Do you have a lucky outfit for big meetings? Or maybe for big dates? Same here. Humans are creatures of habit, and those habits can blur into superstitions over time. (Date didn’t go well? Probably because your lucky top was stuck at the dry cleaners.)
For performers, the importance of consistency in routine becomes even more important. After all, getting on stage is kind of like having a date with 1,200 people at once. We chatted with the best and brightest performers around the city about the rituals they follow, and why 1980s video games might be the key to emotional well-being.
The Sentimentalist: Julia Nightingale, Shena Carney in The Ferryman
“I’m not too superstitious,” Julia Nightingale says. “I just have several good luck charms and whatnot that I like to have around my dressing room.” Among those charms are a glass clover from her grandmother. “She always had it hanging in her kitchen… but she gifted it to me when I got this part!” Julia reveals. “I also have a little plate that has an Irish prayer on it from my mother, as well as a journal entry from when I was 8 that reads ‘Singing and acting are my chosen career. If I give up one of them I’ll be poor and end up like a person who sleeps in a taxi and sells hotdogs.’”
The Stickler: Brent Bateman, Robert in The Play That Goes Wrong
“I am not a superstitious person at all,” Brent Bateman explains before admitting, “but I think I display some characteristics of OCD as I just really love to stick to a routine before and during a performance. I keep my warm up regimen basically the same for each show. I tend to reach for my water bottle at the same time each performance. I collect my props at the same time. This idea of sticking to a routine makes me feel more secure within the chaos of the show.”
The Spiritualist: Britton Smith, Jake in Be More Chill
Britton Smith begins to prepare long before he reaches the Lyceum Theatre. “The mornings are actually when I choose to prepare myself for the show. I make sure I have the time to go to my altar to fully acknowledge and honor the newness of the day and all that I have to learn and gain from it. This can take anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour,” he explains.
“I pray, chant, sing to myself, write, sometimes I cry; I just listen to my inner Britton and connect myself to what matters and identify what doesn’t matter. It’s my ME time. It allows me to enter the theater with joy, ease, and expectations of a wonderful, meaningful performance. After I’ve warmed up, stretched, gotten dressed, etc. I go to a specific corner backstage, anchor myself in the intention of the morning, and dedicate a piece of my Jake to this realization. And then I smile a big-ass smile and go on stage.”
The Early Bird: Brenda Pressley, Constance in Proof of Love
Brenda Pressley doesn’t like to cut it close. “Since my days in the original company of Dream Gilrs, it’s been my habit to arrive at the theater two hours before curtain,” she reveals. “It gives me plenty of time to settle and focus.” And while she doesn’t consider it a superstition, she never goes on “without saying a prayer of thanks for the ability to perform and my hope that my work might inspire someone in the audience.”
The Pragmatist: Krystina Alabado, Gretchen in Mean Girls
Newly minted Plastic Krystina Alabado has a very practical approach to her pre-show routine. “Playing Gretchen is very high-energy, hyperactive, and go-go-go, so when I do my pincurls and make-up before the show, I like to chill out and breathe for a minute and just chat with Kate Rockwell, my dress roommate. The calm before the Gretchen storm. Then about 10 minutes out for the entrance of The Plastics I stretch, do some vocal sirens, and jump up and down to get myself all hyper and drop into being Gretchen.” She adds that sometimes she throws the ritual to the wind and does something random, like Facetime with her husband.
The Practictioner: David Furr, Burton in Burn This
Starring alongside industry heavyweights like Keri Russell and Adam Driver is no small feat, which is why it’s not surprising that their Burn This co-star David Furr always makes sure he is prepared. In addition to arriving at the theater early at the theater early to “shake off New York City a bit,” running through the theater seats and having a cup of coffee. Furr practices before each show.
“I like to run my lines once to myself before being onstage,” he shares. “It just makes me feel like I’ve ensured there are still in there somewhere.” While he wouldn’t qualify this as superstition, he admits: “If I am on stage and realize I haven’t done it that day, it’s a weird feeling.”
The Mother Hen: Beth Leavel, Dee Dee Allen in The Prom
“My pre-show ritual consists of getting to the theater early and checking in on everyone: hair, makeup, vocalize, and places please!” The Tony-winner adds that she also follows a pretty strict rule of never changing her backstage patterns (at all!) after opening night. “Even if there is a quicker way to get to my dressing room or stage right (for example), if I didn’t do it on opening night, it would be changed.”
The Survivor: Maddie Corman, Accidentally Brave
“I usually share a dressing room and so I have to find some secret, private space for a little ritual… but when you’re in a solo show that’s not really an issue!” the Accidentally Brave star reveals. “Before I go into the theater, I like to take a walk around Union Square and run some lines. I’m sure there are a few people who wonder about the odd lady talking to herself.” She also takes a moment of gratitude before going on stage. “My gratitude list varies day to day – my kids are a constant but sometimes I’m grateful for the subway … sometimes for a nice day … or residuals, or sometimes for my therapist.” (Amen to that!)
The Gamer: Rosie Jo Neddy, Khave in Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish
“Khave doesn’t appear until halfway through Act Two, so I have an ‘Intermission into the second act’ ritual, a ‘tradition’ if you will,” Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish star Rosie Jo Neddy says. “Every day, I lay on my back with my foot in the air in the same spot on the same couch in the green room and play Tetris on a Gameboy Advance.” She plays from the beginning of intermission through ‘The Rumor,’ which is when she prepares to go back on stage. “After opening, my girlfriend lent me the Gameboy to help me remain calm and focused during the break. I’m fairly new at the game, but I’m proud to say that my current high score is 115 lines.”
Book a Broadway Roulette spin or a Beyond Broadway spin and go see these amazing performers for yourself! A version of this story first appeared in W42St magazine. Sign up for their weekly newsletter here!