Don’t Whistle in the Theater


HB is an American woman who has had 30 years of experience working in the theater industry, specifically in tech, props and production management.


HB goes on to describe why whistling in the theater is taboo:

“The first stage hands were sailors because theater requires a lot of rigging, there’s pulleys and ropes and things that have to go up and down. And the way sailors would communicate on old sailing ships was by whistling, they had some kind of code…. So in the theater when they would call cues, they would do so by whistling. So it’s bad luck to whistle in the theater because you might accidentally tell someone to drop a sandbag on your head!”

Even though stage hands now have headsets and other forms of communication and other ways to rig a stage, it is still considered to be taboo and bad luck to whistle in a theater


The fact that this is still practiced in modern times showcases thespians’ devotion to history, traditions and the past. The nature of theatrical shows is normally in tribute to past events, whether it be the writing of shows that are set in the past or the reproduction of plays that were written in the past. It makes sense that a common theme in the theatrical environment is to preserve old ways and traditions since it is a behavior that aligns with their goal to relive the past. 

Another taboo action in theater, that HB compared whistling too, is saying the name of a certain play inside of a theater, which is now nicknamed the Scottish Play. The real name of the play was the last name of some characters that killed many for power and were haunted by their actions. Saying this would result in someone dying in the theater. Some would joke around with this and take it more light-heartedly while some were very serious and even perform a curse reversing ritual of sorts if the name of the play was said.

Both of these taboo actions are centered around the power of the past and death or bodily harm. These actions were probably made taboo to emphasize the lesson of respecting old ways and the power of the past.