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Creatures Of Habit: What Is Your Show Ritual?

show ritual
By Shmem Geddes

I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly superstitious person but there are certain patterns I like to follow. Call it my show ritual, if you will. Most of these things happen over time on a show and many are forgotten once I move onto another one. Some things, however, stay with me.

My signature “Hiya” for check-in before a show, for example, has been with me for as long as I can remember (as I’m sure Anna Robb could attest). I still to this day wear my dad’s watch on opening night (to bring me luck). My little native smurf sits on the left-hand side of my Nomad desk and gets a nod before my first cue (right after I’ve given an exaggerated wink to my long-suffering fellow operator Kirsty). When these little things get missed out, I feel as if my show isn’t the same. I realise of course that in reality, nothing has changed about the show but purely my routine. Still, it bothers the slightly obsessive-compulsive operator part of my brain.

I started to think about other people I’ve worked with that also had their unique superstitions and show rituals. I distinctly remember one stage manager that had the firm belief that anytime something went wrong in a show it was because someone was wearing orange.

One time, I forgot about this particular theory. Imagine my horror as, after a particularly stressful show stop, said stage manager asked who was wearing orange only to remember that it was a Wednesday and my Wednesday day-of-the-week socks had an orange trim! The production manager on a ship who, when anything broke down, would immediately check Google to see if mercury was in retrograde. More often than not, she was bang on the money. The almost unspoken rule between stage management and automation on Totem that you must high five before the rings act. God forbid you were a guest in the booth that failed to high five! Nuances that became routine or coincidences that became rules to go by, we all have something.

What I find similar yet more intriguing is muscle memory and how quickly it can be established, and how quickly it can be disrupted. I’m merely forty shows into La Perle and already my show flow and muscle memory is forming without me really noticing. So when I found myself questioning whether I’d messed up a cue the other day, I realised that the SM’s cadence of the cue sequence had changed. Can something that small throw you off? You bet your blue playback it can, and more than likely, it will!

The very real danger comes with allowing muscle memory to turn into fully-fledged autopilot. If you slip into the stream of simply going through the motions and not giving a show your undivided attention, no matter how many times you’ve done it, chances are if things do go south you’ll be unprepared. It’s like not knowing where the emergency exits are on a plane. Or even worse, when you zone out and get sucked into watching the show instead of working on it.

You ever had that moment where you think, “Huh, I’ve never seen that happening before”? In my experience, that moment is swiftly followed by, “Oh shit! I missed my cue”. Panic, embarrassment, shame! Nobody wants to be that guy, right?

I’m sure many of you reading this will be able to relate. What’s your show ritual? Strangest superstition you’ve come across? Whatever your story, let me know. Maybe share it on the forum? And remember, it can be treacherous out there, be sure to keep your eyes on the road!

Cover Photo: Janusz Ciechowski

Also by Shmem Geddes:

Cross Training In Theatre: Bridging The Gaps

Social Media Networks And Getting A Job

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