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October 30, 2018

Technical Tuesday – Halloween edition!

By Donna J. Flor

Happy Halloween

Are you ready for Halloween? Have you carved a scary face on your Jack-o’-lantern to ward off evil spirits? Have you picked out a costume to fool ghosts into thinking you’re somebody else?

Okay, those are just superstitions that have become part of the fun lore about Halloween.

There are lots of superstitions in theatre, too. I asked members of the MC Production team to share their favorite ones with me.

Did you know that you’re not supposed to call Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” by its real name inside a theatre? It’s considered bad luck if you do. Stories abound of actors dying and accidents happening on stage because of what Senior Stage Manager Christi-Anne Sokolewicz terms, “the utterance of the name of ‘The Scottish Play.’ ”

Christi-Anne says that she first heard about the curse of “Macbeth” in college. And in her second professional job at a San Francisco theatre, she witnessed an actor performing one of the accepted cleansing rituals after accidentally letting “Macbeth” slip. The actor left the dressing room, spun three times, and spit over his shoulder.

For Stage Manager Maya Severson, it’s the superstition that whistling on stage is a jinx. She explains, “Back in the day when sailors used to run all of the rigging, they gave different whistles for different rigging calls. So if somebody started randomly whistling, a drop could come in and accidentally kill them.”

Maya thinks it’s a fun superstition, but also admits, “I don’t like whistling.”

My favorite theatre superstition? The one that says you should always leave at least one light burning when the stage isn’t being used so that the theatre ghosts can see while they perform their own shows. That light is called the ghost light.

In fact, I’ve heard lots of other fanciful stories about the reason for ghost lights---but the reality is that we need them for safety. We work in theatres that have black stages, black walls, and lots of black curtains. Ghost lights allow us to cross the stage area safely until we can turn on the work lights.

But who knows for certain about the spirits and specters that inhabit our world? As Puck says in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “….Yonder shines Aurora's harbinger, at whose approach ghosts, wandering here and there, troop home to churchyards.”

The Production Department wishes you a spooky, safe, and fun Halloween!


Author Bio:  Donna J. Flor is the Production Manager at the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis. Beginning as a freelance lighting designer, stage manager, and stagehand, she has since worked exclusively in production management of roadhouse theatres for the past 30 years. After assisting with the grand opening of the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, in 1994, she spent 17 years there leading the Technical Production Department. In 2011, Donna helped open the acclaimed Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City. She and her husband Kirk are most proud of Jake, their canine son.