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St. George and the Data Dragon: A Digital Assets Mumming

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St. George and the Data Dragon: A Digital Assets Mumming

Performed by American Folklife Center Staff with Guests
Script drawn from multiple plays in the James Madison Carpenter Collection.
Compiled by Stephen Winick, with additional material by Stephen Winick, Jennifer Cutting, Theadocia Austen, Hope O’Keeffe, and the company. Digital assets jargon courtesy of Bertram Lyons.  Photos were taken by Library of Congress staff members.  Historic photos, drawings, and manuscripts are taken from AFC’s James Madison Carpenter Collection.

Note: to better understand this play and the tradition it comes from, please read our previous post on mumming traditions.

Dramatis Personae
Father Christmas (Stephen Winick)
Furloughed Fed (Stephanie A. Hall)
Big Data (Hope O’Keeffe)
Data Dragon (Christy Chason Lavelle)
Digital Assets Manager (Eric Eldritch)
St. George of Metadata (Hannah Santino)
Doctor Pure and Good (Theadocia Austen)
Clever Legs (Jennifer Cutting)

All enter, singing “The Wren (The King)” [1]

Stephen Winick as Father Christmas

Room! ROOM!  Gentles all, pray give us room to rhyme
We’ve come to show activity
This merry Christmas time
Activity of youth, activity of age
Such activity has never been before upon a stage
In comes I, old Father Christmas
And be I welcome or welcome not,
I hope old Father Christmas will never be forgot
My beard is long, my back is bent
My knees are weak, my strength is spent
Two thousand years and thirteen is a very great age for me
And if I’d been furloughed all these years, what a shutdown that would be! [2]
But after me comes a real trouper,
Believe in what I say,
Step in, little Furloughed Fed, and boldly clear the way



Stephanie Hall as Furloughed Fed

In comes I, Furloughed Fed
Spent half of October in my bed
Emerged to find December coming
Shook myself and prepared for mumming!
Christmas comes but once a Year
When it comes it brings good Cheer
But here in the Library, we also worry,
Because the times are changing in an awful hurry
Each book, manuscript, and musical score
Is digitized and added to our data store
Print, negative, slide and glass plate
However will we keep all these assets straight?

Yes, yes, these assets are items we hold most dear
Which makes a big mess of data a thing we fear



Hope O’Keeffe as Big Data

In comes I, my name is Big Data
Scan me now, archive me…later
Harnessing me is a Library’s dream
But I may prove too big for your management team
With my firehose of data flooding your lands
You can’t find your assets with both of your hands
[Chases Father Christmas with hands outstretched toward his “assets”]
I’ve gathered my unruly bits and bytes
Converted them to fits and fights
Enough to fill a giant wagon
And made with them a Data Dragon!

Stand on head, stand on feet
Information I wish to eat!
I am the Data Dragon, look at my claws
I am the Data Dragon, here are my jaws!
Is any man so eager to fight
.                                                          He’d risk a nasty Dragon byte?

Eric Eldritch as Digital Assets Manager

I’m the Digital Assets Manager, on whom the server smiles
I’m the APEX of your Oracle, and the bagger of your files
With my metadata enrichment and my giant AIP,
I can make a jaded archivist SQL with glee! [3]
My ally in keeping track of stuff
Is my son and heir, who is smart and buff
So now, you grisly dragon, do not be a hater
My son will be your master, St. George of Metadata!

In comes I, Saint George, from Metadata city
And I shall subdue that dragon or slay her without pity!
Strategic, agile, innovative, and connected…that’s my battle plan, [4]
And I’ll take great strides forward, and I’ll kill her if I can
I’ll use my mighty sword known as metadata extraction
To make sure that awful dragon ends up lying there in traction!

Ha! I’ll burst your manifest and bust your bags
And shred your spreadsheet into rags!
Verify, validate, transfer, ingest
I’ll eat the heart that’s in your chest! [5]


Christy Chason Lavelle as the Data Dragon

Father Christmas:
This means…war!

[Two helpers arrive, each carrying a computer keyboard. Acting like seconds at a duel, they present the keyboards to the Dragon and St. George. St. George and Dragon fight by typing madly on their keyboards, acting like people engaged in a video game. In the end, St. George is slain when the Dragon hits him on the head with her keyboard.]

My boy, my boy, my darling son
The dragon has killed him!  The Dragon’s won!
It’s the ultimate sequester, a furlough without end
The last and final shutdown for a Library’s best friend.


Hannah Santino as St. George

Aye, Old Digital Assets Manager, it would fill any man’s heart to see his son laid so low.
Dear Old Digital Dude, your son was just too slow.
But don’t despair, and don’t take flight,
For perhaps he still can be set right.
After all, didn’t Congress pass the ACA?
Surely there’s coverage for your son today!
Death is one of those pre-existing conditions,
which can’t be excluded under the new provisions [6]
So…is there a Doctor to be found,
To cure his deep and deadly…wound? [to rhyme with “sound.”]

ALL [including dead St. George, who sits up briefly]:
Wound! [pronounced correctly]

Here I am, Doctor Pure and Good
And with my skill I’ll stop his blood. [to rhyme with “Good.”]

Blood! [pronounced correctly]


Theadocia Austen as the Doctor

How came you to be a doctor?

By my travels.

Where have you traveled?

Jeffersonville, Madisontown, Adamsburg, and more
Many places where I’ve never been before,
From The Magic Kingdom of Landover to the distant Navsee Sea, [7]
Everybody knows the great doctor—me!

What can you cure?

From the bottom of your head to the top of your gout
I’ll cure the pain within and without
I’ll cure digital-to-analog conversion
Resulting from cranio-rectal inversion
Also, low TSP, momentum wheezes
Continuing Resolution freezes
And all other librarious diseases [8]

This photo of the mummers from Bampton, England in the 1930s is part of AFC’s James Madison Carpenter Collection. It shows the scene in which the Doctor cures the dead patient.

Yes, yes, but you can’t cure a man who’s been DEAD for five minutes!

If he’s been dead five YEARS I can cure him!
Will you join me on my rounds?

[Doctor and Father Christmas walk around and around the body.]

Hmmm, definitely dead.

[Doctor and Father Christmas resume walking around and around the body, examining it. Doctor eventually turns around and collides with Father Christmas.  When they disentangle themselves, she returns to her bag and produces a bottle]


AFC’s James Madison Carpenter Collection includes drawings of mummers by George Baker, a stonemason from near Stow-on-the-Wold in the English Cotswolds. This shows the Doctor, who in Baker’s version of the play extracted the dead man’s tooth with a giant pair of pliers.

I have Plaster and Potions, Poisons and Pills
Some as cures, and some as kills.
This is hocus-pocus-alicum-pain
The best folk medicine for them as has been slain

[Doctor steps over dead St. George]
Now, now, a sip from my bottle, applied to your throttle
[gives him a sip]

ST. GEORGE: [very quietly]

[Doctor gives another sip]

Now, if’n you are not quite slain
Rise Up, St. George, to fight again!

[St. George springs up, looking surprised,
The mummers start the audience clapping]

Here I am, alive you see….
Come on, dragon, fight with me!

Now that’s a fine thing, I say to you
My dragon managed to run him through
She killed him dead, and what do they do?
Reboot him up, to annoy us anew!

Another of George Baker’s drawings from the James Madison Carpenter Collection, depicting the mummers getting ready for the fight scene. Baker’s father had been a mummer around the turn of the twentieth century, and the younger man documented the tradition in his drawings.

Hmm, they’re much as they were at the start of the play
So nothing has happened this long winter’s day.
And if we don’t enact a plan
These two will simply fight again…and again…

I think I know what to do…
Digital Assets Manager, please, a word with you

[Father Christmas and Digital Assets Manager talk and gesticulate, then Digital Assets Manager brings in the Doctor and Father Christmas brings in Big Data, and the four huddle.]

Is it settled?  Very Well, Very Well
Doctor, will you do the honors?

[Big Data whispers in the Dragon’s ear, while Digital Assets Manager whispers in St. George’s ear.  The actors then form a wedding party, with the Dragon and George in the middle, flanked by the parents.  Helpers arrange the Dragon’s fabric wings as a veil over her face. The accordion plays the wedding march.]

The Doctor performs the wedding while Father Christmas and Digital Assets Manager look on.

Thank you, Thank you!  Ahem…Clearly Befuddled, we have blathered here this day
To join saint and dragon in unholy matrimony.
Dragon, will you take Saint
To be your awful, wedded mate
Despite the fact that you two have never even had a date?
And do you further vow to black his eyes and punch his nose
To box his ears and pull his hair and stamp upon his toes . . .
To drink his beer and spend his dough
And make his life a tale of woe?

DRAGON [Eagerly]
I do

Saint, do you vow to take this dragon
To be your awful, wedded wife
To be your reptile honey all the days of your life?
And further, do you vow to wash the clothes and scrub the floor
Give up all good times, forego all fun forevermore
To wash the dishes and make the bed
And wish to heck that you were dead?

I do!

Fine, I now pronounce you Saint and Dragon! You may kiss the bride, if you dare!

Once she saw his submission information package, well, it helped to smooth the way
And her very shapely checksum sealed the deal for him today [9]
So now these two are happy together
Through thick and thin, and all rough weather.
Never again will these two fight,
For they’re off to enjoy their wedding night!

They try to leave, but Clever Legs, who is wearing a policeman’s cap, stops them.


Sorry, folks, that door’s closed, and rarely open at all:
First Monday of the month, third Thursday, and Fridays in the fall.
Go around the back, or underground, or find another way
For we Capitol Police have got our rules, as you have heard us say. [10]

That’s not really a policeman, you know,
She’s one of our mummers, and part of the show
She changes her name most every play
So I don’t even know the name she’ll say.

clCLEVER LEGS (Changes to a very small Christmas hat):
In Comes I, Clever Legs!
I’m a jocular Jane of infinite jest,
An elf of substance and great request!
With one leg red and one leg green,
I’ve the cleverest legs you’ve ever seen!
With me head so big, and me hat so small
I’ll play you a tune to please you all!
Muddy boots and dirty faces
Now all you dancers, take your places!

[Clever Legs plays the introduction to “Lilliburlero” on the melodeon, and the village band joins in.  The married couple and their two parents put everything down and dance. The dancers dance two figures, while the Doctor calls the dance.  The rest clap along, then applaud to prompt the audience.]

We hope you all have been impressed
And think our calling is the best
We won’t delay, lest tedium befall,
We wish you a merry Christmas
And God bless you all.
And though we fear we’ve stayed too long,
We ask you to join us in one more song!

All Sing: Gloucestershire Wassail. [11]



Another of George Baker’s drawings in AFC’s James Madison Carpenter collection shows several mummers in their costumes and several props.

[1] This song was adapted by the company from a traditional song from South Wales.  In 1977, the English folklorist A. L. Lloyd described the original, as performed by the Yorkshire group The Watersons: “A wren-boys carol, sung by groups of boys and young men, masked and disguised, who on St. Stephen’s Day (December 26) went from door to door carrying a holly bush on which was a dead wren, “the king of the birds”, or something to represent it. This rare song came to the Watersons from Andy Nisbet, who got it from ‘two old ladies in Pembrokeshire.'” Performances by Martin Carthy and Steeleye Span made this song one of the most popular carols on the English folk scene.

[2] This refers, of course, to the Federal government shutdown of October 2013.

[3] This suggestive dialogue comes from the jargon of digital assets management.

[4] These adjectives are part of the Library Services strategy at the Library of Congress.

[5] Once again, these come from the jargon of digital assets management.

[6] We couldn’t feature a doctor without mentioning the Affordable Care Act.

[7] These are references to campuses of the Library of Congress; the main three buildings on Capitol Hill are named for Presidents Adams, Jefferson, and Madison, Landover is where some of our offsite storage facilities are located, and NAVCC (pronounced Navsee Sea) is the National AudioVisual Conservation Center, also known as “The Packard Campus,” in Culpeper, Virginia.  The text also makes reference to Terry Brooks’s “Magic Kingdom of Landover” novels, pointing out an incongruity only apparent to fantasy readers who work for the Library of Congress.

[8] The last three diseases on our list will be recognized by many government workers.  TSP, or “Thrift Savings Plan” is our 403(b) savings plan, equivalent to a 401(k) in the private sector.  Momentum is our budget software at the Library.  Continuing Resolutions are passed by Congress as stopgap measures in lieu of budgets, holding spending at last year’s levels and therefore requiring freezes in pay, hiring, and spending.  Some traditional Mummers Play texts give the doctor a highfalutin way of speaking that includes made-up words.  In some of these, he refers to “all other vandorious diseases.”  It was a short step from that to “librarious diseases.”

The “Wassailing Song” from the James Madison Carpenter Collection is a version of the song with which we close our play.

[9] The “submission information package” and “checksum,” while they sound vaguely scandalous, are once again terms for metadata tools within digital assets management.

[10] Budget cuts have made the Library reduce the hours during which certain doors are open, to cut down on personnel costs for the police staffing those doors.  This puts the police officers in the position of enforcing door closures that are inconvenient for everyone.  In this note, we acknowledge our friends on the Capitol Police force: we know it’s not your fault!

[11] The Gloucestershire Wassail is a song sung by rural farm-workers in Gloucestershire, England, while visiting and toasting the inhabitants of nearby farms and houses.  The words to the song were first published in 1813.  One hundred and twenty years later, James Madison Carpenter photographed Gloucestershire wassailers and recorded their song.  His recordings, photos of the wassailers, and manuscripts of the song, are preserved in the AFC archive.  One of his manuscripts appears at right.  The version we sing is derived from various published versions, but such names as “Whitefoot” and “Old Broad,” which were names for farm animals, have been replaced with more generic descriptors such as “the milk cow” and “the ox,” which makes the song more comprehensible to non-farming folk.


Comments (2)

  1. Well done! It is good to see even the furloughed can have some fun.

  2. Loved this-especially the marriage! Think it will help??

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