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Mumming Up Soon! AFC Mumming is Wednesday!

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12 people in colorful costumes stand in front of a large Christmas Tree in the Library of Congress Great Hall.
The 2016 American Folklife Center Mummers perform at the Library of Congress Holiday Party in the Great Hall of the Jefferson Building. The cast at program’s end: Captain Acquisition (David Brunton), Fiddler (Cathy Kerst), Guitarist (Maya Lerman), Curly Toes (Jennifer Cutting), Bishop (Stephanie Hall), Father Christmas (Stephen Winick), Linear Feet (Valda Morris), Metro Manager (Alicia Bartlett), Arrearage Squid (George Thuronyi), Doctor Dover (Thea Austen), Processing Saint George (Sarah Lerner), and Processing Pro (Hope O’Keefe).

The American Folklife Center Mummers will present their annual mummers’ play in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress at 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday, December 12.

It’s open to the public, so come on in and see us perform!

This year’s play is called FrankenMumming: An Arctic Monster Library Modernization Mumming. It features innovators-in-residence Thomas Jefferson and Frankenstein’s monster (who, surprisingly, were contemporaries) in a conflict with strategic planners Beelzebub and Bigfoot. This play includes some stock characters from traditional mummers’ plays, including Beelzebub, Big Head, The Doctor, and Father Christmas. It also includes characters from other folklore and literature, principally Frankenstein’s Monster and his opponent, Bigfoot. This year, in honor of the late Dr. James H. Billington (who enjoyed our mummers plays for many years), the Doctor is affectionately named “Dr. B.”

Dr. Billington, in a jacket and tie, stands with six people in colorful costumes.
Dr. James H. Billington, the late former Librarian of Congress, enjoyed our mummers’ play. (L-r): Dr. Billington, Hope O’Keeffe, Jennifer Cutting, Stephen Winick, Valda Morris, George Thuronyi, and Theadocia Austen in 2014.

Mummers’ plays are short 15-minute plays, which were traditionally performed in England, Ireland, colonial America and the West Indies at holiday time. Mummers went from house to house and pub to pub, collecting food, drink and small change as a reward for their entertainment. The plays involve a hero and a villain and a theme of death and resurrection, usually by a comic doctor character.

AFC staged our first mummers play for fellow staff members back in 2009 and have done it every year since. This is our tenth play! The American Folklife Center’s archive boasts one of the largest collections of traditional English mummers’ play texts in the world in its James Madison Carpenter collection. To read more about mumming in general, and our tradition of mumming at AFC, visit this blog postTo read the texts of some of our plays from previous years, visit this one!

We’d love for you to join us in the Great Hall, to cheer on your favorite characters and boo your least favorites. You’ll also have a chance to sing along on traditional English carols and other songs. Once again, it’s 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday, December 12. Hope to see you there!



  1. Some day I hope to be present for this amazing tradition!

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