Whistling in the Theatre

Main Content:

M: Me, I : Informant

I: You are also not supposed to whistle in a theatre.

M: And then you were saying whistling?

I: Whistling is a no no because um back in the day uh theatres were operated by like sailors and they would whistle to each other to get cues, so if you whistled in a theatre, like the thought was a sailor would hear that and then like drop a sand bag on you. You know?

M: Gotcha

I: Yeah so that’s like thought to be bad luck

M: And that’s still functions in todays society even though we don’t have the sailors anymore.

I: Yeah, yeah

M: Gotcha

I:It’s just— don’t whistle in a theatre.

M: cause then you get bad luck, is someone gonna get hurt or just something is going to go wrong?

I: Yeah all of these are just like bad luck for like the show.

Context: This informant has been an active member of the theatre community since she was a child. She has been in numerous productions. She learned this from those around her and then became an active bearer of this folklore by explaining and passing it down to the younger years.

Analysis: After she learned this theatre lore, she then became an active bearer of this folklore by explaining and passing it down to the younger and newer actors. This folklore had a practical usage back in the days when sailors would operate the theaters and communicate through whistle cues. Thus, whistling would interfere and possibly trigger an accident. However, even when sailors exited from theatre operations, the practice of not whistling continued as it was ingrained as part of the culture. While we have moved from modernity to the digital age with amazing technological the folklore persisted because the practicality wasn’t important anymore as it was more about the history of accidents and ‘bad luck’ associated with whistling in the theatre. Now it’s become a part of what we learn from other actors and if you slip up, oftentimes people will correct you, which helps to keep this folklore alive and circulating.