I like to think that I am not a superstitious person. Sure, occasionally I think it’s fun to try walking without touching the sidewalk cracks; I smile when black cats run in front of me; when my mirror cracked during the move to the storage unit last year, I joked that my life would be cursed for seven years. However, it’s the belief, the knowledge, that nothing is going to actually happen to me that keeps me from labeling myself as “superstitious.”
Does that make sense?
But, despite all of that, it has recently come to my attention that in one particular circumstance, I have enough superstition to last me a lifetime.
I don’t know how I didn’t realize the lengths of my superstition until now. I’ve had plenty of auditions in my time (if I may adopt the persona of a wizened old woman), and I know these things have followed me and multiplied through the years. Maybe it was just a product of this week, when I was flooded with multiple days of auditions, that I recognized it. Discovering the superstition was an epiphany, like the turning point in a novel when the protagonist discovers he has actually been unwittingly consumed by the one thing he has been fighting.
Theatre superstitions go way back. I’m certainly not the first person to subconsciously fear trivial actions, and I won’t be the last. The most common of these superstitions, of course, is that of the Scottish play. Saying the name of the play in the theatre will, most likely, get you tackled by other members of the company—at the very least. This superstition can be traced back even to the 17th century. The origins of the myth are unclear, with theories ranging from deaths of actors on stage to theatres catching on fire during productions.
My audition superstitions, in addition to the common, dissolve into the strange and obscure:
- Good luck/break a leg: This is also a fairly common one, but important nonetheless. Tell me ‘good luck’ before an audition, and I will love you and appreciate you endlessly for your support. However, inside, in a dark recess of my mind that I try not to acknowledge, a small voice chants at me: You are now cursed for eternity.
- Earrings/necklace: Part of this is simply feeling confident in myself, which is an essential characteristic for anyone going into an audition. The crucial aspect for me, though, is the specific earrings and/or necklace that I wear for auditions. There are a pair of earrings that my mom gave me for my last high school production, just simple silver star earrings, that I have to wear every time I go in for a performance-based part. Maybe it’s comfort. Maybe it’s confidence.
- Prayer: Again, this is not a strange concept, and it’s also rather simple. Saying a quick prayer before auditions is a must, even if it is a rushed and panicked Lord please don’t let me throw up in front of these people amen.
- Elmo’s World: The last, and potentially most crucial, superstition. The crux of the matter. I must sing the chorus of “Elmo’s World” at least once, usually under my breath, before each audition or performance. I sing the chorus because I don’t know the rest of the words. It’s a tradition that was passed down through high school theatre from better actors and actresses than me, and it has stuck with me to this day. Make fun all you want, but I dare you to try this sometime. Sing this dumb children’s tune and feel the nerves melt away like freaking candle wax.
It’s silly, sure, but maybe these superstitions are what help give us a sense of routine in our lives. It certainly makes things interesting.
So, knock on wood, pick up a penny, and cross your fingers. What are some of your superstitions?