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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…

Written by Nicole Mellion

25 Comments

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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.

    • I was in the audience watching my older sister perform in the play “Little Shop Of Horrors.” Once the play was finished, my parents and I left the auditorium and met my sister in the hall. She ended up telling us this weird story about some dude known to be a trouble maker start talking about ‘The m-word.’ Turns out, some irresponsible dunce on stage crew decided it’d be funny to lean into the actors that were about to go onstage and said it more than once! The kids about to go on stage couldn’t do anything about it because they were performing in, like, ten seconds, so they waited out the part to see if anything bad would happen. At some point, the dude who said the m-word tripped and fell and hit his knee on the metal staircase that led to the top of the stage. According to the kids backstage, his knee began to bleed violently and the stage crew had to take the boy to the nurse to bandage it! Honestly, I did feel kind of sorry for him, but that should teach him to think twice before messing around.

  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

    • It depends on who you ask, but the one I’ve always heard is that you run around the theatre clockwise three times, spit in the direction of the director, and say the foulest curse word you can come up with. It’s brutal, but it’s worth it if it means your show is saved.

  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!

  12. We were doing R&J and one of my students thought to tempt fate and shouted the infamous word. Four days before opening, he had to step in and play Friar Laurence. He was an atheist and the irony did not escape me. He blamed the curse for his unenviable situation. Guess he became a believer of sorts.

  13. One day in my into to theatre class last fall, we were discussing Shakespeare and my professor asked before he started the lecture if anyone would be offended if he said “The M-Word.” Me and a few other students raised our hands, because we don’t play around with it. About thirty seconds into the lecture, this moron raises his hand and says “it’s okay to say it in here.” I was shocked he did that, and to make matters worse, my professor catered to him!!Later on that day while I was in lighting class, something crashed offstage right and I just yelled the name of the person who was stupid enough to try the curse. To this day, I will never let him forget how stupid he is for even trying it.

  14. There are many examples of it cursing my high school theatre that have been passed down through the years. We had a light explode about five minutes before curtain one time. There was another time that everyone got food poisoning. We had a gate break during a performance. The list goes on and on.
    Now, whether or not the play is at fault is up for debate, but I strongly believe it is. Two years ago, the only reason that it didn’t curse one of our shows was because the girl who accidentally said it (we were reading the play in English at the time) was familiar with the curse of the Scottish Play and did the counter-curse.
    My parents, siblings, and some of my friends make fun of me incessantly for my belief in the curse, but it’s real, and I’ve made somebody do the counter-curse more than once because they’ve said the name to get on my nerves.

  15. I don’t believe in the macbeth thing, but i always avoid saying it because it upsets my castmates. I was creeped out one time though, because I was doing Disney’s Snow White and at the end of a run, one of the dwarves said it. Everyone was really upset at him, but some didn’t think much of it. The next show, our Doc walked in on crutches and we had to last minute change the choreography. Our director called up the costume designer who had to quickly come down to the theatre and look through past props after props until they found a walking stick from a show 6 years ago. Basically, the entire thing was madness.

  16. In a production of Jane Eyre, my friend said it and one girl’s shoe broke, my parasol broke (I was Adele) and one person forgot the lines to their song!!!!!

  17. We’re in tech week for into the woods at my theatre, and a bunch of the other actors keep saying it ( I think just to get on my nerves.) So far I have twisted my ankle ( and I’m Rapunzel so I have to climb the ladder to my tower with a twisted ankle) and then a level fell on the same ankle. The show isn’t over yet, so we’ll see what else happens!

  18. I have never said the dreaded word, but I have done school and community theatre since age 10. I have many gems to contribute.
    1. My first role in school theatre was a Frog in Sleeping Beauty Kids. We had 3 Frogs. All of us shared a line. One of them didn’t show up, the other one’s mic wasn’t working. I said the line for her! I technically saved the show, right?
    2. We did Winnie the Pooh Kids when i was in 5th grade. I played a Bird in the Animal Chorus. The rest of the Animal Chorus was 4th graders. We missed a cue in “The Backson Song”
    3. I played a reindeer in my 5th grade Christmas chorus show. The reindeer sang “Mister Santa.” We had mic stands instead of body mics. I stood too close to the mic and had feedback. I’m pretty sure that was on tape.
    4. For an Arbor Day concert in 3rd grade, I was in charge of greeting everyone and telling the history of Arbor Day. My hands were shaking while I was speaking! It got on tape as well :/
    5. I played Adella (one of Ariel’s sisters) as while as an unnamed Princess in The Little Mermaid Jr. I accidentally sang one of Flounder’s solos in “She’s In Love.” It wasn’t really noticeable though 🙂 Someone misplaced Scuttle’s mic during tech, but we did find out.
    6. My middle school did Grease twice (it was the school edition but we still had to cut some things out, even though I think Grease is too risqué for any middle school) One of the girls playing Patty Simcox lost her shoes and later one of the guys who alternated between Kenickie and Sonny admitted that he misplaced them.
    7. Willy Wonka Jr, fall 2013. We double casted this show as well. The girl who played Candy Man played a child on her off night. She yelled something offstage about the director before the Candy Man song on her mic.
    8. Annie Jr, fall 2014. We used 2 dogs for Sandy: a Labradoodle and a Havanese (similar to a shih tzu) The Havanese dog sometimes ran offstage during rehearsals and I think one show as well! The girl doing photography had to catch him! Note: Don’t use small dogs for Sandy!
    9. Lucky Stiff, freshman year of high school, fall 2015. It’s an off broadway musical about a Jersey chick who falls in love with a corpse who turns out to be the uncle of a British shoe salesman as they meet up in Monte Carlo. During the opening song, the corpse (played by a living guy) ‘s last will and testament to his nephew was supposed to play in the middle of the song. The choreography was that everyone had to stay in place. We literally just stood there for like 20 seconds while we waited for the last will and testament to be played! It was the last show as well 🙁
    10. Sound of Music, freshman year 2016. The Captain forgot his shoes during the party, Rolf had his phone onstage and fell offstage during 16 going on 17 as Maria had to kick it under the bed, the church bells played instead of the door bell and finally, the computer in the tech booth literally just shut down and restarted. I don’t know if someone said the word.
    11. Guys and Dolls. The freshman boy playing Harry the Horse had an allergic reaction to the shellfish at Carabba’s. The understudy went on and did a good job! But when the original boy came back, he was hyper after the adrenaline meds!
    12. Shrek. The boy playing Young Shrek misplaced the Pied Piper’s flute on the last night. We did find it right before PP came on stage with the tap dancing rats. Don’t let child actors mess with the props!
    13. Aladdin Jr (my most recent show) one of the boys playing the Princes kept singing along to solos in Prince Ali. I had a solo and tried to project over him. (he was pretty obnoxious and often getting into trouble) and as a guard I had to climb up a structure, jump, and arrest Aladdin. I wore long pants, and one of the legs got caught on the top of my boot. The other guard was late to jump off, and I was running to get him I tripped. I hurt my shin (but no bones broken/spraining) and had to ice it between shows. We were talking about it backstage. The parents working backstage were worried about me. I’m fine now.

  19. The offender has to leave auditorium/theatre (depending om whom you ask), knock, wait until someone from inside invites him/her back, run to the stage, turn round three times counterclockwise and say a curse word. At least that’s how I’ve been taught it.

  20. We performed The Scottish Play when I was a senior in high school. To this day, I’m convinced that the department was cursed the rest of the year because of this show. Our shop flooded every opening night. We had sound issues during our musical. And closing night of the Scottish play, there was a major thunderstorm that caused the power to go out at the end of the show. The emergency lights came on at the back of the house and we got a pity standing ovation😂😂

  21. I just closed up a production of hairspray last night and luckily our closing night was fine, but the Friday between the Thursday matinee and closing Saturday was a disaster. we believed friday was going to be good since 1. It was being recorded, 2. It was a night show so there would be more preparation, 3. It was closing for some people who were double cast like me, 4. Our matinee was naturally lack-luster due to the small audience and the stressful rush immediately after school. We thought our “bad performance” was already over with. However, we were so wrong. Apparently one of the techs who wasn’t working the show that day was watching the show in the audience and thought it would be a funny idea to say the name of Scottish play. Additionally, many MANY people were saying “good luck” to each other instead of “break a leg.” Well it was BAD. During “mama I’m a big girl now” I (playing amber Von tussle) somehow missed singing my ENTIRE “once upon a time I used to play with toys…” verse without even realizing. It was super creepy too, it was almost as if I blanked out or my mind went on autopilot because I thought I was singing, but I wasn’t. Apparently something similar happened to our penny and she also said she jumped in too early for one of her solo lines. Both me and the girl playing penny ended up crying backstage afterwards. After that I heard countless stories of people blanking out, missing their lines/cues, etc. one of the biggest incidents of that night was that during “run and tell that” our little Inez cracked twice during her solo and then ultimately blanked out, and she ran off stage early and started having a mental breakdown. The ironic thing was that right before that she was telling ME not to cry after my mess up in mama I’m a big girl now. She was so upset that she almost didn’t go on for the rest of the show and she would have her double go on for her. Luckily she pulled through and came on at the end despite missing some record hop scenes. once act 1 was over, one of the jail cells for “the big dollhouse” somehow fell into the pit. During “the big dollhouse” luckily nothing terrible happened but I did feel that my wig was loose and i could feel it bouncing during the dance breaks. It didn’t fall off but it was very uncomfortable. I’m not sure what exactly happened during the rest of act 2 since I wasn’t onstage until “it’s hairspray,” but the guy who played link told me that unintentional mistakes just kept on happening. To add the cherry on top to this whole mess, even though the entire miss hairspray sequence from “its hairspray” to “cooties” to “you can’t stop the beat” went fine, there was a girl in the audience crying. And she was crying LOUD. I felt bad because I think the girl had a disability but it was extremely disruptive to the performance and her father was asked to take her outside multiple times but he refused. It was overall a very disappointing way to end my run as amber, and the worst part was, the entire performance was filmed. We were supposed to film the last Friday and closing night, but even though closing went amazing, it wasn’t filmed because the filmographer’s parents wouldn’t let her come to the show that night. We only found out at the Denny’s afterparty and people were MAD. So now the only recording we have of our production of hairspray is a recording of the night someone said the m-word.

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