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Saint George and the Hacker: A Zoom Meeting Mummers Play

The author dressed as Father Christmas, 2018.

The author as Father Christmas, 2018. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer, with the sign text modified by the author to illustrate this blog

A Zoom Meeting Mummers Play

 

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that most years, in the week or two before Christmas, staff members of the American Folklife Center engage in a dramatic, comedic, and musical performance that tours the halls of the Library of Congress. The performance is based on traditional mummers’ plays, and allows us to put our research skills into play alongside our more playful impulses. This year, for the second year in a row, we realized we couldn’t perform our mummers’ play live, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like last year, though, we didn’t want to let the pandemic defeat us. Last year we did the mummers’ play as a podcast episode. We thought maybe this year we could try it as a zoom meeting!

So that’s what we did. I wrote the play and recruited the actors. It’s our usual practice to try to have one new actor in the play each year, and to have that person play St. George. But this time we realized that our regular cast member Stephanie Hall was retiring, and that this would be her last play. We asked Stephanie to take on the hero’s role, and had our new actor, Eboni Scurlock, play a role very much like her real role at AFC: Elfani the administrator.

12 people in costumes in front of a Christmas tree

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’Keeffe).

We decided to make the play literally about a zoom meeting that gets invaded by a hacker who won’t let the participants leave until he gets a bitcoin ransom. 2021 has felt like a zoom meeting that wouldn’t end, so we hope our audience can relate.

As usual, Jennifer Cutting and Thea Austen were the first readers and humor consultants and John Fenn helped with production. Jennifer was also Music Director. And we’re very glad to have new talent involved too, especially Elizabeth Schreiber-Byers, who agreed to direct, using her skills as a zoom webinar producer.

See the result in the player below, and the annotated play script after that!  From everyone at the American Folklife Center, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.

Saint George and the Hacker:
A Zoom Meeting Mummers Play

[Music: Kintbury Mummers Song]

Kintbury Mummers Song:
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!

11 people in costumes in front of a Christmas tree.

The Well-Preserved AFC Mummers pose by the Christmas tree in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress, 2014. L-r: Eric Wolfson, Stephanie Hall, Hope O’Keeffe, Jennifer Cutting, George Thuronyi, Stephen Winick, Valda Morris, Thea Austen, Alicia Bartlett, Ann Hoog, Catherine Hiebert Kerst.

 

Father Christmas:
Zoom! Zooommm! Gentles all, pray give us a Zoom Room to Rhyme!
We come to show activity at Merry Christmastime
Activity of youth, activity of age
Such activity has never been before upon our YouTube page [1]
In comes I, old father Christmas, and be I welcome or welcome not… [2]

All:
Welcome!

Father Christmas:
…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 one and twenty is a very great age to reach,
Some think I should retire and spend next Christmas at the beach!
But during a pandemic, the North Pole is quite protected [3]
With no one coming or going, why, there’s no way to get infected [4]
And, how could I retire, and leave the old North Pole?
Clever Legs here might get my job, and give me lumps of coal
Because I haven’t yet worked out the final dispensation
For the North Pole Library reorganization
Which reminds me of a story; it happened just this year
Why, even thinking about it fills poor Yule Cat’s heart with fear!
It happened at the North Pole Board of Trustees Meeting before the final gavel
It was held on Zoom of course, to prevent pandemic travel.
It was early in December, and I well recall the day…
Let’s turn back the clock a little now, it happened just this way
[Sound effect: bar chimes]

A very cute dog

Don’t let his goofy smile fool you, Nevsky is a tough negotiator who doesn’t take no for an answer. He is the president of the Sleddog Union, North Pole Local 1001.

Nevsky:
Wooo-Wooo! [5]

Chairman James Madison:

Very well, Mr. Nevsky, we appreciate your presentation,
And we’ll pass on your written statement in the Husky Labor Negotiation [6]

Nevsky:
Wooo-Wooo!

Father Christmas:
Thank you, Chairman Madison!

James Madison:
Of course, of course!
The Husky situation can be a little bit constraining,
But it’s nothing compared to that time
When all the Reindeer were complaining! [7]
So that concludes our business, unless there’s anything more that’s new? [Pause]
Very well, I move we adjourn, if that’s agreeable to you.

Thomas Jefferson:
I Second [8]

James Madison:
All in favor?

Everyone:
“Aye”

James Madison:

Allina Migoni as James Madison stands behind a makeshift sleigh "pulled" by plush husky toys.

Allina Migoni as President James Madison in the 2019 AFC Mummers Play. As we see, the current board chair has a long relationship with the Huskies’ Union! Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

Very well, we stand…
[Madison raises gavel…his camera goes off and he’s replaced by a picture of a skull and crossbones.]

Thomas Jefferson:
Are we adjourned?

Father Christmas:
I…I’m not sure

Elfani the Great [Consulting a large book]:
No, Section 5 subsection d of the bylaws clearly states the gavel must be heard for us to adjourn!

Father Christmas:
So we can’t adjourn?

Elfani the Great:
That’s right! Until we can get the chair back online
We’re stuck in a Zoom meeting til the END OF TIME!!!! [9]

[Everyone is shown in a panic]

Thomas Jefferson:
Don’t Panic, Don’t Panic, you better not shout! [10]

[People start calming down]

I’m Acting Chair Thomas Jefferson, and I’ll work something out….
I’m picking up on something…some presence in our system
[Puts eye very close to camera]
It’s like some gremlins are in there and our security software missed ‘em.

Bold Hacker:

Michelle Stefano dressed as Thomas Jefferson

Michelle Stefano as Thomas Jefferson, 2018. Photo by Shawn Miller.

In Comes I, my name’s Bold Hacker!
I’m a relentless online cyber-attacker
With my skills at spear-phishing I bamboozled your crew
Just a little spoof email and your elves let me through
Got my RATs and my Rootkits all up in your code
So your miserable firewall’s about to implode [11]
Once things are all set for my plan’s execution
I’ll completely shut down North Pole gift distribution! [12]
And while you losers are stuck in this perpetual zoom
I’ll usher in the North Pole’s moment of doom

Father Christmas:
You can’t do that! People need their good cheer
Especially now, in this quasi-pandemic year!

Bold Hacker:
Well, I’ll be happy to return your control right away
For, say, five thousand bitcoin in ransom—OK? [13]

Thomas Jefferson:
Now see here, bold Hacker, are you out of your gourd?
Five thousand bitcoin’s more than we can afford!
I sold a huge Library a few years ago, [14]
And it only cost 23 bitcoin, you know!

Bold Hacker:
Twenty-three Bitcoin back in 1815? That’s all well and fine
Today it’s five thousand bitcoin, to get the North Pole back online

Thomas Jefferson:
Father Christmas, this network was exposed to attacks
Because your Information Security training was lax! [15]
I know you were thinking it was time you retired
But if you can’t solve this ransomware problem, you’re fired!

[Cast and Extras look shocked.]

Elfani the Great (holding a phone):
Fire Father Christmas? What Madness is that?
[into phone] We need cyber St. George to zoom in here, Stat!

[Music: fanfare.]
[St. George begins to speak, but is muted.]

Eboni Scurlock dressed as an elf

Eboni Scurlock portrayed the Admin elf, Elfani the Great

Thomas Jefferson:
You’re Muted! St. George, you’re Muted! Oh my God! [Rolls eyes] [16]

[St. George unmutes.]

St George:
Sorry!
In Comes I, cyber St. George, Father Christmas’s biggest backer
I’ve come from the land of infosec to battle with this Hacker
We won’t pay this ransom, you pretentious little lout
I have foolproof system tools to drive your malware out!

Bold Hacker:
Well, your tools may well be foolproof, but I am not a fool! [17]
I’m the smartest person in this zoom room, and I’ll take St. George to school!
Pull out your Bits and pay sir!

St. George:
Pull out your Bots and play, sir! [18]

[Hacker and St. George hunker down at keyboards and move their fingers fast]

Hacker:
I’m starting out with a Sequel Injection
Which should give your system a major infection!

St. George:
Well, my dear Hacker, that’s all very well
But everyone knows it’s pronounced S-Q-L! [19]

A woman in a mask and a man in a black hoodie and sunglasses.

St. George, portrayed by Stephanie Hall, battles the Hacker, played by George Thuronyi.

Hacker:
Whatever, St. George. Are you starting to sweat?
I’m about to come at you with a zero-day threat!
My worm will exploit your misconfiguration
And lack of input sanitization! [20]

St. George:

Michelle Stefano dressed as Thomas Jefferson

Michelle Stefano as Thomas Jefferson, 2018. Photograph by Carl Fleischhauer.

[Sounding ill] Ugh, his worm is replicating throughout my poor code
It’s slowing me down…it’s the end of the road…ack!

[Camera goes off. St. George’s still picture is “Operation” game character “Cavity Sam.”]

[Cast and Extras are dismayed]

Father Christmas:
St. George, St. George, my oldest chum
I can’t believe this day has come!

Thomas Jefferson:

Well, Father Christmas, I’m sorry to say
It’s time you packed up and were on your way!
I shall have to appoint a new acting CIO
To deal with this hacker and get him to go

Father Christmas:
Not so fast, O Acting Chair
To fire me now would not be fair
After all, St. George has been dead many times in our history
And it never stopped him from winning, why, that’s the whole mystery.
So…Is there a Zoom doctor in good enough form
To cure him of this deadly…Warm? [21]

[Reaction shot: everyone rolls their eyes]

Everyone:
Worm!

[Music: wah-wah sound.]

Theadocia Austen in a white lab coat with a stehoscope

Thea Austen plays Dr. Virtue

Doctor:
In comes I, Bold Doctor Virtue
I always will cure you and never will hurt you!.

Thomas Jefferson:
How came you to be a doctor?

Doctor:
By my virtual travels.

Father Christmas:
Where have you traveled?

Doctor:
PowerPoint please!

[Everyone rolls their eyes.  Powerpoint is shared to screen]

Doctor:
I’ve been to the South Pole, the North Pole, the West Pole AND the East
I’ve been to the Greatest pole and I’ve been to the Least
Engage, Inspire and Inform, that’s my nom de plume
So I’ve been to every Library you can get to over Zoom
From The Magic Kingdom of Landover to the distant NavSea Sea,
Everybody knows the great doctor: Me [22]

Thomas Jefferson:
And…what can you cure?

Deb DeGeorge with a facebook cat filter over her face.

We know only one thing about the board member played by Deb DeGeorge: : she is not a cat!

Doctor:
I can cure that boxed-in feeling that you get from using Zoom
And that loneliness that comes from working in your dining room.
Do you fade into the background? Does your head look like a cat?

Not a Cat:
I am not a cat! [23]

Do you try to use the Q&A when the action’s in the Chat?
Did you get awful “headset hair” during a three-hour browser crash?
Did you go into the Breakout Room and break out in a rash?
I can cure all these things and more, plus other things to boot
Like indecent camera angles, and forgetting to unmute!
Small IP Edge Client, audio dropout wheezes [24]
VPN bottleneck freezes
And many other digital diseases!

Father Christmas:

Father Christmas, portrayed by Stephen Winick, holds Yule Cat, portrayed by Figgy. Yule Cat had a non-speaking role!

Yule Cat, portrayed by Figgy Pudding. Yule Cat telepathically communicates his skepticism about the Doctor’s skills to his sidekick, Father Christmas, shown here holding him.

Yes, yes, but Yule Cat says you can’t cure a Saint who’s been DEAD for five minutes!

Doctor:
I can cure a Saint who’s been dead for five OCIO Software pushes! [25]
Allow me to hook up my Scantastic Telehealth Doodad!
[Places an “Operation” game on an easel next to her, so it’s on camera]

[Accordion music while Doctor examines Cavity Sam]

Doctor:
Definitely Dead!

Father Christmas:
What can you do about it?

Doctor:
I have a preparation here called “Dr. Ridge’s Food” [26]
It should really perk old Georgie up and restore a fighting mood
It has many glorious properties that I could tell you of,
By why don’t you listen to the song instead, on loc.gov?

Thomas Jefferson:
I’ll be sure to do that! For now can you give the Saint a drop?

Doctor:
Okay, Cyber St. George…now, tell me when to stop!

[Doctor spoons some oatmeal into mouth of Cavity Sam.]
[Music: fanfare.]
[Nothing happens. Jefferson and Father Christmas quack at doctor.] [27]

Doctor:
Huh, “Ridge’s Food” worked fine LAST year, but I guess it’s now too late
Of course, all antivirus software soon goes out of date.

George Thuronyi in a black hoodie and sunglasses.

George Thuronyi portrayed Bold Hacker.

Hacker:
That’s right! My worm is cutting-edge, I updated it last night
There’s no known cure, so poor St. George has fought his final fight!

Doctor:
Well, Mr. Hacker, I’m in awe of your brain
I could listen all day if you’d care to mansplain!

Hacker:
[Looking pleased and smug]
OK, OK. I’m only telling you this because it shows that I’m so clever
And there’s no way YOU could counteract my Exploit-Based Worm…ever!
Technically, it’s a brand new worm: Flaming Dork’s its name
I put together code from Dorkbot, Bolgimo, and Flame [28]

Doctor:
[Sounding breathless]
So all by your clever self, you created this worm?

Hacker:
[Looking more pleased and smug]
Yes, yes, a brand new, super smart worm!

A picture of the game "Operation"

“Shelfie” of my Operation game, which stood in for Dr. Virtue’s Scantastic Telehealth Doodad.

Doctor:
Ha! I have just the thing then! I picked it up from secret sources!
It’s a tincture called “Cybermectin” used to de-worm Trojan Horses [29]
Just a bit from my bottle, applied to his throttle…

[Doctor feeds Cybermectin to Cavity Sam].

St. George:
glug…glug…glug…more! Glug…glug…glug

[St. George’s camera goes back on.]
[Music: Fanfare]
[Cast and Extras Rejoice!!!!]

St. George:
Thank you, Doctor, I’m MUCH better now
Is it time for round two of our digital row?

Father Christmas:
Well, Bold Hacker, what do you say?
Are you ready to fight again today?

Hacker:
Nah, that’s OK Father Christmas, if your doc has the skill
To revive old St. George after I make the kill
I just don’t see an end game, it’s a recursive loop, see? [30]
And the only way to break it is for him to kill me!
“You can’t win em all” is part of the hacker’s code
So I’ll return control of your system and go back on the road
Let’s face it, the North Pole is freezing and dreary!
I’d rather hack OZ, where it’s weird but it’s cheery!
So long suckers!

[James Madison reappears, Gavel raised]

James Madison:

Allina Migoni dressed as James Madison, with a gavel.

President Madison is finally able to adjourn the meeting!

…Adjourned! [bangs gavel]

 

[Cast and Extras are Relieved]

Father Christmas:
Thank Heavens the Board Meeting is over and done!
Now we can get on with some holiday fun!
There’s one remaining thing we need to do,
So step in, Clever Legs, and let’s hear from you!

Clever Legs:
My name is Clever Legs, as we have said before
I’m a Library elf of great request, and I’ll leave you wanting more
I’ve green sleeves and yellow leaves
And this accordion I stole from a den of thieves!
With my brain so big, and my hands so small
I’ll call you a tune to please you all!
Muddy boots and dirty faces
Now all you dancers, take your places!

Jennifer Cutting plays an accordion while dressed as an elf.

Jennifer Cutting first portrayed “Clever Legs” in the 2013 mummers play.

[Music: “Lilliburlero”]
[Cast and extras dance or groove in their own boxes.]

Father Christmas:
So that’s the story of the Hacker and the Zoom that would not end
And needless to say, I didn’t get fired and Jefferson’s still my friend
And so may it be for us as well, as the years go by
Let our friends stick around and our hackers take off, and our bitcoin multiply!

[Music: Gloucestershire Wassail]

Wassail Wassail all over the town [31]
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree
With a Wassailing bowl we’ll drink to thee!
Now here’s the bullock and to his right eye
Pray God send our company a good Christmas pie
A good Christmas pie that we may all see
With a Wassailing bowl we’ll drink to thee!
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 a Wassailing bowl we’ll drink to thee!
Now here’s poor Yule Cat and to his left ear
Pray God send our company a happy new year
A happy new year that we may all see
With a Wassailing bowl we’ll drink to thee!
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 a Wassailing bowl we’ll drink to thee!
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 a Wassailing bowl we’ll drink to thee!
Wassail!

Notes

14 people in costumes stand in front of a Christmas tree.

From the American Folklife Center mumming performance in the Library of Congress Great Hall, 11 December 2019. Kneeling: Deb DeGeorge as Conservation, Charles Hosale as Preservation St. George; standing left to right: Hope O’Keeffe as Big Head, orchestra member Nancy 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. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

 

[1] This variation of a traditional mummers’ play opening introduces the circumstances of our 2020 mummers play: it’s being performed in virtual space and presented as a podcast. Our play normally begins:

Room! Room! Gentles all, pray give us a room to rhyme
We’ve come to show activity at merry Christmas time
Activity of youth!  Activity of age!
Such activity has never been before upon the stage!

[2] As I’ve pointed out in this previous blog post, Father Christmas’s concern over whether he is welcome and whether he will be forgotten stems from his beginnings during the Puritan ascendancy in England, when Christmas was outlawed and unwelcome.

Drawing of Father Christmas carrying a broom

George Baker drew this image of Father Christmas from a mummers’ play in the 1930s. It is in AFC’s James Madison Carpenter Collection.

[3] Although Father Christmas was not associated with the North Pole in earlier English folklore, by the early 20th century authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien were placing the character there.

[4] The North Pole allows us to address the pandemic without making the play too serious.

[5] Nevsky played Thomas Jefferson’s lead sled dog in last year’s play. Evidently he stayed at the North Pole to become part of their husky team as well as their shop steward!

[6] Our previous mummers plays have featured visits from James Madison, including in last year’s play The Peaceful Transfer of Mumming.

[7] Reindeer have so far not been part of our Father Christmas mythology. Like the North Pole, it is a late addition to the lore of Father Christmas and was borrowed from the Dutch-American figure of Santa Claus. However, by the 1920s authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien were depicting Father Christmas delivering toys in a sleigh drawn through the sky by reindeer, exactly like Santa.

[8] Thomas Jefferson first appeared in the 2018 play, FrankenMumming.

[9] 2021 certainly felt like an endless Zoom/Skype/StreamYard session for many of us!

One of our unique archival treasures at the Library of Congress is Thomas Jefferson’s recipe for ice cream. Find the manuscript here.

[10] It’s a good day when you can allude to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and “Santa Claus in Comin’ to Town” in the same line!

[11] The hacker’s technobabble is similar to the double-talk employed by traditional mumming characters. His name, “Bold Hacker” is based on one of these traditional characters, “Bold Slasher.”

Photo of J.R.R. Tolkien's book "Letters from Father Christmas,"

Shelfie of my copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Letters from Father Christmas,” in which Father Christmas lives at the North Pole and delivers presents in a flying sleigh drawn by reindeer, exactly like the American Santa Claus.

[12] Like reindeer, the delivery of presents hasn’t been part of our Father Christmas lore before. As we noted above about reindeer, it is a late addition to the lore of Father Christmas and was borrowed from the Dutch-American figure of Santa Claus. However, by the 1920s authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien were depicting Father Christmas delivering toys in a sleigh drawn through the sky by reindeer, exactly like Santa.

[13] The recent rise in ransomware attacks seemed like a good plot device for a mummers play.

[14] Jefferson’s library, which he sold to the government to form the basis of the Library of Congress, numbered 6487 volumes. See the Library of Congress “Jefferson’s Library” exhibit at this link.

[15] Like most government workers, Library of Congress staff are required to take annual information security training courses.

[16] One of the ideas of this play was to poke fun at Zoom meeting foibles, such as forgetting to unmute.

[17] Wyatt Gillette, the fictional hacker in Jeffery Deaver’s novel The Blue Nowhere, points out that foolproof systems aren’t hacker-proof, because hackers aren’t fools.

[18] “Pull out your purse and pay, sir/Pull out your sword and play, sir” is an iconic traditional mummers’ play couplet. I thought “bits,” as in bitcoin, would be a good unit of payment, and “bots” a good hacker weapon.

[19] One of the perennial debates in the computer world is “Sequel” vs. “Ess-Kew-Ell” as the pronunciation for “SQL.”  See Medium for more!

A drawing of a man in a top hat riding a child's hobby-horse, with a barrel slung behind his back, carrying a giant pair of pliers.

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.

[20] Once again, the hacker’s jargon resembles the double-talk or backward talk of traditional mummers characters like Bold Slasher, Hind-Before, and even the Doctor.

[21] It’s a recurring joke in our mummers play that when he calls for the Doctor, Father Christmas mispronounced “wound” so it rhymes with “sound.” This is another variant of the joke!

[22] Some of the places Dr. Virtue 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. “Engage, Inspire and Inform” are keywords in the Library’s Strategic Plan.

[23] Of course, we had to mention one of the greatest moments in Zoom meeting history, “I am not a cat!”

[24] The Doctor in mummers’ plays tends to mention a series of nonsensical diseases. We adapt this list each year. Most of these are self explanatory, but “Small IP Edge Client” is an allusion to a program used by the Library, “BIG IP Edge Client.”

[25] The Library’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) is responsible for keeping software up to date on Library computers.

[26] Ridge’s Food was a 19th century baby food whose advertising jingle entered the oral tradition. I wrote about the jingle’s folkloric roots and its composition in this blog post. It was the successful medicine in last year’s mummers play.

[27] Quacking like a duck to jeer at a doctor is traditional. The name “quack” for a bad doctor comes from the Dutch kwakzalver, a seller of bogus medicines. The word came into English in the 17th century, about the time the mummers plays were being created. In Dutch “quackery” is still called “kwakzalverij.”

[28] These are real computer worms, but “Flaming Dork” is not!

[29] Any resemblance between “cybermectin” and a real de-worming medicine are purely coincidental

[3o] This is not technically a “recursive loop” but the hacker doesn’t think Father Christmas will know the difference.

[31] “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.

Credits

Dramatis Personae:

Father Christmas: Stephen Winick
Clever Legs: Jennifer Cutting
Admin Elf Elfani the Great: Eboni Scurlock
Bold Hacker: George Thuronyi
St. George: Stephanie Hall
Doctor Virtue: Theadocia Austen
With James Madison and Thomas Jefferson as themselves
Featuring Hope O’Keefe as George Washington, Deb de George as “Not a Cat,” and John Fenn as Cool Yule
With Nevsky as himself
and
Figgy Pudding as Yule Cat

Written by Stephen Winick
Directed by Elizabeth Schreiber-Byers
First Assistant Director: Theadocia Austen
Music Director: Jennifer Cutting

4 Comments

  1. Rada Marie Stojanovich-Hayes
    December 23, 2021 at 12:05 pm

    Truly inspired by our times dear Mummers!
    Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a super Happy and Healthy New Year too!!!

  2. Joe Hickerson
    December 26, 2021 at 6:38 pm

    My face and my heart are full of smiles!

  3. Joanna
    December 27, 2021 at 8:25 am

    Huzzah! What fun!

  4. Cindy Ryan
    December 29, 2021 at 3:52 pm

    Nice work as always, Folklife team!

    Yule Cat’s cameo appearance made me laugh out loud (disturbing the cat asleep half across my own laptop).

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