JR Clancy Rigging Report: Theatrical Superstitions & Missing Catalogs


This months JR Clancy Rigging Report mentions something that almost every person in theatre knows about, but talks very little about it, Theatrical Superstitions.  Why do we do such things?  Why does a pitcher on a winning streak on wash hit uniform?  It’s all about doing what ever it takes to keep winning or to put on a great show.

We have all heard about the common theatrical superstitions, such as never saying the name Macbeth in a theatre and never wishing a performer “Good Luck.”  Here’s the lore behind one superstition with a rigging background.

Whistle While You Work…

Not in this business! Several years ago I was working at a theatre company in New Haven, Connecticut. It was about an hour before the show on opening night, and I was whistling along with a song on the radio while testing the motorized turntable when I was approached by the lead actor of the show and told to stop immediately or he would not go on!

When theatrical rigging was in its infancy, sailors who were familiar with pin rails, knots, and pulleys, were hired to fly the scenery and drapery. These sailors took what they knew about raising and lowering sails and applied it to the theatre. One tradition of sailing that made its migration to the theatre was whistling. The sailors/riggers would whistle across the stage to cue the movement of scenery. The superstition of never whistling on stage supposedly started when an actor was casually whistling on stage. One of the sailors thought that it was his cue, and lowered a piece of scenery onto the musical actors head.

While cue lights and headsets have replaced whistling as a form of communication, the superstition has lived on. So remember, next time you are working on stage and just dying to whistle along with that new Britney tune, think twice and stay alert!

Did you know that JR Clancy has been in the business for over 125 year?  While doing some cleaning around the office lately, they noticed they were missing some of their older catalogs…

Our filing system is pretty good, but over decades things can go missing.  As we enter our 125th year of doing business, we are trying to fill in some gaps so we are looking for your help in retrieving copies of our missing catalogs.

Please look in your file of Clancy information for a spare copy of the following catalogs:

  • Catalog # 3 – Date: 1887 – 1888
  • Catalog # 4 – Date: 1887 – 1888
  • Catalog #13 – Date: 1896 – 1898
  • Catalog #27 – Date: 1916 – 1918
  • Catalog #29 – Date: 1918 – 1921

If you have any of these catalogs, JR Clancy is willing to pay the first person to send it in $200. Contact Rob Kaiser.