When Broadway's Macbeth opened on Sunday, guests were asked to do something a little out of the ordinary: refrain from speaking the play’s name while inside the venue.
Signs were posted on all of Ethel Barrymore Theatre's doors, requesting that audience members adhere to the rule. Written in capital letters, each sign read, "Warning! You are about to enter the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The producers ask that you please refrain from speaking the name of the play you are about to see while inside these walls."
If it sounds weird, that's only because it is, but with good reason. The play is cursed. Or at least it’s believed to be, despite the fact that this version of Macbeth is a one-man show, performed by Alan Cumming, with modern twists that move it away from its traditional Shakespearean roots.
According to the legend, mentioning the title of a Shakespeare while in a theater evokes some type of disaster — but it’s worst for Macbeth, so actors often call it "The Scottish Play" or "The Bard's Play" instead. If an actor accidentally mentions the name of the play (in the theater, prior to a performance), then he or she must leave the building, spin around three times, spit, curse, and then knock in order to be let back in. (There are a few variations, but the gist is always the same.) Other precautions include actors refraining from quoting any of the lines from Macbeth prior to a performance (must make rehearsal a bit challenging?), especially the Witches’ incantations. This is serious stuff, guys!