Top of page

Nine actors in colorful costumes
The AFC Mummers at their dress rehearsal deep in the tunnels under the Library of Congress. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

FrankenMumming: The 2018 AFC Mummers’ Play

Share this post:

Note: Every year, in the week of the Library’s holiday party, staff members of the American Folklife Center put our research and performance skills into play, bringing collections to life in a dramatic performance that tours the halls of the Library of Congress.  Dressed in costumes that range from striking to silly, we sing, act, rhyme, and dance for other Library staff members and for members of the public. Our performances are based on the ancient tradition of mumming, which has come down to our archive in the form of play scripts, songs, photos, and other items collected in the early twentieth century. For a more thorough introduction to this tradition, please visit our introductory post on mumming, as well as previous plays: “St. George and the Arrearage Monster: A Mumming in Process,” “Hipster Saint George and the Unicorn: A Web Archiving Mumming,” (2015) St. George, the Dragon, and the Squid: A Preservation Mumming,” (2014) and “St. George and the Data Dragon: A Digital Assets Mumming” (2013).  Below, you can read this year’s play! Numbers in square brackets refer to the explanatory “Big Foot Notes” at the bottom of the page.

John Fenn dressed as Frankenstein's Monster and carrying a ukulele.
Frankenstein’s Creation, played by John Fenn. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

An Arctic Monster Library Modernization Mumming

Written by Stephen Winick
With contributions by Jennifer Cutting, Stephanie Hall, Theadocia Austen, and the AFC Mummers
Performed by the AFC Mummers [1]

Dramatis Personae:
Father Christmas:  Stephen Winick
Curly Toes: Jennifer Cutting
Beelzebub: Stephanie Hall
Bigfoot: George Thuronyi
Thomas Jefferson: Michelle Stefano
Frankenstein’s Monster: John Fenn
Doctor B: Thea Austen
Big Head: Hope O’Keeffe
Prompter/Propmaster/Sign Boss: Kelly Revak

Enter Singing the Kintbury Mummers Song [2]

Good people all, both great and small
Both rich and poor, draw near!
We beg you pay attention,
To these few lines you hear.

To me high-dum-dum, to me low-dum-dum,
To me high-dum-dum to me derry,
We don’t come here but once a year
On purpose to be merry!

To me high-dum-dum, to me low-dum-dum,
To me high-dum-dum to me derry,
We don’t come here but once a year
On purpose to be merry!

Father Christmas played by Stephen Winick.
Father Christmas played by Stephen Winick. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

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
These days I need my helper elf, little curly toes
She carries her accordion to every place she goes.
Two thousand years and eighteen is a very great age for me
And if I’d been growing all these years, what a monster I should be!
And speaking of Monsters, well, that reminds me
Of a story from the archives at the North Pole Library [4]
It was December 17-dash-dash, I don’t remember the year [5]
I was doing my usual, spreading Christmas cheer,
And I’d hired a cadre of monsters and men
To reorg the North Pole library…’cause that’s how I rolled back then.
Little did I know I would cause a confrontation
Between the monsters of planning and of freestyle innovation.
So welcome a Monster of plans to our play
Step in Beelzebub and boldly have your say!

Stephanie Hall wears a fur cloak and horns, and carries a club and a copy of the Library's Strategic Plan, as the monster Beelzebub.
Beelzebub played by Stephanie Hall. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

In comes I, Beelzebub
And over my shoulder I carry a club
And in my hand, a strategic plan
Doesn’t that make ME a scary man?
Although I might look like a chaotic old devil
I like to plan things out, to keep them neat and level
I don’t like leaving anything to chance,
So I plan it out years in advance
And though I get a lot done with quick thinking and with hustle
To back up my ideas, I sometimes need some muscle
So I adopted a tiny monster cub and raised him as my own
And I must say he’s imposing now that he is fully grown
Now some folks call him Sasquatch, or Skunk Ape, or Yeti
But to me he’s my little Bigfoot…let’s meet him if you’re ready!

In comes I, old big foot…or, maybe, big old foot
Hmmm, Bigfoot not too eloquent.
But Bigfoot know these biggest feet in world,
Except for, maybe, elephant.
Bigfoot hair very wild, Bigfoot back kinda hunched
Many small Librarians have Bigfoot munched and crunched.
Bigfoot used to live in woods, now live here at Pole
Enforcing plans of Beelzebub for Library strategic goal.
[Takes Strategic Plan from Beelzebub]
Bigfoot hands very big, if truth be told
Library plan is hard to unfold!
[Consults plan while speaking]
Engage, Inform, Inspire…Bigfoot not know what that means,
Bigfoot just muscle behind Beelzebub’s brainy schemes!
Expand, enhance, optimize…sure, Bigfoot get behind it!
User-centered Library at North Pole? Will any users find it? [8]

Bigfoot stands with his arms up and the other actors act as though he smells bad.
Bigfoot enters and the other characters hold their noses at the Library Services party on December 12, 2018. Bigfoot was played by George Thuronyi. Photo by Shawn Miller.

So those were my careful planners, who had it figured in advance
But I also had some folks whose mission was to take a chance
One of these fellows would go on to greater fame
But in 17-dash-dash he already had quite a name:
Delegate and diplomat, foremost thinker of his day
Step in, Thomas Jefferson, and boldly have your say.

Michelle Stefano in 18th-century clothes and a powdered wig, holding an ice cream scoop, as part of her portrayal of Thomas Jefferson.
Thomas Jefferson played by Michelle Stefano. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

Folks call me Thomas Jefferson, and if any of you doubt ‘em
Well, there’s my ten ox-carts of books…for I cannot live without em!
I’m an innovator, famous for a declaration
Which changed the whole world order by creating a new nation
But then John Adams became President, and I became his Vice
And I had this ice cream recipe, so I came up here for ice. [10]
I met Father Christmas, who asked me to think of new things
Get his elves to take some chances, embrace different ways to do things
And as it turns out, there is no law against Vice-Presidents
Having side-hustles as Library Innovators-in-Residence! [11]
Memory! Reason! Imagination!  Promoting knowledge is my mission
I just figure out which books go where, with a little intuition
And one innovation I’m introducing, just to add a little spice
Is this freaky-looking monster that I found out on the ice!

In comes I, Frankenstein’s creation
Am I not a master of innovation?
What’s that you say?  You don’t know my story?
Well, I won’t tell the tale, ‘cause it does get kind of gory
You can read it in the novel by good old Mary Shelley,
Or watch the movie sometime, late at night upon the telly.
Or, there’s an exciting YouTube video, you should take a look
It’s nine straight glorious hours of librarians reading the book! [13]

Well for those who wanted to be at the reading,
but for some reason were not here
Give us the condensed version, monster,
And tell us how you got here

Nancy Groce plays the pennywhistle.
Nancy Groce, pennywhistler. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

In short, I am new life from bits and pieces of the dead
One corpse supplied my hands and feet, and a different corpse my head
Victor stitched me all together, and gave me electricity
And I came to life and soon began resenting his duplicity
I killed some people here and there, and he began to chase me,
So I fled up to the arctic and he still could not outpace me
I found him dead on Walton’s ship (I promise!) and sat awhile to weep
Then drifted off and thought I’d die upon the frozen deep
But Jefferson was sledding by with all those books and bags,
And he threw me in a cart and brought me to his “Library Labs.” [14]

Well, you’re certainly innovative…if I may venture a prediction
You’ll spawn entire genres, like Horror and Science Fiction!

New Genres?  New Ideas?  Why, we can’t open up that door.
I’ve got the North Pole Library planned for two centuries or more!
We’ve got to stop this crazy prediction from coming true
Bigfoot, my boy, time to see what a little monster muscle can do.

Now look here, FrankenMonster, Bigfoot not want to fight
But with too much innovation, our plan won’t come out right
So Bigfoot have to ask you to forget your wish to change things
Science Fiction? Horror? Who comes up with all these strange things?

Well, I don’t want to fight either, but I’m not giving up my ambition
I mean, it isn’t every day you get to found two genres of fiction
You should know I’m good at strangling people until their heads turn blue
And I’m reasonably certain I could do the same to you!

You? You tasty-looking FrankenFood, Bigfoot not let you stand!
Bigfoot munch upon the bones of your dainty little hand!

You hairy smelly monster, don’t talk so hot,
For you don’t know who you have got;
So mind your eyes and guard your blows,
Or else I’ll punch you in the nose!

John Fenn, dressed as Frankenstein's Monster, fights with George Thuronyi, dressed as bigfoot. Jennifer Cutting plays her accordion behind them.
During the performance in the Great Hall, the monsters fight and the other mummers look on. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

Pull out your purse and pay sir!

Pull out your claws and play sir!

[They fight and FrankenMonster is slain.]

You foolish Bigfoot, in this violent altercation
You’ve killed my FrankenMonster and his dreams of innovation!
[To everyone]: Just in case you think his genius was a little overrated
Remember that without him Star Wars will not be created! [15]
(Mummers gasp)

A group of performers, one of them lying on the floor. See caption.
During the performance in the Great Hall, Father Christmas calls for the Doctor as Frankenstein’s Monster lies dead on the floor. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

Don’t despair, T.J., and don’t take fright
Perhaps he still can be set right
Here at the North Pole we have a single-payer plan
So no insurance companies come between a doctor and this…man.
So, is there a doctor to be found,
To cure his deep and deadly…wound?


Theadocia Austen, head and shoulders portrait.
Dr. B., portrayed by Theadocia Austen, without her Mad Scientist goggles on. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

Here I am, bold Doctor B
I hope you all remember me!

How came you to be a doctor?

My degree is from Princeton.  And also, by my travels.

Where have you traveled?

DOCTOR (gestures on map):
The North Pole, the South Pole, the East Pole AND the West
I’ve been to the worst pole and I’ve been to the best
From The Magic Kingdom of Landover to the distant NavSee Sea,
Everybody knows the great doctor B! [16]

Hmmm, what can you cure?

DOCTOR:  (throwing candy on each downbeat)
Hypoglaucomia, Diabettus,
Ecoli of the Romaine lettuce
I’ll cure digital-to-analog conversion
Resulting from cranio-rectal inversion
Low TSP, momentum wheezes
Continuing Resolution freezes
And all other Librarious diseases [17]

Jennifer Cutting in costume as Curly Toes, playing an accordion.
Curly Toes, played by Jennifer Cutting. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

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

I can cure him if he’s been dead for five OCIO Windows updates! [18]
Will you join me on my rounds?


[Doctor and Father Christmas walk around and around the body, while Curly Toes plays comical marching music on the accordion. Doctor eventually turns around and collides with Father Christmas.  When they disentangle themselves, she returns to her bag.]

His skin is a sickly shade of green
I may have seen it on my TV screen!

So what can you do for him?

[Doctor gestures to her bag, which is a Trader Joe thermal bag with a sign on it saying

You can get anything at Trader Joe’s these days!

Let’s see, I have lotions and potions, poisons, and pills
Some that cure, and some that give thrills!
[Produces a switch and cable from bag]
I have a switch and a USB cable
That will make a corpse jump off the table!!

[Jefferson attaches cable to a USB port protruding from the monster’s sleeve. Father Christmas attaches the other end to the Doctor’s switchplate]

Now, if’n you are not quite slain…(throws the switch) [19]
Rise Up, monster, to innovate again!

Theadocia Austen holding a large electrical switch and wearing goggles.
Dr. B., portrayed by Theadocia Austen, in full Mad Scientist mode. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

Monster springs up, looking surprised

It’s ALIVE!!! It’s ALIVE!!! It’s ALIVE!!! [20]

Now that’s a fine thing, I have to say
My Bigfoot managed to win the day
He killed that monster and what do they do?
Jumpstart his heart, and he’s good as new!

It makes no frankin’ sense!

A woman wearing a brain hat with a string of pretend sausages around her neck.
Big Head was played at some performances by Deb DeGeorge. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

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

Bigfoot thought this fight was done…
Not really want another one!

No no no, this isn’t right
We can’t just have another fight
The play would just go on, soon becoming
Nine long hours of FrankenMumming. [21]
We need a solution, and a smart solution too
Let’s call in Big Head, and see what she can do

BIG HEAD: [22]
In comes I that’s not spoken yet
With my big head and bigger wit
Yes, I’ve a big head and a brain to match
And I’m smarter than Frankie, and Beelzy, and Squatch
And while Jefferson’s smart, I’m even smarter
So ignoring my advice is a real non-starter
And so, Father C., after some deliberation,
I have a solution: planning for innovation!

Well, here’s something I didn’t bargain for
A concept that there’s brand-new jargon for!

At the risk of sounding like a jerk,
We need to know how that might work.

The planners and the innovators have frequent discussions
To avoid this kind of squabbling, and other repercussions
Then the innovators can do their work in the context of the plan
And the planners plan around all the new ideas they can
So what we need is to improve our Library communication
Like a new Visual Identity to foster inspiration
(Kelly Shows off North Pole sign) [23]

See caption.
During the performance in the Great Hall, Big Head reveals her idea for the new North Pole visual identity. Kelly Revak holds the sign as the mummers look on. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

Connectedness will come about through IT realignment
And the “User Experience Continuum” could still use some refinement…
We’ll hold Town Halls, keep them non-sectarian
And accept input from every North Pole Librarian
And to make sure we’re on top of what each staff member thinks
We’ll sit down each evening over tasty…Library Links! [24]
(Holds up a string of sausages).

A group of performers in costumes. A woman in the center wears a brain hat and holds a string of pretend sausages. See caption.
Hope O’Keeffe played Big Head at most of the performances. At the Library Services Party, she offers us tasty “Library Links,” demonstrating the theatrical maxim that sausages are always funny. December 12, 2018. Photo by Shawn Miller.

[Mummers applaud]

Now Jefferson could not stay, as you all probably know
He had bigger fish to fry, and so he had to go

There WAS an election coming up and I was eager to be in it,
Against those losers, Adams and Burr, how could I fail to win it? [25]

But Bigfoot and Beelzebub and Frankie became chums
And every year at Christmastime, the whole group of them mums
And when Christmas comes each year, they have a mighty bash,
And they strike up Yuletide Carols, and they do the Monster Mash.

[Curly Toes plays “The Monster Mash” while the mummers dance]

So that’s my Christmas story of plans and innovation
And the great North Pole Library Modernization

If you don’t believe this lie is true,
Step in, curly toes, and let’s hear from you!


Performers in costumes dancing. See caption.
The mummers do the Monster Mash in Library Services, December 12, 2018. Photo by Shawn Miller.


My name is Curly Toes, as some have said before
I’m an elf of great request, and I’ll leave you wanting more
I’ve green sleeves, and yellow leaves,
And an accordion I stole from a den of thieves
With my muscles so big, and hands so small
I’ll play you a tune to please you all!
Muddy boots and dirty faces
Now all you dancers, take your places!

[Curly Toes plays intro to “Lilliburlero” on the melodeon, dancers put everything down. Dancers dance two figures, while the rest clap along.]

Father Christmas holding a staff and wearing a wreath on his head. See caption.
Father Christmas gives his closing speech in the Great Hall. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

We hope you all have been impressed
And think Frankenmumming is the best
We won’t delay, lest tedium befall,
We wish you a merry Christmas
And Happy Holidays to all!

All Sing: “Gloucestershire Wassail.” [26]
(Cast invites audience to sing along)

Wassail, wassail all over the town
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee

And here’s to the bullock and to his right eye
Pray God send our master a good Christmas pie
A good Christmas pie that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee

So here is to the milk cow and to her broad horn
May God send our master a good crop of corn
A good crop of corn that we may all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee

And here’s to the calf and to her left ear
Pray God send our master a happy New Year
A happy New Year as e’er he did see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee

Then here’s to the maid in the lily white smock
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in.


Big Foot Notes

Bigfoot's giant feet.
“Bigfoot know these biggest feet in world, except for maybe elephant.” Library Services, December 12, 2018. Photo by Shawn Miller.

1. The general idea of this year’s play is a library’s need to balance strategic planning and innovation. It was inspired by the hardworking and talented planners AND innovators on the Library of Congress staff! We should say that there is no real-life conflict between any such factions at the Library! It was also inspired by the Library’s engagement with the novel Frankenstein, which turned 200 this year.  Read more about that in note 13.

2.  Jennifer Cutting found The Kintbury Mummers Song through the Ralph Vaughan Williams Memorial Library in London.  It was collected by Henrietta Batson in Kintbury, Berkshire, England.

3. Father Christmas is a traditional character from English folk plays.  I will have more to say about my alter-ego in a future blog post!

4. Father Christmas did not traditionally live at the North Pole, but by the time of the mummers’ plays in our collections, that idea was in general circulation in British popular culture–though not mentioned in mummers’ plays themselves.  I’ll have more to say about this in a future blog post soon!

5. This is a reference to the 1818 novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, most of which is told by Dr. Frankenstein to Robert Walton in the Arctic, and and then reported to Walton’s sister through a series of letters dated with the cryptic year 17–.  Read the whole novel here!

6. Beelzebub is a traditional character from mummers’ plays. Usually Beelzebub’s lines go: “In come I Beelzebub/Over my shoulder I carry a club/And in my hand a dripping pan/don’t you think I’m a funny old man?”  The dripping pan is the pan used to catch drippings, or meat juices, when cooking on a broiler, in an oven, or over an open fire. We substituted “strategic plan” for the sake of this year’s plot (such as it is).

George Thuronyi in a Bigfoot costume.
Another shot of Bigfoot, played by George Thuronyi. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

7. Bigfoot is not a traditional mummers’ play character. Interestingly, though, his name follows the same principle as some traditional characters, such as “Bighead,” “Cleverlegs” and “Sweetheart”: an adjective and a body part. We performed a special mummers’ play for folklorist Michael Taft’s retirement in 2012, which featured Bigfoot as a nod to Michael’s research on Bigfoot stories. Since this year’s play had a monster theme, I thought it would be fun to finally bring Bigfoot into the Christmas mumming tradition!

8. Bigfoot’s opening speech uses real elements of the Library of Congress’s strategic plan, with the ironies noted that (1) Bigfoot doesn’t understand them, and (2) they aren’t all that applicable to a Library located at the remote North Pole.  Read the Strategic Plan!

9. Thomas Jefferson is, of course, not a traditional mummers’ play character. He is, however, a crucial figure in the history of the Library of Congress. When the original library was burned during the War of 1812, Jefferson sold the U.S. Government his personal library, which was delivered in 10 oxcarts.  “I cannot live without books” is a famous quotation from Jefferson.  He divided his library into three major categories, “Memory,” “Reason,” and “Imagination.”  Read more about his library here.

Handwritten manuscript of Thomas Jefferson's recipe for ice cream.
Thomas Jefferson’s recipe for ice cream.

10. Thomas Jefferson’s ice cream recipe is real, and it’s part of the Library’s collections–see it at right, and find out more at this link!  The idea that Jefferson’s reason for being in the Arctic was to collect ice for the recipe came from Stephanie Hall.

11. The “innovator-in-residence” is a post created at the Library of Congress in 2017 and occupied for two terms by Jer Thorp. Read about it here.

12. Frankenstein’s Monster is also not a traditional mummers’ play character.

13. Making the play a silly sequel to Frankenstein was inspired by our participation in FrankenReads, a program in which the entire novel was read in shifts by Library of Congress staff and invited guests, and livestreamed on YouTube.  The video can still be watched at this link!  At least three of our mummers were readers, including me (see my portion at this link), so by poking gentle fun at the “nine straight glorious hours,” we are mocking ourselves. While reading my portion, I realized that Frankenstein ends with the monster very near the North Pole in the very late 18th century, and the idea for this play was born!

14. Library Labs is a real thing here at the Library of Congress–read about it here. Our colleagues in Library Labs were enthusiastic audience members for our play, and we are in awe of their innovations!

15. The Library of Congress celebrated Star Wars in 2018 with the series Star Wars Under the Stars. As part of the program, we held a panel on the politics of Star Wars, which you can watch at this link.

16. The Doctor is a traditional mummers’ play character.  Often the character is called simply “The Doctor,” but in some cases the Doctor has a surname.  We made ours “Dr. B.” as an homage to the late James H. Billington, former Librarian of Congress, who enjoyed our mummers’ plays. Some of the places Dr. B. has traveled are references to Library facilities: the “Magic Kingdom of Landover” refers to Terry Brooks’s novels, but also to the Library’s storage annex in Landover, Maryland. NAVCC (pronounced Navsee Sea) is the National AudioVisual Conservation Center, also known as “The Packard Campus,” in Culpeper, Virginia.

17. Some of the diseases here refer to current events, such as the romaine lettuce recall of 2018. Others refer to perils of federal employment. Cranio-rectal inversion (also cranial-rectal inversion) is a term from medical folklore, whose meaning I hope you can guess!

18.  A very specific inside joke about our Office of the Chief Information Officer. Sorry guys–we love you and your Windows updates!

19. The switch was made for us by the great staff of the carpenter’s shop, who work for the Architect of the Capitol.  Best prop ever!

20. This is a reference to the 1931 film adaptation of Frankenstein, in which Doctor Frankenstein is named “Henry” and played by Colin Clive. Clive very memorably shouts “It’s Alive! It’s Alive! It’s Alive!” as the monster comes to life.

21. Another reference to the length of the Frankenreads event.

22. Big Head is a traditional mummers’ play character.

Father Christmas holds up the North Pole sign.
Father Christmas with the North Pole sign. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

23. The Library of Congress debuted a new visual identity in 2018, so we adapted a sign for the North Pole using its principles.

24. These are references to real aspects of the Library’s strategy.  “Library Link” is a site on the staff intranet for communication among staff.

25. This identifies the year as 1799 or possibly 1798, since the election was held in 1800.

26.  “The Gloucestershire Wassail” is a song sung by rural farmworkers 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 and now online at this link from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library in England. 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.


  1. We need a video!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *