The amazing truth behind “break a leg”

Ever had someone wish you luck by saying “break a leg”? Most people think this is rather harsh and imagine the valiant performer struggling though a show nursing fractured limbs on stage. Perhaps this refers to the “show must go on” spirit so many actors have in their blood? Or is it a glib reference to being careful on stage? Perhaps it is a sideswipe at actors who find it difficult to navigate around stage and might bump into furniture while remembering lines – (there are some out there).

A quick examination of this old superstition reveals that in fact the origins are very simple. On stage the scenery that descends form the fly gallery are called legs. This includes the curtain. So if an actor receives so many curtain calls due to rapturous applause, standing ovation, etc. then the ‘leg’ carrying the curtain might suffer undue strain and break. (More likely the poor flymen up in the roof will become exhausted and fed up bouncing the curtain that they just let it drop)! Hence the saying “break a leg”. Nothing veiled, clever or sarcastic, just a simple wish for a great show. So there you go.

3D Empty Stage Red


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