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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: September ::
Re: 'The Scottish Play
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2196  Saturday, 22 September 2001

[1]     From:   Nicole Imbracsio <
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        Date:   Monday, 17 Sep 2001 16:52:12 -0700
        Subj:   Re: Scottish Play

[2]     From:   Peter S. Wilkins <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Sep 2001 11:42:13 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2185 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

[3]     From:   Kelley Costigan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Sep 2001 07:43:29 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2185 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

[4]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Sep 2001 05:08:04 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2185 Re: 'The Scottish Play'


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nicole Imbracsio <
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Date:           Monday, 17 Sep 2001 16:52:12 -0700
Subject:        Re: Scottish Play

I've actually seen the curse in action.

When a freshman in undergraduate, an actor at rehearsal (for a
non-Shakespeare show) uttered "Macbeth" and suffered the scorning looks
of others in the theatre. Later in the rehearsal, one of the light rigs
fell breaking the leg of the stage manager. True.

Since then "Macbeth" was taken very seriously. We had a wonderful
resident director from the UK (Univ of Birmingham)  who would punish
purveyors of the utterance by making them run around the theatre
counter-clockwise three times, spin counter-clockwise three times, while
reciting three times "Thrice to thine, and thrice to mine, And thrice
again, to make up nine!" (From the witches in Act I).

I do have an acting friend though who is fond of raising havoc.
Whenever he is in a show (of which he in inevitability cast as the
villain), right before he steps onto the stage he whispers to himself
"Macbeth."  So, far he's okay....

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter S. Wilkins <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Sep 2001 11:42:13 +1000
Subject: 12.2185 Re: 'The Scottish Play'
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2185 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

Interesting revelation from David about silly superstitious actors.  As
one of that tribe, may I add a few more.  Whistling is not just a no no
for techies (who also have the temerity to call actors 'warm props' or
'moveable scenery'), but is frowned on in dressing rooms.  The
punishment is similar to that for undesirable quoting.  Going outside,
knocking, turning around 3 times and begging to be allowed re-entrance,
with or without the swearing seem to be generics.  Other superstitions,
certainly in The Land of Oz, include no real flowers used as props, no
kicking off shoes in the dressing room (they might land upside down and
any luck which the poor actor needs will fall out), no real jewellery on
stage.  It is common practice here to use the expression 'chookas' as an
alternative to 'break a leg'.  Unsure of its origin, but I believe it is
inherited from opera/ musical theatre.  I also remember older actors
back when I was learning my trade who would not go onstage unless they
had a rabbit's or hare's foot secreted about their person.  I guess this
one dates from way back when bunny fur was used to apply face powder,
and one wished to do a quick touch up in the wings.  Unfortunately, like
much tradition, the younger generation no little and care less about
such important trivia.  O tempora! O mores!  Now if only we could get
back to limelight and footlights........

Cheers,
Judi Crane

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kelley Costigan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Sep 2001 07:43:29 +0100
Subject: 12.2185 Re: 'The Scottish Play'
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2185 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

There's an interesting book by Simon Hogget regarding the superstitions
surrounding Macbeth (called 'The Curse of Macbeth').  Entertaining read.

I would like to point out that in the UK, to wish someone 'good luck' is
not considered a bad thing - the term 'break a leg' being uncommon
(although with more contact with the US on tours, this may change).

Thanks,
Kelley Costigan

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Sep 2001 05:08:04 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.2185 Re: 'The Scottish Play'
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2185 Re: 'The Scottish Play'

I had always heard that the Scottish Play has its reputation because of
its notorious bad luck. There are several stories of actors accidentally
being killed onstage in the final duel or in offstage accidents. I
believe that a very early Lady Macbeth felt ill after the sleepwalking
scene on opening night and collapsed dead. Perhaps some of these stories
are legend but the play does have a reputation for being the study of
evil and so would be a natural case for "haunting" by spirits and bad
luck. "Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts" and such,
invoking those devils to preside over the murders and consequently the
play.

Does anyone know of books on this play's infamous history? I know that
one exists but I can't remember its title. That would be the place to
turn too.

Brian Willis


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