Break A Leg

If you have ever performed on stage, people may have said ‘Break a leg!’ to you just before your grand entrance. Have you ever wondered what this means? Did you think to yourself, ‘Why is my mum hoping I’ll break a leg during my performance!’ Maybe you thought she was just being daft like all mums are! Or maybe you thought she had it in for you for some reason! Well, there are many possible reasons why this famous theatrical saying may have developed. We even say it to each other in non-dramatic/theatrical situations such as just before an exam (yikes!) or as we are about to throw ourselves off a cliff in a bungee jump! So, here are a few ideas as to where this saying came from.

Well, apparently, it all started when someone decided it was good luck to wish someone bad luck before they went on stage. Get it? So, to tell someone to ‘Break a leg,’ is actually a good thing. I suppose that’s a bit like telling someone to ‘Break a leg’ just before they jump out of a plane or climb Mount Everest. It doesn’t quite work the same way in that scenario but hey, if actors think this is a good thing to say then I’m not going to argue! Some think it’s from Shakespeare’s time when the audience would throw coins onto the stage if they liked your performance. So, the actors had to bend down to pick the coins up and ‘Break a leg.’ (Nowadays, you wouldn’t bend down to pick it up unless it was at least a ten-pound note!) Here are some other theories………………

The Leg Line

The Leg Line

The edge of a stage was marked with a line known as the “leg” or “leg line”. Beyond this point you could be seen by the audience and those not required to be on stage had to remain back stage and not cross (break) the “leg line”. So, that would be all the people who hadn’t managed to get a main part in the school production!
In a time, performers would queue for an opportunity to perform and were only paid if they did perform, to “break a leg” meant the performer crossed the line onto the stage and would therefore get paid. So to tell a performer to “break a leg” was to wish them the luck to have the opportunity to perform and get paid. The sentiment remains the same today, “good luck, give a good performance” (and, of course, get paid!!)

Bowing

Bowing

To "break the leg" or "break a leg" is old slang for bowing or curtsying; placing one foot behind the other and bending at the knee "breaks" the line of the leg. In theatre, pleased audiences may applaud for an extended time allowing the cast to take multiple curtain calls, bowing to the audience.

Side-curtains

Side-curtains

The curtains at the side of the stage, at the back where the actors enter, are called ‘legs’. So, when you all rush onto the stage, at the end of a performance, to take you bows and curtain calls, you are ‘Breaking a leg’ by breaking the curtain! Cool.

The Big Break!

The Big Break!

When you get your ‘leg up’ onto the stage and get your big break – self-explanatory really.

Read on to find out how some of your favorite actors got their big breaks………