks between scenes in the green room by reading
questions off "Trivial  Pursuit" cards for the others to answer. The question
"What is generally regarded as bad luck backstage  at a theatre?" came up. The
actors instantly chimed in "Macbeth!")
 
At our theatre company, due to a particularly problem-ridden production of
Schnitzler's "La Ronde" it is now only acceptable to call it "The 'R' play" or
"The Austrian play"
 
Timothy Reed
The Upstart Crow Theatre Company, Boulder, Colorado
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Pechter <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 08 Feb 1995 10:15:16 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0084  Re: The Scottish Play
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0084  Re: The Scottish Play
 
Without wishing for a moment to deny the social utility and scientific validity
of beliefs associated with productions of The Scottish Play, I wonder about two
things:  1. Have people catalogued the number of instances in which the taboo
was broken and nothing untoward occurred?  2. Have people catalogued the number
of instances in which untoward events occurred in productions of plays other
than Macbeth?
 
Ed Pechter
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Greenfield <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, February 8, 1995
Subject:        The Scottish play and indoor performance
 
The notion that the curse on the Scottish play derives from disasters at its
first indoor performance won't stand up if an important element in the story is
that indoor performance was unheard of.  In fact, with the exception of the few
most famous London theatres, indoor performance was the norm in Shakespeare's
time: halls of noble households, town halls, and inns provided the overwhelming
number of known performance locations outside London.  The literary dominance
of the Globe, Rose and Fortune have tended to obscure this fact.  Please see
the Records of Early English Drama series for the documentary evidence, J.A.B.
Somerset's article in the most recent SHAKESPEARE SURVEY, and especially Robert
Tittler's excellent book on Elizabethan town halls, ARCHITECTURE AND POWER.
 
Peter Greenfield
University of Puget Sound
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kathryn M. Moncrief <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 9 Feb 1995 00:00:22 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 6.0084 Re: The Scottish Play
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0084 Re: The Scottish Play
 
Roger D. Gross claims that only actors over 40 are superstitious about "the
Scottish play."  Not true!  Being a younger actor and academic I can report
that the tradition/ superstition is still going strong in theatres where I have
worked.  The cure with which I am most familiar: leave the room, turn around
three times, then spit.
 
On the subject of "ghost lights."  This, in my experience, refers to a single
light left shining on stage.  It looks rather like a tall, standing lamp with
no shade, just a bare bulb.  Its purpose is practical:  when you are the first
person to enter or leave a dark theatre from a backstage entrance (as a stage
manager often is) it can be very dark and potentially dangerous, especially
when the set, or pieces of it begin to appear on stage.  The "ghost light" is
for safety.  Are there superstitious associations as well?
 
Kathryn M. Moncrief
University of Iowa
 
(7)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom E. Hodges <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thuursday, 9 Feb 1995 14:00:09 GMT-6
Subject: 6.0084  Re: The Scottish Play
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0084  Re: The Scottish Play
 
Columbia Pictures' _The Dresser_(1984) includes a scene in which The Scottish
Play is mentioned backstage, followed by the ritual of atonement required of
the transgressor.  In addition the movie is a hilarious and poignant rendering
of a veteran actor's 227th performance of _King Lear_, and the backstage
activities (sound effects, props, etc.) are usually interesting to American
undergraduates.
 
For what it's worth,
Tom Hodges
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.