The York Mystery Plays: Performance in the City

April 2011
24 black and white, 2 line illustrations
266 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781903153352
Format: Hardback
York Medieval Press
BISAC LIT011000, DRA018000

The York Mystery Plays: Performance in the City

Edited by Margaret Rogerson

Essays on the York Mystery Plays, uniting voices from the scholarly world with the York community that has assumed responsibility for their production today.
The York Play of Corpus Christi, also known as the York Cycle, has been central to the study of early English theatre for over a century and a touchstone for the revival of medieval dramatic practice for over fifty years. But these two endeavours... have often found little common ground. This volume therefore accomplishes something very important. It brings together scholars of medieval English drama and places them in dialogue with experienced practtitioners from the community. Together, they share a common commitment to understanding how performances matter to the communities that produce them, and how plays intersect with other public activities. CAROL SYMES, Professor of History, University of Illinois at Urbana.

This volume provides a wealth of new insights into the performance of mystery plays in medieval York and their modern revival. It utilises both academic study, and the practical experience of those who now produce the cycle within York itself on wagons in the street, in an approximation of their original performance. A number of topics are covered. The manuscript is linked to Richard III; the Masons are introduced as non-guildsmen in an enterprise assumed to be guild-specific; families, not just male heads of households, are shown to be important to the dramatic narrative; and cognitive theory elucidates performance past and present. Recent productions are discussed in lively detail by those directly responsible for them, leading to analyses of performances in Israel, Spain, and Australia, not all of them of a predictable kind, which offer further angles on the medieval dramatic tradition.

Professor Margaret Rogerson teaches in the Department of English at the University of Sydney.

Contributors: Margaret Rogerson, Keith Jones, Richard Beadle, Sheila K. Christie, Mike Tyler, Jill Stevenson, Elenid Davies, Ben Pugh, Peter Brown, Tony Wright, Steve Bielby, Emma Cunningham, Alan Heaven, Linda Ali, Paul Toy, Gweno Williams, John Merrylees, David Richmond, Alexandra F. Johnston, Sharon Aronson-Lehavi, Pamela M. King

Table of Contents

Introduction: Performance in the City - Margaret Rogerson
Foreword: The Mystery Plays and the Community - Keith Jones
Nicholas Lancaster, Richard of Gloucester, and the York Corpus Christi Play - Richard Beadle
Bridging the Jurisdictional Divide: The Masons and the York Corpus Christi Play - Sheila Christie
Group Dynamics: The Noah Family in the York Pageant of The Flood - Mike Tyler
Embodied Enchantments: Cognitive Theory and the York Mystery Plays - Jill Stevenson
Performing Mystery Plays in twenty-first-century York: Practicalities of Modern Production: Setting the Groundwork - Elenid Davies and Ben Pugh
Performing Mystery Plays in twenty-first-century York: The Pageant Master's Overview - Mike Tyler
The York Wagons: Construction, Dressing, and Performance: Designing for the Fall of the Angels [Young York Civic Trust] - Peter Brown
The York Wagons: Construction, Dressing, and Performance: A Custom-built Wagon for the Crucifixion Play [Company of Butchers] - Tony Wright
The York Wagons: Construction, Dressing, and Performance: Creation of the World to the Fifth Day - the Wagon [York Guild of Building] - Steve Bielby
Interpreting the York Text: Words and Music: The Potters' Pageant of Pentecost [Pocklington School] - Emma Cunningham and Alan Heaven
Interpreting the York Text: Words and Music: The Pageant of The Resurrection - Christ's Appearance to Mary Magdalene - Linda Ali
Interpreting the York Text: Words and Music: Music and the York Mystery Plays - Paul Toy
Producing The Creation and Fall of Man in twenty-first-century York: 'Thys werke is wroght now' - Gweno Williams
The Communities of the York Plays - Alexandra F. Johnston
Raising the Cross: Pre-Textual Theatricality and the York Crucifixion Play - Sharon Aronson-Lehavi
Confraternities and Civic Ceremonial: The Siena Palio - Pamela M. King
Devotional Acting: Sydney 2008 and Medieval York - Margaret Rogerson


Provides rich insights into the mystery plays in York and their modern revival. ENGLISH

A fascinating book[...]for historians, or indeed anyone, wanting to get under the skin of the York Plays, this volume provides not only an ideal introduction but a springboard for further thought and research, both practical and academic. HISTORY

Furnishes valuable material for scholars, for modern producers and for spectators, whether in making the plays comprehensible for today, or in restating their original message of devotion as well as entertainment. NORTHERN HISTORY

This collection is well conceived, well edited, and generously illustrated. It is kind to its reader in having footnotes on the page, a good bibliography, index, and a glossary of Middle English words. It contains excellent academic papers and thoughtful, instructive reports from practitioners. It does all it set out to do and more. STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER

The volume is beautifully produced, with twenty-four black and white photographs and two line illustrations, a bibliography and index. The entire collection is stimulating and provocative. For students new to the early drama and to theatre history I recommend especially Rogerson's introduction and Tyler's chapter on The Flood's medieval contexts and guild responsibilities for its performance. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW

Many of the contributions prove that exchanges between the academic and theatrical community can be extremely fruitful and that questions about medieval performance, reception and interpretation can be explored through theatrical experiment and participation as well as through traditional academic research. MARGINALIA