Mumming Plays 2009, 2010

After our first production was a success, we maintained our momentum by performing a small 10-minute show that actually went bar-hopping.  I plan to keep this as a holiday tradition, and am proud to say that we have maintained it for the past two years.

Bohrs Hoff and Patrick T Murphy in Mummings 2010

The Mumming Plays are indeed a Christmas play, even though the plot has nothing to do with Christmas.  It was a concept that Patrick T. Murphy and I were immediately excited by when we learned about it at college.  As theatre was reborn in Europe as a seperate art from Christian ritual, Mumming Plays emerged as one of the permissable ways to have fun in a world where good hygiene was considered to be witchcraft. Saint Nicholas suddenly appears in a bar or tavern or inn or whathaveyou, announcing “In comes I!”  He then begins to narrate the story of Saint George, the patron saint of Britain who killed a dragon at some point.  The play escalates as George faces greater and greater challenges, dies a few times, and eventually rescues a Princess.  There is no set text for this tradition, and many variations exist.  So we decided to update the text a bit, turning St. George into Uncle Sam, and the Turkish  Knight became a terrorist.  There was, of course, a Dragon, and an Unethical Quack Doctor also made an appearance to bring the hero back to life.

Atra Asdou and Elise Swinford barhopping

There were two different casts in the first year, one performing in Hartford, and the other in Chicago.

In Chicago:
Atra Asdou – Princess
Bohrs Hoff – Unethical Quack, the Devil
Krista Krauss – Turkish Knight, the Dragon
Patrick T Murphy – St. Nick
Elise Swinford – Uncle Sam

In Hartford:
Tom Foran: Argok the Terrible, the Unethical Quack, and the Devil
Benvolio: Santa
Jeremy Garfinkel: the Turkish Knight and The Dragon
Bryam Swormstedt: Uncle Sam
Kaela Whitaker: the Princess

The Chicago tour contacted a number of bars and restaurants beforehand, but also performed at a number of locations around the route that were unannounced.  One of our favorites was at Third Coast Comics, a bookstore that specializes is graphc novels, where we were tipped in awesome geeky things.  The Hartford tour primarily showed up at open mic nights at bars around the downtown area.

Benvolio Tomiaello as Santa and Tom Foran as the Devil

For the 2010 show, we reeled in the number of cast members, reducing it to two actors who each played multiple roles. The dynamic was actually a really fun competition between the two performers, who basically try to outdo each other in the story telling.  The characters of the Devil and the Doctor were sadly dropped, Uncle Sam was St. George again, but this version of the script was very effective and very tight.  So, we plan to use it again this year and in future productions of this
tradition.  That year, however, we only did a few nights touring in the Roger’s Park Neighborhood of Chicago.  The cast was as follows:

Bohrs Hoff: St. George
Patrick T Murphy – St. Nick

Patrick T Murphy, with Bohrs Hoff as the puppeteer for the Dragon

In Chicago, this was an incredibly fun experience which genuinely suprised
and delighted most audiences.  We did  discover the most depressing bar in the world, though, which was the best-lit dive bar I’ve ever seen and where nobody loved anything.  But mostly, both years in Chicago were great shows.  The Hartford tour came to various open-mic nights in the downtown area, with mixed reaction.  The best way to do this play seems to be  completely unannounced, just suddenly starting and playing off of whatever audience is present.  From Popeye’s Chicken, to respected neighborhood bars, to a children’s Karate Dojo, there is a wide variety of people that can be reached with this good natured spectacle.  That was probably the best feature of the 2010 show, the Karate Dojo.  Pat and I happened to be walking by, and a bunch of the dads on a cigarette break invited us in to perform for the kids at their Christmas party.  Really good times.

The rehearsal process for a play that goes barhopping

We look forward to expanding on this tradition in the future!

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