Updated: Sep 18, 2020
Theater has a long history of superstition that ranges from ghosts to curses. While some of these superstitions are purely legend (no one knows why MacBeth is the cursed play) others mix safety with mythos. Ghost lights help theatre workers from injuring themselves in a vast dark room, and whistling in a theater dates back to when rigging was all controlled by former mariners who were used whistles to communicate when to bring in that hundred pound piece of scenery. The fear of knitting on stage or in the wings probably falls into this second category, knitting needles are sharp and when moving about swiftly on and off stage pose a risk of injury.
Despite the risk, of all the superstitions that I've seen broken, this is the most common. Walk into a room of a dozen theatre folk and you will find at least one fiber enthusiast. I expand the scope just a little, because it's not just knitters and crocheters that I see but cross-stitchers, quilters, rug hookers, macramers and more. Working their stitches offstage soothes nerves, improves focus, and helps fills the down time in endless hours of waiting.
I sat down (virtually of course) with a few of my fellow theatre workers to talk about their crafting stories. They shared some amazing tidbits, spanning a full range of emotions. Here are a few great stories of backstage crafting!
"During one production, several of the actors that I lived with could also crochet and/or knit. I taught two others how to crochet and just about every day we came home after a show we'd all put on our pajamas, put out wine and snacks, and have a crocheting circle."
-Bekah Rudinec (Sound Engineer)
"I was doing "She Loves Me" one of the older actress would cross stitch backstage. And she would sometimes do it till the last minute and then have to shove it in her purse and bring it on stage. One day I found it left in the purse and finally got to see what she was cross stitching and it was a poop emoji. I had a good laughat that!
-Kelly Anne Johns (Wardrobe)
"Have crocheted and cross-stitched back stage over the years. Hardest was cross-stitching in a tent, when doing an outdoor production in VT. Light was poor. I wore a headlamp. Crafting in the dressing room is good, cause the light is great."
-Navida Stein (Actress)
"I can’t read or listen to music backstage during a show. I like to keep tuned in with what’s happening onstage, but if left to just sit I end up making myself nervous. Knitting gives me something to stay focused on while being a good listener. Also for film/tv sets where there’s so much sitting around it’s a must! I love making things for other people, hardly ever for myself."
-Amanda Collins (Actress)
"One of my early shows at MRT, one of the actors was supposed to be knitting a too small sweater for the other actor throughout the play. Between Melanie and I, I believe we knit, pulled apart and reknit various pieces of 4 sweaters."
-Emily McMullen (Stage Manger)