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Sound Off: Break a leg

Regarding an actor, what does the phrase “break a leg” mean, and why is it used?

This question is tough to answer with certainty, said Doug Weaver, director of theater for Bishop Seabury Academy and freelance director for Theatre Lawrence and the Lawrence Arts Center. Some people think it comes from the fact that “legs” are side curtains, and the hope is that actors will have to take so many bows they’ll break the “legs” rushing on and off stage. Others think it refers to bowing, as the leg “breaks” as you bow forward. Yet others have said it refers to John Wilkes Booth breaking his leg when he jumped from a theater booth after shooting president Lincoln. “I prefer to think of it as fooling the theater gods into ignoring your work,” Weaver said. “Break a leg, instead of good luck, sends them off to bother someone else.”

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