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Mumming Up 2022: AFC Mummers on December 13

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, 10 1st Street SE in Washington, DC, at 1:00 and  3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 13.

This year’s play is called The Flute of Ice: A Mumming From the Vault. It’s 1816 and President Madison visits the North Pole Library to deposit a flute made of ice! But soon Father Christmas, the North Pole Librarian, and Dr. Joculus have to deal with dueling monsters. Will their celebrity guest get to play the flute before it melts? The American Folklife Center’s annual holiday play incorporates traditional songs, music, and folk drama from Library of Congress collections for a zany and fun time in the Great Hall.

It’s open to the public, so come on in and see us perform! Due to COVID restrictions, you’ll need a timed-entry pass to enter the Jefferson Building. If you can, visit this website in advance and register for a timed-entry pass. Just click on the red number in the box for the time you’d like to enter, and a popup will open allowing you to sign up.)

If you can’t sign up in advance, bring your mobile phone–outside there’s a QR code that will allow you to sign up on the spot as long as there are remaining spaces-we expect there will be. but it’s safest to register in advance.

The 2018 AFC Mummers at their dress rehearsal deep in the tunnels under the Library of Congress. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer.

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. 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.

AFC staged our first mummers play for fellow staff members back in 2009 and have done it every year since. During the pandemic we did it once as a podcast and once as a zoom meeting. This is our fourteenth play!

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.

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 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 13. Hope to see you there!

One Comment

  1. Lynn Brostoff
    December 12, 2022 at 1:17 pm

    I hope this will be recorded and posted, since I’ll miss it! Thanks.

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