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2019 Mummers’ Play: AFC Mums While Washington Burns

A group of costumed performers in front of a Christmas Tree.

Kneeling: Deb DeGeorge as Conservation, Charles Hosale as Preservation St. George; standing left to right: Hope O’Keeffe as Big Head, orchestra member Nanci Groce, orchestra member Melanie Zeck, Valda Morris as Water, Stephen Winick as Father Christmas, Thea Austen as Doctor Joculus, orchestra member John Fenn, Jennifer Cutting as Clever Legs. George Thuronyi as Chaos, Stephanie Hall as Fire, orchestra member Todd Harvey, and Allina Migoni as James Madison. From the American Folklife Center mumming performance in the Library of Congress Great Hall, December 11, 2019; the play is titled “AFC Mums While Washington Burns: A Conservation Mumming,” set in 1814 after the Capitol was burned by the British; James Madison brings Library collections in a dogsled to conservators at the North Pole Library. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

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: “FrankenMumming (Version 2.1): An Arctic Monster Library Modernization Mumming,” (2018)  “St. George and the Arrearage Monster: A Mumming in Process,” (2016) “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 footnotes at the bottom of the page.

An actor dressed as the character St. George, carrying a wooden sword.

Charles Hosale as the character Preservation Saint George. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

AFC Mums While Washington Burns:
A Conservation Mumming [1]

Performed by the AFC Mummers
Written by Stephen Winick
With help from the AFC Mummers:
Father Christmas: Stephen Winick
Clever Legs: Jennifer Cutting
James Madison: Allina Migoni
Chaos: George Thuronyi
Fire: Stephanie Hall
Water: Valda Morris
Preservation St. George: Charles Hosale
Conservation: Deb DeGeorge
Doctor Joculus: Thea Austen
Big Head: Hope O’Keeffe

Enter Singing: 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: [3]
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

An actor dressed as the character Father Christmas, wearing a wreath on his head and carrying a large staff.

Steve Winick as Father Christmas. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

My beard is long, my back is bent
My knees are weak, my strength is spent
Two thousand years and nineteen is a very great age for me [4]
And if I’d been adapting all these years, what a changemaker I’d be! [5]
And speaking of changemakers, well, that reminds me
Of a story from the archives at the North Pole Library…

It was December 1814, and the news was rather dire
The Capitol down in Washington had been destroyed by fire
And down by old New Orleans folks were gathering for a fight [6]
But up at the North Pole, why it was almost Christmas night [7]
The North Pole Library re-org effort was in its twentieth year,
And I was in the Reading Room researching Christmas Cheer.
I was standing by the windows, to admire the polar sights
We’d performed a Windows Upgrade, to let in the Northern Lights [8]
[James Madison Steps toward FC]
When in burst a dapper fellow in knee breeches and a wig
Like our old friend Thomas Jefferson, but this man was not as big [9]
“Of course,” I thought, “James Madison! He always was compact!” [10]
“Good evening, Mr. President,” I said, with utmost tact.

JAMES MADISON:

An actor dressed as the character James Madison, posing with cart with toy huskies filled with books and scrolls.

Allina Migoni as President James Madison. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.Yes, yes it’s me, James Madison, I see you know my name

Yes, yes, it’s me, James Madison, I see you know my name!
I’ve lately fled from Washington, which many think’s a shame
The British marched from Bladensburg and burned our stately city
And acted in a manner that you might consider sh…ocking. [11]
So I’m here on a mission, which requires circumspection
To see what can be salvaged from our library’s collection
These books and scrolls and this very nice independence declaration
Were present when the Capitol was consumed by conflagration!
I gathered these collections and I packed them in this sleigh
And I bought a brace of huskies, and I started on the way
And thinking of the future of our young and struggling nation,
I came straight north to see if you could help with…Conservation.

FATHER CHRISTMAS:
I’ll send my elf to fetch someone, Mr. President! Don’t you worry!
Good helper elf, go find St. George and return here in a hurry!
[Clever Legs makes an accordion noise and runs off]
Now in the meantime, I’m something of an expert on sleighs
And I think it’s just possible that yours has got some stowaways!

CHAOS: [12]
The old man’s right, I’m hiding here, and Chaos is my name
Sowing mass confusion and disorder is my game
I’ll shout “fire” in a crowded theater, I don’t care who gets hurt
And with my “suspicious package” I will put you on alert! [13]
When they burned up the Capitol, I really had some fun
So I decided to follow Madison to see how well I’d done

An actor dressed as the character Chaos, wearing a wild white wig and a tie dye shirt.

George Thuronyi as Chaos. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

And I must say, riding up with all this damaged “National Treasure” [14]
Is enough to fill this monster’s heart with slightly evil pleasure!
Now I’ve got a son named “Damage” and damage has some kids [15]
And a couple of those grandchildren have joined me on the skids

FIRE: [16]
Like me, I’m Fire! I’m damage’s eldest daughter
And this is my twin sister, who, as you can see, is water.
Together we can damage any map or scroll or book
But we have other siblings whom we shouldn’t overlook.
Like our teenage sisters, Smoke and Soot, on this paper you can smell ‘em
And our two brothers, Dust and Dirt, can really soil your vellum!

WATER: [17]
We have some other siblings too, who aren’t quite as old,
Like our little brother, Vermin, and our baby sister, Mold.
If any of us gets loose inside your stacks, well then, you’re cursed
And it’s often hard to tell which one of us can do the worst! [18]

FATHER CHRISTMAS:
A family? How touching! But look, here comes my elf
And just as I intended, she’s no longer by herself!
[Clever Legs steps forward with St. George and Conservation behind her]

An actor dressed as the character Fire, wearing a flame mask and carrying black "burned" book and a plush rat doll.

Stephanie Hall as Fire, with her little brother Vermin. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

CLEVER LEGS: [19]
Whew! Finding these two experts could have taken me forever
But I just went with my instincts, ‘cause my legs are mighty clever

FATHER CHRISTMAS:
Clever legs? I like it…it’s your nickname from today
Now let’s see who you’ve brought us and continue with the play!

PRESERVATION ST. GEORGE: [20]
In comes I, St. George, from preservation city
I know all the best practices to keep collections pretty
Preservation housing is a thing that I invented
And with my sweet collections care, disasters I’ve prevented.
And yet, still damage happens, and collections still get harmed
So my squire, Conservation, must ensure that I’m well-armed [21]

CONSERVATION:
In comes I, my name is Conservation
St. George says I’m greatest squire in any earthly nation!
Together this good saint and I have traveled pole to pole
Deacidifying scrolls en masse, ‘cause that’s just how we roll. [22]
We’ve trimmed the edges of a map where rats and mice had nibbled
Freeze-dried many shelves of books where broken pipes had dribbled
Sponged the soot off manuscripts so brittle and so old
And with gamma-radiation sword we slew the spores of mold! [23]

An actor dressed as the character Water, holding a baby doll covered in simulated mold.

Valda Morris as Water, with her little sister Mold. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

FIRE:
Come on, conservation, don’t talk so hot
For you don’t know who you have got [24]
I’m not just any thug or vandal,
I can melt a wax cylinder like a used-up candle! [25]
You’re not a knight, you’re just a squire
No match for Chaos or for Fire!

PRESERVATION ST. GEORGE:
Back off, Fire, I promised our mother
That no one but me would beat up my little brother

WATER:
You back off, St. George, ‘cause you’re all wet!
I could drown you in a flash, I’ll bet
So mind your eyes and guard your blows [26]
Or else I’ll squirt right up your nose!

PRESERVATION ST. GEORGE:
[Sarcastically] Help, help, it’s Water! I think I’m going to faint!
You might be bad for books and scrolls, but you can’t scare a full-grown Saint!

CHAOS:
Fine then, St. George, I’m ready for you
Let’s see what a little chaos can do
I’ll yellow all your pages, I’ll lighten all your ink
I’ll tear your jacket and break your spine as quick as any wink!

PRESERVATION ST. GEORGE (To Conservation):
Weapon!

CONSERVATION:
[Rummaging through a duffel bag]
Hmmm…let’s see…Microspatula…vulcanized rubber sponge…chemical wipes…
Aha! At last! Look, St. George, Look at what I’ve found,
The sword of “original order” to put chaos underground! [27]

[St. George takes the sword from Conservation and confronts Chaos ]

Deb DeGeorge as the character Conservation, with her arm around Charles Hosale as the character Preservation Saint George.

Deb DeGeorge as the character Conservation and Charles Hosale as the character Preservation Saint George. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

CHAOS:
Pull out your purse and pay, Sir

PRESERVATION ST. GEORGE:
Pull out your sword and play, Sir [28]

[They fight, and St. George is killed]

CONSERVATION:
St. George! St. George! My only Brother!
What on Earth will I tell mother?

CHAOS:
I’ll solve that problem for you son… [stabs Conservation]
Another stab [stabs again] and then…you’re done!

Two costumed characters fight with swords in front of a Christmas tree.

Sword fight between the characters Chaos, played by George Thuronyi, and Preservation Saint George, played by Charles Hosale. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

JAMES MADISON:
But this is awful! Chaos now has killed this Saint and squire
And my National Collections are still menaced by that Fire!
I sledded up to the North Pole to ask for conservation
And instead I brought these lunatics of saint evisceration!

FATHER CHRISTMAS:
Don’t despair, Mr. President, and don’t take fright
Perhaps they still can be set right
Here at the North Pole we have an excellent health care plan
America ought to have one, you know…anybody can [29]
Observe: I only have to call, and a doctor will arrive
And with any luck at all, bring these two back alive
It’s a fabulous emergency system that we’ve installed, but be forewarned:
The annunciator’s broken, so I’ll have to use this horn. [30]

[Raises bullhorn]

Is there a doctor to be found,
To cure his deep and deadly…wound? (pronounced to rhyme with “found”)

An actor dressed as Father Christmas makes an announcement with a megaphone. He stands in front a Christmas tree. Other costumed characters and audience members look on.

Father Christmas (Stephen Winick) calls for a doctor with his megaphone, while Clever Legs (Jennifer Cutting) and Big Head (Hope O’Keeffe) look on. Photo by Betsy Fulford.

ALL:
Wound! (pronounced correctly) [31]

DOCTOR:  [32]
Here I am, bold Doctor Joculus
I’ve been watching you through my magic oculus! [33]

JAMES MADISON:
How came you to be a doctor?

Thea Austen dressed as the character Doctor Joculus, wearing a top had and carrying a large safety pin and a large key.

Thea Austen as the character Doctor Joculus. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

DOCTOR:
By my travels.

FIRE:
Where have you traveled?

DOCTOR:
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
Inspiration, Exploration, and Discovery, that’s my middle name-s
So I’ve been to every Library and achieved a bit of fame
From The Magic Kingdom of Landover to the distant NavSea Sea,
Everybody knows the great doctor: Me [34]

FATHER CHRISTMAS:
Hmmm, what can you cure?

DOCTOR:
Low Visitor Engagement, Wayfinding Woes
Disorientation leading to marble staircase toes
Lib Guide or Libe Guide pronunciation schism
E2 Solutions and resulting aneurysm,
Low Reference Stats, momentum wheezes
Continuing Resolution freezes
And all other Librarious diseases [35]

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

DOCTOR:
I can cure him if he’s been dead for five Herblock exhibits! [36]
Will you join me on my rounds?

FATHER CHRISTMAS:
Yes.

FATHER CHRISTMAS:
So what can you do for them?

Thea Austen as Doctor Joculus and Steve Winick as Father Christmas have a discussion.

Thea Austen as Doctor Joculus and Steve Winick as Father Christmas; in the background is orchestra member Maya Lerman. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

DOCTOR:
Well, as I understand it, the challenge I must meet
Is to “Engage, Inform, and Inspire” them to get back on their feet [37]
So…I have a magic dongle that they call a yubi-key
And all I need to do is stick it in his USB
[Sticks key in his back]
Now I say the magic word: CENTRIFY!
[Nothing Happens]

FATHER CHRISTMAS:
The changemakers have been at work…it’s Idaptive
[Nothing happens—sad trombone sound]

Melanie Zeck dressed as Two-Factor Authentication.

Melanie Zeck as Two-Factor Authentication. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

DOCTOR:
I’m just waiting for the two-factor authentication
[Two Factor Authentication Arrives on Hobby Horse, gives a certificate to Doctor, rides away. Doctor places the certificate on St. George]

DOCTOR:
Still Nothing

FATHER CHRISTMAS:
Hmmm, try putting in your PIN [38]

[Doctor removes a pin from her jacket and sticks it into St. George. St. George Springs up, looking surprised. Accordion sound and Applause]

DOCTOR:
And now, Conservation
[Doctor repeats the process. Conservation springs up looking surprised. Accordion sound and Applause]

CHAOS:
I have news for you geniuses, even with those two
You can’t conserve these collections if we don’t let you through

[Chaos, Water, and Fire stand shoulder to shoulder between the saints and the collection. They all square up for another fight. Father Christmas steps between the two families.]

FATHER CHRISTMAS:
No no no, this isn’t right
We can’t just have another fight
The play would just go on, soon becoming
Many hours of tedious mumming!
We need a solution, and a smart solution too
Let’s call in Big Head, and see what she can do

ALL:
Big Head!

Hope O'Keeffe dressed as the character Big Head. 

Hope O’Keeffe as the character Big Head. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

BIG HEAD: [39]
In comes I that’s not spoken yet
With my big head and bigger wit
Yes, I’ve a big head and a big brain too
And I’m smarter than Chaos, and Jimmy, and you
And while Madison’s smart, I’m even smarter
So ignoring my advice is a real non-starter
Sadly, Chaos is right…he’ll always exist
And all of his grandchildren, too, will persist.
We NEED Fire and Water, they’re not really villains
And a world without Mold would mean no penicillins!
So the best we can do is research and test
To make sure our preservation techniques are the best.
And here is the good news: what Chaos won’t say…
Is that he can’t be in every place every day
He likes to make trouble, he likes to cause strife
Standing still is the thing he likes least in this life
Keep collections as safe as collections deserve
And he’ll get bored, and go elsewhere, and you can conserve!

[All applaud Big Head’s advice]

FATHER CHRISTMAS:
And it was true…Chaos hung around, another day or two
But then he soon got bored and left…we aren’t sure where to
The Ervation brothers, Prez and Cons, performed the conservation
And Madison returned to governing his beloved nation
He invited Big Head down with him to meet his darling Dolly
And the holidays at Montpelier were forever after jolly.
And as for us at the North Pole, we rested from our labors
And took up songs and mummers plays and visits with our neighbors
Each of our employees received a generous Christmas basket
And Vermin stayed up here with us as the North Pole’s newest mascot!
And every night, of course, we’d meet in the Polar Bar for drinks,
And order up a string of those delicious Library Links. [40]

Jennifer Cutting dressed as the character Clever Legs, playing a button accordion. 

Jennifer Cutting as the character Clever Legs. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

FIRE:
If you don’t believe this lie is true,
Step in, Clever Legs, and let’s hear from you!

CLEVER LEGS:
My name is Clever Legs, as Father Christmas 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, then applaud to prompt audience]

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

Song: “Gloucestershire Wassail.” [41]

(Chorus): 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

(Chorus)

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

(Chorus)

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

(Chorus)

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 all us jolly wassailers in.

(Double Chorus)

The orchestra: front row, Jennifer Cutting with accordion, Maya Lerman with guitar, Serena Ying-Ting Chiu with soprano recorder; back row: Todd Harvey with guitar, John Fenn with ukulele, and Melanie Zeck with flute. Not present in this photograph: Cathy Kerst and Nancy Groce. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

The orchestra: front row, Jennifer Cutting, Maya Lerman, Serena Ying-Ting Chiu; back row: Todd Harvey, John Fenn, and Melanie Zeck. Not present in this photograph: Cathy Kerst and Nancy Groce. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

Footnotes

1. The general idea of this year’s play is to highlight the importance of preservation and conservation in the Library context. The burning of the Capitol is a crucial event in the history of the Library of Congress, so we decided to follow up on last year’s play, set in 1798 or 1799, with one set in 1814.

2. Jennifer Cutting found The Kintbury Mummers Song through the 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 have written two blog posts about the early roots, development, and significance of this character. You can read the first one here, and the second one here.

4. At this point in one of our performances, Hope O’Keeffe ad-libbed “OK, Boomer!”

5. “Changemakers” is a topic of special interest at the Library of Congress this year. See more at this link!

 

Orchestra member Catherine H. Kerst plays the fiddle.

Orchestra member Catherine H. Kerst. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

6. December 1814 was a crucial time in the poorly named “War of 1812.” In August of that year, the British had successfully invaded Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Capitol had been burned, including the Library of Congress. In September, however, the U.S. enjoyed victories at Plattsburgh and Baltimore, where the defense of Fort McHenry inspired the poem that would become The Star-Spangled Banner. By December, as Father Christmas suggests, American forces were gathering in New Orleans under Andrew Jackson, preparing to repulse another British attack. They were in position as Father Christmas was preparing for the holiday. On Christmas Eve, 1814, in Ghent, Belgium, American and British representatives signed the treaty that would end the war, but the troops on the ground remained unaware of it, and Congress had yet to ratify it. Therefore, on January 8, 1815, American and British forces fought the final battle of the war, the Battle of New Orleans. This inspired, among other things, a fiddle tune called “The 8th of January” and a song called “The Hunters of Kentucky,” as well as Jimmy Driftwood’s “The Battle of New Orleans.”  Read more about the battle and its folklore at this link.

Jennifer Cutting as the character Clever Legs, wearing a top hat with horns, plays the accordion.

Jennifer Cutting as the character Clever Legs. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

7. 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 wrote more about that in the blog post at this link.

Charles Hosale dressed as the character Preservation Saint George. He has a dust mask around his neck.

Charles Hosale as the character Preservation Saint George. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

8. Many staff members at the Library of Congress experienced a Windows Upgrade in the past year.

9. Thomas Jefferson was a character in the 2018 AFC Mummers’ Play, which occurred in 1798 or 1799. Thus, by 1814, Father Christmas has known Jefferson for 15 years or so.

10. James Madison, of course, is not a traditional character in mummers’ plays. But he is an important person in the history of the Library of Congress. One of our buildings is named after him. This line alludes to an interesting bit of historical trivia: James Madison is, to date, the shortest person ever to serve as POTUS; he was five feet, four inches tall. Jefferson was six foot two.

11. In folklore, this technique is often known as “teasing;” in his classic book The Erotic Muse, the late Ed Cray described as “teasing songs” texts which “rush right up to the brink of the tabooed word, then do a hasty about-face,” exactly as Madison does here.

12. Chaos is not a traditional mummers’ play character.

13. “Suspicious Package Alerts” occur frequently in the Capitol Complex when packages of unknown origin are seen and reported to police. One of the mummers suggested a scene in which a suspicious package alert occurs and police break up the play. Instead, I wrote this joke playing on the slang double meaning of “package.” It was the first line specifically written for this play, so we needed someone who would both say this line and cause damage to library collections…which led to the very general idea of “Chaos.”

14. An allusion to the fact that the Library of Congress has an association with the “National Treasure” films, as this blog post details.

15. The idea of Damage being the son of Chaos explains the connection between Chaos and the rest of the family. (The character was not called Damage because suspicious package alerts rarely cause damage—but they can cause a bit of chaos!)

Stephanie Hall dressed as the character Fire, wearing a mask with flames.

Stephanie Hall as the character Fire. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

16. “Fire” is not a traditional mummers’ play character. But Stephanie’s fire costume was such a hit at Halloween that it partly inspired the play!

17. “Water” is also not a traditional mummers’ play character.

18. It is indeed difficult to tell which of these agents of destruction is the worst for any given collection, and conservation specialists sometimes point this out.

19. Clever Legs is a traditional mummers’ play character. Here we added an explanation of how she gets her unusual name.

20. St. George is a traditional mummers’ play character. We have even featured “Preservation St. George” before, in this previous play.

21. In library terms, “conservation” is a subset of the practices that make up “preservation.” We decided to make Conservation the squire to Preservation’s knight. Read more about this at the Library’s Preservation Homepage.

22. “Mass deacidification” is an important preservation process. Read about it here!

23. All of these processes are really pursued by conservators in libraries around the world, although gamma radiation does not usually take the form of a sword!

24. These are traditional flyting lines from mummers’ plays.

25. This is an homage to the earliest sound recordings in our AFC collections, which are on wax cylinders.

Valda Morris dressed as the character Water wearing a fishnet shawl and fins on her arms.

Valda Morris as the character Water. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

26. “Mind your eyes and guard your blows” is an example of the slightly scrambled speech that is traditional in some mummers’ plays.

27. “Original order” is an important Library principle, especially in manuscripts—see this page for details. It does come up in conservation also, as this blog post demonstrates.

28. This rhyme of “pull out your purse and pay/pull out your sword and play” is an old traditional mummers’ play line.

29. This might seem to be a reference to the political moment, but please remember, it’s 1814!

30. This use of a megaphone because of a broken annunciator is an inside joke for people who work on Deck A in the Jefferson Building’s attic.

31. This mispronunciation of “wound” is a traditional mummers’ play joke, and we have made it a perennial part of our play.

32. The Doctor is a traditional mummers’ play character. In fact, some scholars argue that the presence of a quack doctor defines a particular genre of death-and-resurrection folk play—the genre to which ours evidently belongs.

33. An oculus is part of a proposed redesign to the Jefferson building—we just love the word!

34. Some of the places Dr. Joculus 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. “Inspiration, exploration, and discovery” are keywords in the Library’s Visitor Experience Master Plan.

Deb DeGeorge dressed as the character Conservation, wearing white gloves and a dust mask on her head.

Deb DeGeorge as the character Conservation. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

35. The diseases refer to aspects of Library life. The Library of Congress’s Research Guides, which you can find here, are colloquially known as “Lib” guides, but staff members have not reached a consensus as to whether “Lib” should rhyme with “glib” or with “tribe.”

36. The Library of Congress periodically features exhibits of the art of the political cartoonist Herblock. We thought it would be a funny way to measure time!

37. Engage, Inform, and Inspire are keywords in the Library of Congress mission statement included in the Strategic Plan.

38. The sequence involving the yubikey, magic words, two-factor authentication, and PIN all refer to some of the security measures involved in logging on to our Library computers.

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

40. “Library Link” is a site on the staff intranet for communication among staff. Including this joke also allows us to test a theatrical principle: sausages are always funny.

41. “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.

Steve Winick dressed as the character Father Christmas; in the background are George Thuronyi as Chaos and Stephanie Hall as Fire. 

Steve Winick as the character Father Christmas; in the background are George Thuronyi as Chaos and Stephanie Hall as Fire. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

One Comment

  1. Cece Conway
    December 19, 2019 at 8:56 am

    Awesome!

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