Theatre Stories



I’ve been toying with giving Mr Bryant and Mr May another theatre-based murder to solve, but this time set in the present day, and was doing some research on London theatres today. It’s very easy to get sidetracked, so while I was reading about the St James’s Theatre I was looking at Pickering Place, the alley near it. One of the last places in London to be used for fighting duels (lookouts could be posted at the end of the passage) it was briefly home to Texas. Before Texas became part of the US it was represented for one year from an office here.
Oh, and the reason why we say ‘Break a leg’ to actors is because Samuel Foote, the manager of the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, then called the Little Theatre, broke his leg after the Duke of York deliberately gave him a bad horse for boasting about his horsemanship, and then felt so guilty that he granted him a royal warrant for the theatre. So now you know.

8 comments on “Theatre Stories”

  1. I.A.M. says:

    The tradition of the avoidance of the phrase “good luck” to actors is due to not wishing to tempt the Gods of Theatre to see you as usurping their power, owing to everything in the theatre being so tenuous at the best of times. The dance tradition is to write Merde! on someone’s make-up mirror (ballet being entirely a French art, at least in communication of technique).

    The reason for the use of the phrase “break a leg” that one understood, however, was entirely due to the tall, narrow curtains at the sides of the stage being called ‘legs’ due to their trouser-like shape. In the time of Shakespeare the bit players would be chosen on the night from local performers who had pre-memorised those lines and shown-up prior to the show and stood waiting in the wings to be selected to ‘break’ or ‘pass between’ the side-curtains and act in stage.

    That is, of course, only one possible answer to the whole messy question. It could be entirely wrong, just as it could be entirely correct.

    Now if you want some serious eyebrow raising time, attempt to sort out the origin of the term for the actors’ waiting area: “the green room”. I’ve heard about four major versions of that one: the grass carpets, or ‘greens’ were stored there when un-used; the colour of the sulphur of the footlights made the actors make-up look odd, but when viewed in a room with green walls they were able to check the stage results before going out there; green was, at some time, the least expensive to purchase; it was the best colour of paint to cover stains; etc. No one knows this one.

  2. joss bundy says:

    May I suggest the ABTT (Association of British Theatre Technicians) to you. They have an archeology Committee that is the most wonderful fount of knowledge for all things old and theatre related, and that’s not just the members! In fact I suspect that Arthur is probably an honorary member!

  3. Steve says:

    I had been told some time ago that the Texas Embassy Cantina was so-called because it WAS the Texas Embassy at one time, before as you say Texas became a part of the US.
    Don’t know if it’s true or not; your entry seems to say “not” because it’s a different location. Said Cantina used to be a good place to eat, but has gone downhill in the past few years.

  4. David Read says:

    The thing that also interests me is the audience, several hundred people gripped by a great performance would be a public yet private place for murder and mystery, once can imagine a round of shushing following the noise of someone expiring.

    At something like the Rocky Horror, one could get away with anything…

  5. Date Hello, I have browsed most of your posts. This post is probably where I got the most useful information for my research. Thanks for posting, maybe we can see more on this. Are you aware of any other websites on this subject

  6. broke his leg on purpose? what a freak!

  7. May I suggest the ABTT (Association of British Theatre Technicians) to you.

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