“Break A Leg”

With the opening of my play, The Shabbos List, tomorrow, friends are wishing me “break a leg.” Curious about the origin of the term, I did some Internet browsing.

Here’s a summary culled from various sites:

The idiom “break a leg” is said to actors instead of good luck, which is not said as it could jinx the performance and bring bad luck. Wishing an actor “break a leg” hopes a performance will be so well received the actor has to bend his/her knee in a bow or curtsey to acknowledge applause or that going on stage will give the actor the “big break.”

The phrase’s origins are unclear. Some link it to the Ancient Greeks, who showed appreciation of a dramatic performance by stomping feet instead of clapping hands. Stomping too hard could break a leg. Likewise, some say the term comes from Elizabethan times, when audiences stomped their chairs, leading to possible furniture fractures.

Some cite the Hebrew blessing ‘hatzlakha u-brakha’, meaning ‘success and blessing’, that was then adapted by the German World War I aviators into “Hals und Beinbruch,” meaning “break your neck and leg,” to wish a good flight. It coincided with the phrase “Happy Landings,” used by English and American flyers.

Regardless of its origin, I wish my cast and crew, “break a leg,” and also much gratitude for all the hard work and dedication that helped bring my words to stage.

Tickets still available: http://thespisnytheaterfestival.com/the-shabbos-list-by-lisa-k-winkler-july-17-18-20-2014/

Roy Arias Studio II, 300 West 43rd St. NYC



About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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17 Responses to “Break A Leg”

  1. ShimonZ says:

    הצלחה וברכה
    Best wishes for a very good reception!


  2. How exciting Lisa – to watch your words come to life on stage! Wish I could be there to celebrate. 🙂
    Diana xo


  3. I’m sure the show will be a great success. “Break a leg.” 😀


  4. ksbeth says:

    how absolutely exciting and wonderful! best to you all )


  5. Patti Winker says:

    This is SO exciting! Break a leg! I’ll be thinking of you and wishing I was there. 😀


  6. susanissima says:

    Do BREAK A LEG, Lisa, cast and crew!


  7. Colline says:

    Interesting to read where the expression came from.


  8. I always wondered where that mishuganuh phrase came from. Than you for doing the leg work. Interesting. And by the way, “Break a Leg”. Can’t wait until Friday. Love, Mom.


  9. Drjcwash says:

    Break a leg. Looking forward to seeing the play


  10. Was going to say it to you, but thought better of it at my age! Enjoy your success Lisa, thrilled for you 👏


  11. Thanks, Chris– yes most our age feel saying ‘break a leg’ is more of a curse ! I’m not superstitious, so will accept good luck!


  12. Realy Great. Daddy and i haven’t stopped talking about it, and not only because you’re our daughter. you touched all basis. All you need is an angel, Angel.BPM


  13. Thanks, mom! So glad you were able to come. You inspire me!


  14. Have fun and break a leg. I have also heard that a leg is part of the curtain that is brought up at the end. If you get enough curtain calls (where they have to keep bringing up the curtain), then you would break the leg.


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