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