The Circle


I had asked one of my friends, who was an actor and writer, if she had any sort of acting or theater folklore.



Informant: In my theater group that I participated in when I was in high school. Before every show, we had something called the “Circle” where we would all circle up and we would all hold hands. It was very, very ritualized. In the center of the circle we would have like a little table and it would have a candle on it. We changed candle-holders a couple of times, and the last one was this really cool dragon-style candle-holder. And we would have a copy of the script and a coin. It would be any coin that the director literally pulled out of his pocket. And he would tell us that every time – it was just an average coin that he would pull from his pocket every time. And while we were in this circle what we would first do is hold hands and he would have us breathe together. And he would go, “breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. As we breathe together as one, we are as one.” And that’s how we would start it every time. And he would go – It would change slightly every time, but the speech that he would give would be pretty much “we walked in each other’s footsteps, we’re a great team, we’re going to make this a great show.” And then at the end of this little spiel, he would pull out the coin. And he would talk about how the coin is a circle and the circle is a symbol of all of us together, so put yourself into this coin. And the coin would be passed around the circle and usually what people would do is people would hold it over their hearts. Some people would just hold it in their hands, but most people would hold it over their hearts and then would pass it on to the next one. Then he would talk about how excited he was for this. And then at the very end we would all, instead of holding each others’ hands we would put our hands over each others’ shoulders and we would get in really close, as close as we could. And the candle was lit the whole time, and at this point he would blow it out. We would get down really close and we would all kneel down and we would start really, really quietly and we would be like, “It’s showtime. It’s showtime.” And we would build, build, build, until we screamed it. And then that was the end of our circle, and that is how we would start every show.

Me: So a little pep rally type thing?

Informant: Yeah, so even, even when it wasn’t a big show, even if it was a little charity show and it was only like five of us, we would still do the circle.

Me: Nice. Nice.

Informant: Yeah. And that was our opening circle. And we would have the closing circle at the end wihich wasn’t as elaborate. IT was just we get in a circle and we all kind of cried about missing it and then we would do the showtime thing again.

Me: Uh huh.

Informant: I do remember one time we were doing this, we had a live band who had never been in a theater show before, like they had no idea what we were doing. And it was perfect because none of this was planned. But one of these guys, the guitarist was joking around as was like, “what is this, is this some kind of cult thing?” ‘Cause we were like literally all standing in a circle around a candle in the dark.


Informant: And is this some sort of cult thing, and my director goes no it’s not, guys tell them. And so every single person – about twenty people – answer in like a low monotone chant, “this is not a cult.”

Me: [Laughter] That is absolutely hilarious. And entirely spontaneous?

Informant: Yes, entirely spontaneous and we really freaked out the band members, it was great. We got them to get in the circle, but it was funny.

Me: That is really funny.

Informant: So that’s the circle that we had for our theater.



Most performance groups, like a theater troupe or a sports team, have their own little ritualistic warm-up routines. This ritual that my friend’s theater group performed was used to psych themselves up for their performances. It got their blood running, and the adrenaline pumping. It was, essentially, a highly ritualized pep rally that was catered towards a close-knit group of people who did what they loved and loved what they did. Also, this shows just how weird such pre-game, pre-performance rituals can be, but also how effective they can be for preparing a member of the group, for getting the group into the right state of mind to go out there and do whatever it is that they are doing. Furthermore, it can be seen as a way to initiate new members into the group, as evidenced with the live band members who were invited to join, and join they did. Such rituals help also to create a strong bond of friendship and camaraderie among the members of the group, which is incredibly important for such groups as a theater troupe or a sports team, as such groups rely heavily on teamwork.