Pre-Show Rituals


This piece is about pre-show theater rituals at Mira Costa High School. It deals with all the students in a theater production following and believing a tradition of naming a celebrity that will come to the show and a song that is sung before the show.

Main Piece:

“Before a play at my high school, every single time, we would have a big speech. It was always a senior and they would be like “okay guys, like blah blah blah.” We’re all emotional. Then we would get in two lines looking out at the audience, and we’d be super emotional and then they would always flip it like “And you know what? Beyonce’s coming here tonight. So we have to perform for her.” And they would always choose like a random celebrity and honestly, my freshman year, they said Selena Gomez was coming and I like didn’t know it was a tradition, so I was like “why the hell is Selena Gomez coming and how does everyone know she is coming?” And luckily I didn’t say anything, but I was like really confused. And then afterwards we would go upstairs and get shoved into this tiny room. And the seniors would be in the back of the room and we would all hold hands and sing Piano Man every time before a play. And there were these little traditions, like there was always one person on the harmonica, and at another part we’d have to kick out a leg and another part where he references a girl or something and we’d have to kiss the person to the left of us on the cheek. Then when you’re going out of the room there was always this picture of something provocative and you’d have to jump up and slap it at the doorway.”


The informant is a 19 year old from Manhattan Beach who was involved in theater productions at her high school by playing in the orchestra. She learned these traditions after her first production with the school and had to quickly catch on so she was not left out.


Any kind of tradition before a big event is significant to those involved because it promotes unity as a group and good luck. I think name-dropping a celebrity after a big emotional speech is a funny way of reminding the performers and those involved that there is pressure, but to also have fun with the process. Not explaining that it is a joke I think is part of the ritual, and also enforces the idea that there is an “in group” (the theater kids who know the ritual) and an “out group” (students who are not involved in theater). The part about the tiny room is strange to me too because it almost feels like an initiation into the world as well.