MRDS Newsletter, Fall 1997 Issue
Session 170 (MRDS)
Framing Medieval Drama: Performative Texts and Textual Performances
Sunday, 28 Dec. 12 noon - 1:15pm
Ballroom Salon B, Royal York
"Visualizing Performance: The Miniatures of Besançon MS 579
(Jour du Jugement),"
Richard K. Emmerson, Western Washington University
"The Franciscan Frame and Its Absence in Middle English Drama,"
Lawrence Clopper, Indiana University
"Colonial Encounters: Medieval Performances in British America,"
Claire Sponsler, University of Iowa
Session 715 (MRDS)
Homoeroticism and Homophobia in Early Drama
Tuesday, 30 Dec. 1:45-3:00pm
Algonquin, Royal York
"Christian Iconography and Amor Fratribus in Christopher Marlowe's
Edward II: Reformation, Homophobia and Cancellation of Male Love,"
Patrick Ryan, The University of Iowa
"Tunc Spoliabunt ipsum et ligabunt ad columnan: Reading the Chester
Passion Sequence as a Sado-Masochistic Scene,"
Mary E. Sokolowski, Binghamton University
"Unnatural Acts: Sodomy and the Sins of Cain,"
Sylvia Tomasch, Hunter College of the City of New York
Theatricality: Ritual, Festival, Performance
Sponsored by the Division on Medieval and Renaissance Italian Literature
Sunday 28 Dec. 10:15-11:30am York, Sheraton Centre
"Women's Theatrical Space in the Counter-Reformation,"
Jane C. Tylus, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison
"The Heights of Madness: Isabella Andreini's Participation in the 1589 Wedding
Gala of Cristina di Lorena and Ferdinando Medici,"
Rosalind Kerr, Univ. of Toronto, Saint George Campus
"Andiamo al teatro a veder la commedia: John Florio and the Theatrics of
the Elizabethan Language Lesson,"
Michael Wyatt, Wesleyan University
The Play of State, the State of Play
Sunday, 28 Dec. 7:15-8:30 pm
New Brunswick, Royal York
"Theater, Reform, and Cultural Conflict in English Provincial Communities,"
Paul Whitfield White, Purdue University
"The Festive Victories: Historical Drama in Coventry and London,"
Benjamin Griffin, Cambridge University
"Stigmatized by Print: Marketing the Birth of Tragedy in Elizabethan England,"
Douglas Brooks, Texas A&M University
Using the Restored Shakespeare Globe Theatre
Monday, 29 Dec. 12 noon - 1:15pm
206C, Toronto Convention Centre
David Bevington, Alexandra Johnston, Stephen Orgel
Monday, 29 December, 5:30-7:00pm
Larry Clopper's Room at the Westin Harbor
Richard Cooper, ed. Maurice Scève: The Entry of Henri II into Lyon,
Tempe, Arizona: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1997.
Facsimile of the 1549 edition of Maurice Scève with woodcuts by Bernard Salomon. Included are an Italian version and supplement as well as unpublished accounts of the entry from contemporary diplomatic dispatches.
Early Drama, Art, and Music Review
Fall 1997 (vol. 20, no. 1)
O Virginitas, in regali thalamo stas: New Light on the Ordo Virtutum of Hildegard of Bingen
Creating a Dramatic Record: Reflections on Some Drunken Ghosts
A Twentieth-Century Analogue of the Play of the Sacrament
Chavitunatakam: An Appendix [photos of a Magi play and one other play in performance in South India, representing the legacy of Portuguese missionaries -- a follow-up of Puthussery's article in the Spring 1997 issue]
Book reviews by John Marshall, Konrad Eisenbichler, Gloria Betcher, and Christopher Wortham; performance reviews by Pamela Sheingorn and Fletcher Collins, Jr.
Subscriptions: $8.00 per year ($10 for institutions) from Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Wolfgang van Emden (ed.) Le Jeu d'Adam
(British Rencesvals Society Publications, 1), Edinburgh, Societe Rencesvals British Branch, 1996.
Summer 1997 (vol. 31, no. 2)
A Catalan Corpus Christi Play: The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian with the Hobby Horses and the Turks
JOHN E. CURRAN
Royalty Unlearned, Honor Untaught: British Savages and Historiographical Change in Cymbeline
The Voice of Marlowe's Tamburlaine in Early Shakespeare
Fall 1997 (vol. 31., no. 3)
Felt Absences: The Stage Properties of Othello's Handkerchief
CLIFFORD DAVIDSON Sacred Blood and the Medieval Stage
Winter 1997-98 (vol. 31, no. 4)
The Mystere d'Adam and Christian Memory
Code Switching in Medieval English Drama
PEGGY MUÑOZ SIMONDS
'My charms crack not': The Alchemical Structure of The Tempest
Damnable Deconstructions: Vice Language in the Interlude
Alan E. Knight, ed. The Stage as Mirror
(Proceedings from the Colloquium on Medieval Drama at Pennsylvania State University in 1993)
London: Boydell and Brewer, 1997.
The essays in this volume explore ways in which plays and public spectacles mirrored the beliefs and values of the late medieval world. Topics covered include seasonal festivals, trade gilds, stagecraft, and the role played by the municipal governments in fostering and controlling dramatic productions. The geographic range takes in all western Europe, with particular consideration of the connections between the various medieval European dramatic traditions. Inter-disciplinary in approach, perspectives range from the history of theatre to cultural and political history and literary criticism. There is particular emphasis on the real advances that can be made in expanding knowledge of medieval theatre through research in local and regional archives.
ALEXANDRA F. JOHNSTON
The Continental Connection: A Reconsideration
LYNETTE R. MUIR
Playing God in Medieval Europe
The Bodily Embrace or Embracing the Body: Gesture and Gender in Late Medieval Culture
R. B. DOBSON
Craft Guilds and City: The Historical Origins of the York Mystery Plays Reassessed
Feasts and Public Spectacle: Late Medieval Drama and Performance in the Low Countries
Civic Drama for Corpus Christi at Coventry: Some Lost Plays
Politics and Drama: The City of Bruges as Organizer of Drama Festivals
Time, Space and Identity in the Play of the Sacrament
ALAN E. KNIGHT
The Stage as Context: Two Late Medieval French Susanna Plays
La Vie Materielle au Moyen Age, Brepols, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1997.
(includes chapters by Jelle Koopmans and Graham Runnalls on Medieval French Drama)
Early European Drama Translation Series
There are two new volumes coming out in the next couple of months:
Volume 2: Medieval Dutch Drama: Four Secular Plays and Four Farces from the Van Hulthem Manuscript, translated by Johanna C. Prins
Volume 3: Antichrist and Judgment Day: The Middle French "Jour du Jugement", translated by David Hult and Richard K. Emmerson, with a note on the music by Keith Glaeske
There are still copies of Volume 1 available as well:
Arnoul Greban, Mystery of the Passion: The Third Day, translated by Paula Giuliano.
More information available on the EEDT web page: http://www.cua.edu/www/eng/eedt.htm
Upcoming Academic Meetings and Opportunities
"ASPECTS OF EUROPEAN MEDIEVAL DRAMA"
Friday July 3 to Sunday July 5, 1998
CALL FOR PARTICIPATION
Proposal Deadline: December 15, 1997
Although contributions on any aspect of medieval drama are welcome, it is expected that there will be an emphasis on performance rather than solely on a textual study. It is further hoped that the large majority of papers will deal either with the European dimension of medieval drama or with plays performed in parts of Europe other than England. Papers may last for either 25 or 50 minutes, the latter being reserved exclusively for those who are announcing the results of major new research. The official languages of the conference are English and Italian. Papers may be delivered in either language. Web site: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/theatre/emd/fest2.htm
"STATE OF THE ARTS: PRODUCTION, RECEPTION, AND TEACHING IN THE DIGITAL
October 8-11, 1998
University of Maryland, College Park
CALL FOR PARTICIPATION
Proposal Deadline: January 8, 1998
The Center for Renaissance and Baroque Studies and the Committee for Creative Humanities Applications in the New Technologies (CHANT) at the University of Maryland, in conjunction with the statewide Celebration of the Arts, is issuing a call for contributions to an interdisciplinary conference entitled: "State of the Arts: Production, Reception, and Teaching in the Digital World."
The conference is planned for October 8-11, 1998. It will be held on the University of Maryland's College Park campus for an audience of university faculty and students, K-12 faculty and administrators, artists, museum curators, archivists, and the interested public.
- To show innovative technological applications in the arts and humanities.
- To raise awareness of the creative potential of the new technologies by sharing digitally mediated innovations in the studio, the museum, the school, and the university with the general public.
- To encourage the integration of new technology into the professional lives of artists and humanities educators.
- To foster collaborations and mentoring.
The conference planning committee welcomes proposals for plenary papers and workshops from individuals nationally and internationally who represent diverse perspectives on the arts and humanities and technology. Maryland arts and educational institutions are invited to participate as paper and workshop presenters and as conference satellite sites.
For detailed information about the conference, go to our web site: http://www.inform.umd.edu/CRBS.
"WORD AND IMAGE"
Pacific Northwest Renaissance Conference
April 24-25, 1998
Western Washington University
CALL FOR PAPERS
Proposal Deadline: January 10, 1998
The theme "Word and Image" is intended to be interpreted very broadly to include considerations of iconography, film, religious images, illustration, maps, set design, costume, painting and other fine arts, descriptions of images, the presentation of manuscripts, documents, books, hypertext, etc. We also welcome papers addressed to the wedding of words and images in the teaching of Renaissance texts. The PNRC is an interdisciplinary conference.
Huston Diehl, University of Iowa, "Reforming Spectacle: Visual Regimes and Disciplinary Strategies in Early Modern England," and Susan Karant-Nunn, Portland State University, "Not Like the Unreasoning Beasts: The Rhetorical Separation of Humans and Animals in Sixteenth-Century Germany"
Selected papers will be considered for publication in Studies in Iconography, a refereed journal supported in part by the English Department at Western.
Please submit a one-page abstract of your paper by January 10, 1998, to:
Department of English
Western Washington University
Bellingham, WA 98225 fax: 360-650-4837
Proposals for panels are also welcome and should include, in addition to the abstracts, a 100-word statement of intent from the organizer, as well as the addresses and e-mails of all participants.
Selection/notification will be sent by February 16, 1998.
"'FULKE GREVILLE IS A GOOD BOY': A SYMPOSIUM ON THE LIFE, TIMES AND
WRITINGS OF FULKE GREVILLE"
April 3-5, 1998
Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England
CALL FOR PAPERS
Deadline: January 31, 1998
Fulke Greville (1554-1628) poet, courtier, and friend of Philip Sidney. Fulke Greville and Philip Sidney were life-long friends who began school together at Shrewsbury on the same day in 1564. The title of this symposium comes from a comment scrawled by Sidney in one of his school-books.
Greville has generally been studied principally in the shadow of his famous friend. He was, however, an accomplished writer, statesman, and thinker in his own right. The symposium sets out to explore and discuss the life, times and writings of Fulke Greville and to appraise the current state of Fulke Greville scholarship.
Proposed topics for discussion include: the political, religious and intellectual context of Fulke Greville's writing; editing Fulke Greville; 'Caelica' and Elizabethan sonnet sequences; closet drama; The 'Remains'; Fulke Greville's 'Life of Sir Philip Sidney'; Fulke Greville's life, death, and his relationship with Sidney; education and schooling in the sixteenth century; Fulke Greville on war and monarchy; and the critical reception of Fulke Greville.
If you are interested in attending or would like to offer a paper, please contact
Matthew Woodcock or Helen Vincent
University College, Oxford,
OX1 4BH UK
The deadline for submission of abstracts is 31 Jan 1998. Further details regarding registration and accommodation are available from the addresses above.
SOCIÉTÉ INTERNATIONAL POUR L'ÉTUDE DU THÉÂTRE
Ninth International Colloquium
August 3-9, 1998
Sessions and Papers
Sessions will take place on the University campus, on the southern outskirts of Odense. A total of 76 papers have been accepted for the Colloquium, to be presented in 19 sessions devoted to the topics of Easter Plays, Farces and Farcical Elements (including stock characters and stereotypes), Martyrdom and Saints' Plays, Audience and Reception. A provisional programme will shortly be accessible on the Internet via the Colloquium's website (http://www.ou.dk/~um/MidLab/Theatre/Theatre.html). Summaries of papers will also be available in this way. If you do not have access to the internet, please indicate on the Registration Form, and copies of the programme and summaries will be mailed to you. The full texts of papers will also be accessible on the internet from Spring 1998, and speakers have consequently been instructed to offer 15-minute summaries as a prelude to discussion. Sessions will each comprise four papers, presented and discussed in groups of two.
Ten companies will offer performances of medieval plays or other entertainments in the course of the Colloquium. A provisional programme will shortly be available on the Internet.
Time has been assigned to workshops at the University campus on the afternoons of Tuesday and Thursday. Two proposals have been accepted to date; any further proposals submitted before 1 March will be considered.
Send Registration before March 1, 1998 to:
Organizing Committee, SITM98
Centre for Medieval studies
5230 Odense M
FAX: +45 65 93 24 83
"THE SPACE OF THE STAGE"
CALL FOR ARTICLES
Deadline: March 15, 1998
For an issue to be guest co-edited by Jeffrey Masten and Wendy Wall, Renaissance Drama solicits essays that take up the question of "space" and the early modern stage. This topic could include: the representation of space on stage; the representation of particular kinds of spaces or locations, or geographic imaginaries (domestic, urban, national, pastoral, undifferentiated space); the space of acting or playing (e.g., locus/platea); the use of transit, movement, exile, exit, entrance, procession; space as a created effect or stage property; the space of the audience; the spaces of staging outside theaters (the house, the court, etc.); the body in/as theatrical space; the politics or ideologies of space and particular spaces (analyzed along lines that might include but would not be limited to: gender, race, nation, class/rank, sexuality). Essays that raise methodological questions about the relation of theatrical history to the interpretation or analysis of "space" are particularly welcome.
Deadline for submissions is March 15, 1998. Please send a self-addressed stamped envelope (if you wish to have the essay returned to you) and three copies of your essay to either of the following addresses:
Professor Jeffrey Masten
c/o Folger Shakespeare Library
201 E. Capitol Street, S.E.
Washington, DC 20003
Professor Wendy Wall
Department of English
Evanston, IL 60208
"THOMAS MORE IN HIS TIME: RENAISSANCE HUMANISM & RENAISSANCE LAW"
INTERNATIONAL THOMAS MORE CONFERENCE
St Patrick's College
9-16 August, 1998
Rev. Prof. Thomas Finan, Organizer
St Patrick's College
Tel. +353 1 6285222
Fax +353 1 6289063
The Spring 1998 ACTER tour of A Midsummer Night's Dream by Actors from the London Stage, will visit the following campuses:
Jan 30, one pre-tour performance at UNC-Chapel Hill
Feb. 2-8, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN
Feb. 9-15, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY
Feb. 16-22, Outreach in the the state of Wyoming
Feb. 23-Mar. 1, Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, MO
Mar. 2-8, University of Delaware, Newark, DE
Mar. 9-15, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN
Mar. 16-22, Furman University, Greenville, SC
Mar. 23-29, SUNY-Albany
Future ACTER tours include:
Fall 1998, The Tempest; Spring 1999, The Merchant of Venice (bookings for both these plays is available now. See the schedule on the website); Fall 1999, Twelfth Night; Spring 2000, All's Well That Ends Well.
Poculi Ludique Societas
THE YORK CYCLE
June 19-21, 1998
Performance and Conference
Poculi Ludique Societas presents the first complete staging of the York Cycle in over twenty years on Saturday, June 20, 1998 on the campus of Victoria College, University of Toronto. This wagon production will be staged at four stations by groups from around the world. At the moment, we have 5 plays coming from England, about 18 from the United States, and the rest from Canada.
Following the practice of fifteenth-century York, the performance will start at dawn and finish at sundown. The York Cycle will be set in the context of a scholarly conference on the staging of the plays (see below). A brochure with full information will be sent to MRDS members in late February. For further information you can e-mail us at: email@example.com or write to:
39 Queen's Park
Toronto M5S 2C3, Canada
The York Cycle: Then and Now
Victoria College, University of Toronto
Friday, June 19,1998
Wagon and Street
Session One: 'Which Is the Front?"
Moderator: Garret Epp, U. of Alberta
Meg Twycross, U. of Lancaster
Douglas Hayes, U. of Toronto
John McKinnell, U. of Durham
Session Two: "...In the pagond and in the strete also..."
Moderator: Clifford Davidson, U. of Western Michigan
Margaret Rogerson, U. of Sydney
Martin Walsh, U. of Michigan
Ralph Blasting, Towson State University
Sound and Poetry
Session three: "Hearing and Seeing"
Moderator: David Bevington, U of Chicago
Charles Costello, U. of Toronto
Elleen White, York
Pamela King, U. of Lancaster
Session Four: "'...Saie me nowe somwhat': Language and Prosody"
Moderator: Chester Scoville, U. of Toronto
Richard Beadle, Cambridge University
Elza Tiner, Lynchburg College
Alexandra F. Johnston, U. of Toronto
Session Five: Public Lecture
Moderator: Kimberley Yates, U. of Toronto
Speaker: Peter Meredith, U. of Leeds
Saturday, June 20, 1998
The York Cycle performed in procession from wagons beginning at dawn.
Sunday, June 21, 1998
Session Six: Directors' Roundtable
Moderator: David Klausner, U. of Toronto
Session Seven: Audience's Roundtable
Moderator: Barbara Palmer, Mary Washington College
York Mystery Plays
12 July 1998
The Guilds of York, for the first time in 400 years, are taking a major role in their Mystery Plays to recreate all the pageantry of the original performances in the medieval streets.
Eleven distinctive Plays from the world famous Cycle are to be performed on decorated pageant wagons, drawn in procession through the City from one playing-place or 'station' to the next. Out of 7 Guilds, 5 are producing and performing their own Play, using personnel and resources from within the Guild, or with some help from a local dramatic society.
Beginning with the spectacular Creation of the World (brought forth by the Guild of Building), and ending with the Mercers' terrifying Doomsday each part of the Cycle is represented.
The production is part of the York Early Music Festival. Box Office details will be available soon on the Festival Web site.
The Lincoln Mystery Plays
Directed by Keith Ramsay
Performed in the cloister of Lincoln Cathedral
Performance took place in the cloister of Lincoln Cathedral, beginning at 7:30 p.m. and ending about 11:00 p.m. Early August provided ample natural lighting at first, but lights were increasingly needed, and the second half after the intermission (beginning with the Passion sequence) took place in the night. Cool air and cloudy skies meant that the audience needed to wrap up warmly and augmented pity for the suffering Christ, who not only was visibly and audibly tortured with whips, but had to endure the cold in a loin cloth.
Given a total running time of three and a half hours minus fifteen or twenty minutes for intermission in which to represent the N-town cycle, the director chose to abandon the Old Testament episodes almost entirely. I guessed that we would see Noah at least, or Abraham and Isaac, but I guessed wrong: the production jumped from the Creation sequence (including the fall of Satan from heaven and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise) down to the Annunciation and Visitation. In recognition of the unique character of the N-Town cycle and especially its highly developed Marian sequence, this production staged the trial of Mary before Bishop Abiacar. Two gifted comic actors entertained us in the parts of Backbiter and Calumny, updating the story by interpreting the two slanderers as limp-wristed, simpering gays-- a bit of a theatrical cliché, no doubt, and defamatory to boot, but funny in performance. Their debate with the Bishop made clear the thematic dialectic of the production: Backbiter and Calumny represented envy, skepticism, and sneering dubiety, thus caricaturing lack of faith in the divine miracle of the Conception, while the Bishop took the side of Saint Augustine in the Benedickbeuern Passion Play, triumphantly affirming Mary's innocence and purity. Joseph, struggling with his anxieties about cuckoldry, soon came to the realization that the Bishop spoke the truth.
From the start, wooden scaffolding gave visual representation to the antithetical relationship of heaven and hell. Heaven stood (correctly) at the eastern end of the grassy playing arena; there, in his golden costume and gilded face, God spoke from on high. Creation below him on middle-earth took the form of a huge painted circular cloth, rotated counterclockwise by a host of child actors and waved up and down to invoke a sense of sea motion. The cloth was open at the center to permit the emergence of Adam and then Eve as they were created by God. Satan's scaffold at the western end was tattered and foul, with hell-mouth beneath. Satan was attended by two unnamed partners in evil, who slithered and beckoned, involving the spectators. Satan's own assault on Eve was blatantly erotic, and her response to temptation was no less so. He occasionally sat on laps in the audience (including mine), admired women's legs, and offered to exchange telephone numbers. A sexy guy, indeed, and as much interested in men as in women.
The transition to the Annunciation immediately after the Creation was sudden for textually knowledgeable spectators, no doubt, but worked well in the theater because of the continuity of thematic contraries. The contest of guile between God and Satan that is such a pronounced feature of the N-town cycle was evident from the very first. The Annunciation, in this context, was simply the next big event after the Creation. God the Father, God the Son (the actor who was to play Christ), and God the Holy Ghost stood on the scaffold of heaven with shields held at an angle to reflect light from the lighting panels onto Mary standing in the midst of the arena. As a theatrical emblem of incarnation, this staging worked especially well, and led at once into the Trial of Mary I have already described.
Three other felicitous textual choices, following a fairly standard depiction of the birth sequence, captured the special flavor of N-Town: the Death of Herod, the Temptation in the Wilderness, and the Woman Taken in Adultery. A table and chairs came on for the first of these, in the gathering darkness; Herod and his thugs caroused while Death appeared on the scaffold of heaven, manifestly an emissary sent from God to exact just punishment and to dispatch Herod and his minions into the jaws of hell. The Temptation was sensibly reduced to bare essentials in this theater, that is to say, to Christ and Satan, one on one, emphasizing through contrast Satan's sadistic bluster and Christ's assured victory over sin. The Woman Taken in Adultery made use of the space under heaven for the place of assignation, thereby allowing the confrontation between Christ and the Pharisees to take place in the open playing area. The story of Christ's ministry thus focused on issues of mercy and justice, contrition and self-righteous slander.
The second half began with Lucifer's mock sermon on these very same topics in the spirit of Antichrist, all of which led neatly into a moving representation of the Last Supper, fully in the midst of the arena. The disciples sat on both sides of a long table, with Christ at the eastern end and Judas opposite him. Never have I seen such a sorrowful Judas. He and Christ were fully aware of what lay in store, of what was destined and could not be prevented. Judas understood his role but took not even a momentary pleasure in it; his was a fate from which he could not escape. I missed having a pavilion for the Chief Priests enabling Judas to shuttle back and forth between the conspirators and his fellow disciples, as he does in the N-Town text; the entire conspiracy was cut in the interests of time. The excision did, nonetheless, give a special symbolic prominence to the Last Supper. Christ's washing of the disciples' feet took on all the resonance of instruction in humility that it is intended to convey. The dream of Pilate's wife also disappeared as an episode, as did the earlier Parliament in hell, but the sense of a contest of wills between Christ and Satan never lost its immediacy or its paradoxical insistence on the ultimate defeat of worldly insolence and power through meekness and love.
The Passion sequence reduced Christ's tribulations to one scourging, and made little of Pilate's role, but the suffering seemed real and agonizing; whips, wielded by sadistic torturers who doubled also as devils, inflicted visible red marks on Christ's back. The Crucifixion was no less vivid. Torturers made use of a mortise installed at the front of the "heaven" scaffold. Mary and John approached from across the platea, as did Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus as they proceeded to assist in the descent from the cross and the burial. The Resurrection was played austerely, with a simple emergence of Christ from his place of burial and his exit across the arena. Subsequently he appeared in glory with his partners in the Holy Trinity on the scaffold of heaven. Little was made of Christ's appearances to Mary Magdalene and to his disciples.
We were promised, as audience, that the finale would bring about the parting of the saved from the damned, in which great event we would learn our own individual destinies for eternity. And indeed, at the Last Judgment, the Devil and his cohorts emerged from hell to claim their due. I was immediately singled out for damnation. The Devil vouchsafed to me afterwards, in a thoughtful private communication, that I was thus chosen because I had enjoyed the performance so hugely and audibly, but I know better. It was clear to me from the start that my number was up.
University of Chicago
Bristol Old Vic
19-29 November 1997
This was in no way a 'scholarly' production but it was--despite my reservations--a highly enjoyable one. Fast-paced, imaginatively staged, and surprisingly respectful of the words of the Middle English text, it successfully translated the space of the pageant-wagon onto a conventional apron stage, with stairs on either side up to the raised tier of heaven. An ingenious hole/mound in the centre-stage did duty as a multiplicity of orifices: birthplace of Adam; hell-hole (for Lucifer to slither into); and fireplace for Cain's and Abel's tithing. Doors at the back of the stage allowed for rapid transitions between scenes, and provided additional playing space (Mak's home; the stable). The text was an eclectic and slightly-truncated 'cycle' made up (as the Program Notes informed us) out of the Wakefield, York and Chester plays, with 'a preference for Wakefield' and a definite nose for the most 'dramatic' episodes. However, the Slaughter of the Innocents was from N-Town (referred to as 'Coventry' in the program), probably selected for its grand guignol Death, splendidly realized in this production as a twice-as-large-as-life grinning puppet with huge jabbing fingers on sticks reaching into the audience. The program notes were informed to some extent by recent scholarship, offering a sensible brief account of York's 'true processional' staging, but regrettably calling N-Town 'Coventry' and confusingly stating that the Coventry plays 'didn't originate in Coventry and are thought to come from somewhere in the East Midlands'.
The pageants were mostly the usual suspects: the Towneley Killing of Abel; the Towneley Second Shepherds' Play; the York Crucifixion. The choice of the Chester Noah was perhaps less predictable. However, there was no Abraham and Isaac, and--in an unashamed rewriting of medieval Catholic theology to make the play 'acceptable' to a modern audience--no Marian pageants and no Last Judgement. It ended with the Ascension and a choreographed finale that lapsed into sentimentality. Yet the Nativity was the most successful I have seen, with Caravaggio-like lighting effects and a touching and an utterly unsentimental performance of the shepherds' gift-giving. The whole production was visually extremely pleasurable. The second half of the production was less successful than the first, with only Herod and the Crucifixion to liven up the inherently undramatic narratives of Christ's Ministry--although the staging of the Woman Taken in Adultery was gripping, and the Herod scenes were excellent. There was a wonderfully campy Lucifer, and Mrs Noah and her four gossips were played in drag by the company's largest men.
The accessibility and appeal of this production makes it of course a dangerously two-edged pedagogical instrument, giving students and audience little sense of theatre history but vividly realizing for them the potential of this drama as performance. Nevertheless, the production was not underwritten by a 'heritage' ideology of reconstruction, nor was it gimmicky (no sou'westers for the Noahs; no God-on-a-crane). However, it undoubtedly romanticized and sanitized the medieval past. In particular, the translation of medieval Catholic theology into an upbeat ecumenicalism seems to signal our western culture's profound distaste for that theology, and yet I wonder if a modern audience would really have found it unacceptable? On whose terms do we consume the past?
University of Wales Cardiff
Early European Drama Translation Series (see article above)
Medieval Drama Links
NetSERF Medieval Drama Page
On-Line Reference Book for Medieval Studies (ORB)
Perform Web page
Perform discussion group
To Subscribe, send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org with the following line in the body of the message: subscribe PERFORM FIRST_NAME LAST_NAME
Poculi Ludique Societas: Medieval & Renaissance Players of Toronto
REED Web Page
REED-L discussion group
To Subscribe, send email to: email@example.com with the following line in the body of the message: subscribe REED-L FIRST_NAME LAST_NAME
Textes de Français Ancien (TFA) database
The York Doomsday Project
Election of Officers
Nominations have been made for the following positions. Please detach this ballot and return with your dues by January 25, 1998.
- John Coldewey
- Martin Walsh
- Jesse D. Hurlbut
Council Member (2 positions)
- Gloria J. Betcher's major focus is performance/drama in Cornwall to 1642, especially records of performance and cultural influences. She is currently co-editor of a volume based on REED sessions at the 1996 Leeds Congress. Her working title is Politics and Culture in the Southwest of Britain, 1400-1642: Drama in Context. She teaches in the English Department of Iowa State University.
- James C. Cummings is a Graduate Student in the School of English at the University of Leeds. He is preparing a doctoral dissertation on "Contextual Studies of Medieval Dramatic Records in the Area around 'The Wash.'" He is interested in local studies of civic dramatic and quasi-dramatic activities within their documentary and historical context.
- Richard Emmerson is professor of English at Western Washington University. He is the editor of Approaches to Teaching Medieval English Drama (MLA 1990), and author of essays on the Play of Daniel, the Chester Antichrist, The Castle of Perseverance, Mankind, and the New Historicism and medieval drama. Along with David Hult he will publish in 1998 a translation of, and commentary on, the Jour du Jugement for the MRDS-sponsored Early European Drama in Translation Series.
- Ruth Evans is a Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Wales Cardiff. The main area of her research is Middle English religious drama, with a particular focus on questions of the body, gender-representation, and theorizing audience response. She has published several articles and is currently working on a book-length study of Middle English religious drama.
- James Stokes is the editor of the REED volume for Somerset (2 vols, 1996) and is currently preparing the REED volume for Lincolnshire. Numerous articles and papers have grown out of that research. Professor Stokes is in the Department of English at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
- Paul Whitfield White is Associate Professor of English at Purdue University, where he teaches courses in Medieval drama and Renaissance drama and literature. He has written "Theatre and Reformation: Protestantism, Patronage, and Playing in Tudor England" (Cambridge 1993) and edited "Reformation Biblical Drama in England" (Garland 1992). Forthcoming from AMS Press is his edited collection of essays entitled "Marlowe, History, and Sexuality."
Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society
(Detach and mail to address below)
__________ John Coldewey
__________ Martin Walsh
__________ Jesse Hurlbut
Council Members (Vote for two of the following)
__________ Gloria J. Betcher
__________ James C. Cummings
__________ Richard Emmerson
__________ Ruth Evans
__________ James Stokes
__________ Paul Whitfield White
There is a date next to your name on your mailing label. It may read "1/98," "1/99," etc. This indicates the month and year when you next owe money. Dues are US$12 per year for tenured and tenure-track faculty. Students, retired professors and part-time faculty pay the reduced rate of US$10 per year. You may pay ahead for 1, 2 or 3 years. Contact Jesse Hurlbut if you have questions.
Send Ballot and Dues (if applicable) by January 25, 1998 to:
Dept. of French and Italian
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
**Please make checks payable (in U.S. dollars) to: Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society.**