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7 Times Someone Said ‘Macbeth’ And Things Went Wrong

One of the most well-known myths for thespians involves uttering the name “Macbeth” inside the theatre. If you are currently in a production, sitting in a theatre and for some reason reading this article out loud, please relocate.

As the legend goes, when this name is spoken inside a theatre, it can curse the production. Lights can fall, people can literally break their legs and the whole of a production may become a disaster within minutes. Once spoken, a curse reversal needs to occur, or things may just keep going terribly wrong. 

We know what some of you may be thinking: This is just a silly superstition. But just before you utter this in a theatre to prove us wrong, see if these seven stories from our Theatre Nerds about how the Scottish play nearly ruined a production will change your mind:

1. The Fire Alarm and the Fuse Box

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When I was a freshman in high school, I was in my first school show. We were doing a production of “Me and My Girl,” which is basically a weird secondhand version of “My Fair Lady.” A senior in our school thought he was above the silly myth of uttering the Scottish play. Of course, the day before our opening night, he said the infamous word in the theatre. We all told him he had to follow the correct procedures to reverse the curse. Of course, he laughed in our faces. As we went back to change out of our costumes that night, the lights abruptly turned off. Everyone screamed, and after a few seconds, they came back on.

I wish I could say it stopped there.

The first act of the show ends with this big ensemble number, so most of us were in fancy dress complete with elbow-length gloves. On our opening night, we were all getting ready to go on, then the fire alarm went off. Everyone had to evacuate the theatre. All of the actors had to go out back, and of course, it was pouring rain. As we all huddled together trying to stay dry, we knew this had to be related to the curse. The alarm was finally fixed, and we all returned to the theatre and completed our number in our damp dresses.

The next day, the fuse box blew. At that point, most of the cast didn’t think it was a coincidence. The responsible senior was forced outside to do the reversal. After that, the final show of the weekend went according to plan without any issues.

— Nicole M.

2. Oh, Oscar

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Junior year of high school, we were putting on “The Odd Couple” (both versions) while simultaneously reading the Scottish play in English. The kid playing Oscar started talking about it during dress rehearsal and promptly twisted his ankle. He had to leave rehearsal to go to urgent care and had a limp for the run of the show.

— Jen R.

3. Not a Laughing Matter

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When I was in high school, we did two one-act plays for my senior-year show. Between the two casts, there were a lot of people. Our theatre program was still in development, and a lot of people who were in the show were new to theatre. As we all spent time together and bonded, I mentioned the curse of the Scottish play, and everyone looked at me like I had 12 heads. I was so surprised that they had never heard of it, but beyond that, most people didn’t believe me, and they thought it was just a funny bit to tease me with.

They said it all the time, and I would furiously rush to do the countercurse for them to hopefully save our shows. It became a huge joke, and everyone thought it was hysterical, but I was truly terrified that something was going to happen.

During our preview performance during the school day, the curse presented itself. The first one-act was set in a high-school classroom of a school that was just placed on lockdown. There’s a scene where the fire alarm goes off, and there’s chaos in the room and everyone’s running around and screaming. During this moment, one of the shy and timid students escapes out of the classroom. While we were doing this scene, the actress playing the shy student got shuffled around in all of the chaos and ended up flying into the classroom door, headfirst, taking the doorknob with her. Luckily, she wasn’t too seriously injured, but my castmates eased up on the teasing after that!

— Marissa R.

4. The Aftermath

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It was our final show, and someone said “Macbeth” right before curtain. The show went fine. Afterward, we packed up the auditorium. To take the trash out, we bring it up the elevator to save ourselves from carrying it up the stairs. Well, when we went up, the elevator got stuck and firemen had to come and get us out.

— Emma O.

5. All of the Injuries

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My senior year of high school, I worked on costumes for “West Side Story.” Someone in the cast had read the play for English class, and someone said the name in the theatre. Shortly after, our Maria ended up in the hospital, Tony sprained his ankle and one of the ensemble members shattered his heel during a fight scene rehearsal. This was all about four days before opening night. Luckily, everyone was OK, and even the guy with the shattered heel still made it onstage. But, needless to say, my high school is definitely wary of the Scottish play now. I actually think the guy who shattered his heel was the guy who said the name of the play.

— Brianna N.

6. Inexperience

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At our community college, we were in tech week for “Taming of the Shrew.” An older man who had taught English but had never done theatre said it during a prop check. The chair broke and he fell. Then, the chair fell on him and he broke his shoulder. The light board also buzzed and shorted out. We attempted to do some “reverse the curse” ritual, and then we were told to go home.

— Meg S.

7. Third Time’s the Charm

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In high school, we were getting the set together for two different shows. One of the students did believe in the “M-word” and decided to say it three times center stage and loud enough to hear across the theatre. Shortly after, one student had a bad feeling about the lights onstage and decided to double-check. It was a good thing, too, because the light was about to fall. Then, one of the female leads in one of the plays was cutting some fabric for curtains and cut her finger deep enough that she needed stitches. Next, the guy who was in a group during rehearsals was walking around the stage and fell off the stage, spraining his ankle.

— Natalia B.

Believe in the curse now? Let us know your story in the comments below…

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  1. We’re doing Alice In Wonderland, and the King of Hearts said it, and guess what? Our stage lights went faulty and nearly turned off though I did some reverse the curse work, so we should be all set.

  2. During our community theatres production of Stuart little, an elementary schooler who was just really rude to everyone found out that some of us believed in the m word curse. So naturally during rehearsal she yelled out the name (sorry I can’t write it I’m probably overly cautious but I have a show tomorrow) loudly on stage. All of us who knew of the curse screamed and did the counter, but the next day one of our actors dropped a mason jar on her foot and it shattered. We fixed up her doot with paper towel and gaff tape. There were other things that went wrong during that show, but that was the most prominent.

  3. We did Taming of the Shrew and someone said it. The girl who was originally in the role of Kate was kicked out of school a week or less before opening night. (Luckily we had some badass chick pick up the role and memorize the whole thing) Then, in the middle of the show, a guy who didn’t speak English very well put popcorn in the microwave backstage and set it for THREE HOURS. Mid performance, the smoke alarms went off, and the whole theatre was evacuated and audience, actors, and crew had to wait for the fire department.

    Another time, during Oliver!, someone had muttered the Scottish play, and I tried to make them undo the dirty deed, but with no success. Later that day, I had been hanging and focusing lights on our huge, 20’+, wooden a-frame ladder. When it was time to pack it up, the a-frame came down and dislocated my shoulder.

  4. My freshman year we did the Scottish Play and even though our theatre teacher told us about the curse and the reversal, people said it still and things went wrong. Our lead forgot his lines, the fog machine didn’t turn on, etc.
    well, after the performances were over, we had a sub one day who said the name 8 TIMES in the theatre while I was sitting there nervously.
    Sophomore year- on Friday the 13th, we performed our musical Legally Blonde when someone said it backstage. Well, as it goes, a few mics went off when people were onstage and then during one of Elle’s and Emmett’s duets in the second act, the lights went off on Emmett as he was singing.
    From here on out, I’m still weary of it because I know that something bad will happen. And when people say it and say I don’t care or don’t do the reversal, I do it for them.

  5. So we were reading the play in class and I was telling my friend who was helping me in the theater about it, and said it. I don’t know why, but I didn’t bother doing the reversal, I had a lot to do, and later as I was hanging some string lights on a fly line upstage of an electric, I promptly dropped a bulb and it shattered all over the floor. And later in the show, someone screwed up bringing the lights in and the cable that traveled from the fly line to the electric got disconnected and they didn’t work for an entire show because I didn’t notice them during my light check.

  6. My school was doing our dress rehearsal for a play called The Penelopiad. The first half went great but then in the interval we were sitting around talking and about 4 people said the name of the Scottish play – they thought it was no big deal but the rest of us new it was. Sure enough in the second act we accidentally skipped over entire pages of the script, then a costume ripped before finally the school alarm went off and we had to stop. The night we wrote up an apology letter to Dionysus, the God of theatre, asking him to remove the curse & we stuck the letter up backstage. This seemed to work because the rest of the show went really well.

  7. My sophomore year of high school we were doing Children of Oedipus. I was playing Ismene and my director thought that in the blocking I should go up on King Creon’s throne to show how I’ve lost it. King Creon would then pull my down the stairs and throw me onto my knees. We had done this plenty of times before so it was simple. Right? Wrong. Apparently while we were on stage, a guy in the show started saying the M word backstage. He didn’t believe in the curse and wanted to test it out. When I fell on my knees, I landed wrong and tore my Medial Meniscus in my right knee. I ended up having to get surgery. But, the guy that said it didn’t get away free! Senior year while doing a show our director had written, someone said it backstage. However, Karma got him and the platform under him broke and fell on top of him, along with a couldron full of dry ice. Just goes to show you that you don’t mess with the curse.

  8. When my high school did our production of The Wiz, a couple of kids thought is would be funny to say it during Drama class a couple days before the show. Opening night comes and we find out the Wiz had gotten into a fight and was suspended. We had to cut out several of his scenes, so that one of our ASMs could fill in for him.

  9. We were doing West Side Story and right before curtain opening night, somebody decided to repeat it over and over again. On Friday night, the door to Doc’s broke. Saturday night, Maria’s bedroom mirror shattered. Sunday afternoon, Action forgot his lyrics in the middle of “Gee, Officer Krupke”.

  10. On opening night of my high school’s production of,” noises off!” my cast members thought it would be cool to say macdaddy, (that’s what we call it) like 5 times, so here’s a run down of what happened. our brooke broke and literally fell half way through our stairs, our lloyd choked on tic tacs, and stepped on a cactus, our tim fell out of the window weird and fell on his face and busted his lip, so he was bleeding all down his face, our selsdon also fell through the window weird and landed in his chest and couldn’t breathe for like 30 sec, our Fredrick got sick right when we were about to go on stage, I nearly dropped the champagne bottle on someone’s head, and dirty broke 2 plates, so word of advice, one never says macdaddy for fun

  11. Literally doing a parody of Macbeth called, “Scots on the Rocks”. In it, everyone who says Macbeth dies within a few seconds. Well, during our final performance, everyone who said Macbeth also had something bad happen to them onstage. Highlights include when one guy was fighting the girl playing Macbeth, he says her character’s name and the sword in his hand broke. He clearly said, “Oh shit!” as he ran off the stage to be “killed” right afterwards. You think you’d be safe from the curse when the play you’re doing is pretty much Macbeth!

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