WhatsOnStage Logo
Home link

Five theatre superstitions from around the world

Have you heard of any of these?

Ghost Stories
© Chris Payne

To celebrate World Theatre Day, we've decided to round up five theatre superstitions from across the globe!

Ghost lights

Many theatres are known for housing ghosts, and so when the theatre is empty one light must be left on. This is a pretty universal belief, and in some dressing rooms there are even designated lights used to ward any ghosts away!

Paying respect to a baby doll

When a prop baby is used in Chinese opera, the performers must pay it respect before and after the performance. The prop must also be handled with care - during the performance it must always face the sky, and after it must be packed away carefully facing the earth.

'Break a leg'

It's pretty common to say this phrase instead of good luck before someone makes their entrance on stage. But did you know that professional dancers instead opt to say 'merde' instead, as break a leg may be a little too on the nose...


Much like when sailing ships, it is bad luck for an actor to whistle both on or off stage. Original stage crews were hired from ships, and so the cue for changing scenery would be a coded whistle. If you were to whistle at the wrong time, the scenery could change at the wrong time, resulting in injury!


You have probably heard that it's bad luck to say The Scottish Play whilst in the theatre, and the theatre industry in Poland have their own variation. It is considered bad luck to say the play Mazepa, which in the second half has an open casket appear on stage. This appearance is considered unsettling to many actors, and so the play is not uttered by anyone.