In the Wings

The Newsletter of The Concord Players
November 2014                           Robert Runck, Editor

Andy Swansburg as Barnaby Tucker and Randall Lawrence-Hurt as Cornelius Hackl in

 The Matchmaker


Many theater superstitions have their origin in practical concerns: It's bad luck to whistle backstage: Before electronic communications, technical cues were coded whistles given by the stage manager. The wrong whistle could call the wrong cue, resulting in a weighted sandbag falling on an actor's head, or a heavy pipe dropping into the middle of a scene. Bad luck for sure. To wish someone 'Good luck' before a show is bad luck: Never wish an actor good luck, say "break a leg" instead. No one knows for sure the origin of this superstition, but here are some theories: After a good performance during Elizabethan England, actors were thrown money on the stage and they would kneel down to collect the money thus 'breaking' the line of the leg. Similarly, for the curtain call, when actors bow or curtsy, they place one foot behind the other and bend at the knee, thus 'breaking' the line of the leg. In Elizabethan English, "bend," meant "break." In the days of early vaudeville, the producers would book more performers than could perform in the given time of the show, so "bad" acts could be pulled before they finished. In order to ensure that the producers didn't pay people who hadn't actually performed, there was a general policy that a performer did NOT get paid unless they actually appeared onstage. So the phrase "break a leg" referred to breaking the visual plane of the "legs," or curtains that lined the side of the stage. In other words, "Hope you break a leg (get onstage), so that you get paid." Sometimes Elizabethan audiences would stomp their chairs instead of applauding. If they liked the performance enough, they would stomp very hard, breaking the leg of the chair. Saying the theater is closed is bad luck: It might invite plagues or embezzlement or bankruptcy. Say instead that the theater is "dark." It is dark so that the ghost can perform, of course.  Finally, the most infamous of all superstitions: Speaking the title of the play 'Macbeth' in a theater will result in extreme bad luck. Theater people will never say the name inside a theater, referring to it instead as 'The Scottish Play' or 'The Bard's Play'. If someone is fool enough to speak the name out loud, a mandatory cleansing ritual is required. The person is must leave the theater building, spit, curse and spin around three times, before begging to be allowed back inside. Or...recite a line from another Shakespearean work, while brushing oneself off, running around the theater counter clockwise, or repeating the title three times while tapping the left shoulder. And why is the word forbidden? Shakespeare may have put a curse on the play so that no one, other than he, would be able to direct it correctly. There is more swordplay in it than most other Shakespeare plays, and, therefore, more chances for someone to get injured. The most likely explanation for this odd tradition is financial. The play was so popular that it was often put on by theaters deep in debt. The strategy, however became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Since everyone knew the play was mounted because of financial trouble, people avoided the theater, thus causing financial trouble! Other vaguely explainable superstitions include: Never wear blue onstage - may be because blue dyes were so expensive the theater would go bankrupt. Never wear yellow onstage - it's the color of the devil. Peacock feathers should never appear onstage - too many evil eyes. 

Give flowers from a graveyard at the close of a show to the director or star - maybe because theaters are always broke and graveyard flowers are free. Never utter the last line of a show until it opens - well that one's obvious - don't tempt fate! The show must always go on!

--Linda McConchie 

The Matchmaker opens November 7. Tickets are still available for the opening night and Gala at concord players or call 978-369-2990. There is also still time to get a subscription for only $55 to see the entire season of great shows!

The production team is gathering, and auditions for the winter show The Desk Set are planned for the first week in December. Director Michael McGarty has described it as a warm, wonderful 1950s script that is relevant today with outsourcing and downsizing so prevalent in the work world. We're looking for some great character actors and expect a crowd-pleasing production that will brighten up any cold weather that February might bring.


Another Halloween has passed in Concord, Massachusetts. Leering pumpkins have slowly dimmed, ghoulies and ghosties have got their treats and gossamer spirits have dissolved once again with the moonlight. But what of the Concord Players' stage at 51 Walden? Has the ghost there been appeased for one more year? Theater people have always been a suspicious bunch. All that creativity makes for lively imaginations. One thing anyone in theater knows for sure, though, is that every theater has at least one ghost, and woe betide the company that ignores these spectral occupants. 
Theater ghosts perform of course, thus the "ghost light" that remains aglow backstage in every house. They grace the stage on Mondays, when theaters are dark. In addition to keeping the ghost happy, the ghost light helps actors and crew avoid tripping and falling over props and set pieces. Some theaters even reserve seats for their ghosts, like the Palace Theatre in London which keeps two seats in their balcony permanently bolted for their phantom guests. All this attention is aimed to keep ghostly mischief at bay. Thespis is the first ghost chronicled in the annals of theater superstition, and has a particularly stellar reputation for causing unexplained mischief. He is named for Thespis, of Athens (6 BC), the first person to speak lines as an individual actor on stage. Thus was born the term "Thespian" to refer to a theatrical performer. 
--Linda McConchie

John Alzapiedi will be playing Javert in the Pentucket Players production of Les Miserables. Shows are November 21, 22, 23, 29 & 30. Tickets and times are available at mktix A number of Concord Players will be performing in Carlisle's Savoyard Light Opera Company production of Oklahoma!: Tom Frates, Connie Benn, Michael Giblin, Roger Alix-Gaudreau, Heather Pruiksma and Perry Allison, with our award-winning Kirsten Gould as the director. And don't miss Craig Howard as Edna Turnblad in the Needham Community Theatre's production of the musical Hairspray! Nov. 21-30; order tickets at needham theatre

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