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October 05, 1977 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1977-10-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Medieval

pageantry

Troupe
recrea tes
Dark Ages
By CINDY RHODES
and DAVID VICTOR
Despite the constant pouring rain and
the bone-chilling wind, the University
of Toronto managed to present in its en-
tirety the York Cycle of 47 medieval
mystery plays. Many University of
Michigan students attended this two-
day event though students were not the
only audience that showed up.
The plays of the York Cycle were
written to recreate and celebrate the
high points of the Christian theology
from the Creation and the Fall of
Lucifer to the Day of Judgment.
Through this somber intent of worship
and religious instructio6, the writers
of the Cycle and the guilds that were in
charge of putting on the plays managed
to slip in points of entertainment value.
It is this entertainment value that gives
the plays a timeless quality, and it was
this that drew an audience of people of
all ages to the grounds of the Queen's
Park in Toronto to view the perform-
ances.
The actual performances differed
from those in the 15th century only in
that the most obscure words were re-
placed, by words more familiarly
lniown. The remainder of the scripts,
however, were true to the original
manuscript. Though the plays may
seem simplistic and the language al-
most inane and childlike to one reading
them in a book, this 'simplistic' quality
can be duly appreciated when viewed
as an integral part of the total per-
formance.
In fact, the plays were so much
like elaborate dumb-shows or mimes,
that the speech was often unnecessary,
or only present as part of the religious'
instruction. Though it may seem crude
and primitive, the sheer effect of the ac-
tions in the basic forms would have
been quite great on the townspeople of
the 15th and 16th centuries.
The audiences last weekend were not
overcome with horror at the devils in
the Harrowing of Hell, nor were they
religiously moved by the Ressurection,
yet the plays still had an impact. Most
of the audience flinched as the nails
were seemingly pounded into Christ's
hands (here the language was effective
as soldiers disouss alt osvt sadistically'
the most efficient way to carry on the
crusifixion). The dramatic impact -
the sight of a man hanging on a cross
made it- easy to see how it could have
stirred its past audiences so deeply.
The actors were very good, especially
Peter Zednik, who played King Herod
in The Massacre of the Innocents. He
stomped around the stage like a spoiled
child in a manner reminiscent of Herod
in-Jesus Christ Superstar. Any slip-ups
in the performances, as in the Creation
to the Fifth Day, which was played by
an older man and four young girls
brought the audience closer to the play-
ers, as we sympathized with the angels
trying to paste fruit on the trees and
hang paper moons and stars in terrific
wind-blasts. When a downpour had be-
come so great on Saturday that it was
impossible for the actors to perform

and the audience to remain watching, it
was decided to move the plays indoors.
The esult produced mixed emotions -
relief that it was dry (but unfortunately
not heated), and regret because the
plays lost so much of the flavor that
holding them outdoors had. On Sunday
the rain slowed up to a steady drizzle,
and they were moved back outside.
The atmosphere of a medieval coun-
try fair was further increased by per-
formances by morris-dancers and pup,
pet-shows between plays, and by the ar-
ts fair held nearby. The morris-dan-
cers, a troupe composed of six men-and
six women and three fiddlers, were
dressed in authentic costumes, and per-
formed various handkerchief and stick
dances. The people participating the
Cycle and the Fair were dressed in cos-
tumes of the time, and sold such wares
as calligraphy, good luck amulets,
women tapestries, and the like.'There
was even a booth that sold tarot cards,
and contained fortunetellers. The ming-
ling of food odors, people of all ages in
various modes of dress, and stray dogs
was perfect for putting the audience in-
to the proper medieval frame of mind.

Cycle
festival
histolry
By CINDY RHODES
and DAVID VICTOR
Last weekend's performance of the
York Cycle of mystery plays in Toronto
marked the first staging of this event in
its entirety since 1569. Obviously aware
of the historical importance of the pro-
duction, the universities and drama
groups which took part attempted to
make their recreation of the event as
close to the original pageant a, possi-
ble.
Originally the center of a celebration
held annually at York, England from
1376 to 1569, the Cycle was staged on
wagons drawn from point to point in the

pleases
.treets for "the glory of God and the wagons
honour and profit of the city." Each of hung wi
the forty-seven plays in the Cycle was often d
performed by a different medieval Any mo
guild, and represented some segment of staggeri
Biblical history from the Creation and wagons,
the Fall of Lucifer to the Day of Judg- vision of
ment. ger Ree
These medieval guilds bore the main tires, an
responsibility for these plays. The wheeled
guilds were often affluent and import- ved dec
ant in civic affairs. The pageantry of areas wi
the procession developed from the medieva
desire of the guilds to dress up in their hicles to
best outfits and carry around the town the Ship
the emblems of the guildhalls. The per-
formance in the York Cycle came to be
thought of as a reflection on the reputa-
tion of each guild and of the town as a
whole, and so each guild set standards
for the actors and producers of each
performance. The same standards of
excellence held for the Toronto produc-
tion. It was evident that a great deal of
effort was expended.
First, much care was taken in Mc
authentically reproducing the pageant Sa
wagons on which the plays were staged.
The Toronto production consisted of
nine wagons, while the original York R
Cycle was enacted on 12 wagons, but
this is more than excusable when one
considers the costs needed for authen-
ticity. In an age when one could eat on,
half a penny a day, the original wagons
cost nearly three pounds. The original ...
U4
DAILY
MOI
!A
10:4
1:a
3:0

The Michigan Daily-Wednesday, October 5, 1977-PageS
in Toronto

were elaborately painted and
th expensive clothes and were
ecorated with gold and silver.
dern equivalent must have been
ing in price. In the Toronto
constructed under the super-
f Wainwright and stageman a-
d Needses, drapings hid rubber
nd the more authentic wooden-
carts were edged with a car-
coration. All visable surface
ere painted and decorated with
al designs, with each of the ve-
otally unique; the Lion Wagon,
Wagon, the Unicorn Wagon,

the Pelican Wagon, the Dolphin Wagon,'
the Sairnt George Wagon, the Moon
Wagon, and the Judgment Wagon.
While other productions of segments'
of the pageant have been performed;
(notably at Leeds and at York), this,
performance of the York Cycle at
Toronto would have made theatrical
history under any circumstances, as,
the first full production since the baui
under the Protestant censorship of Eliz-
abeth I, well over four hundred years
ago.
It was an exciting production
and unlikely to be matched again.

The University of Toronto provides a backdrop for the entire presenta-
tion of the York Cycle.

9:45
PLAYBOY OF TH E Roger Corman presents
WESTERN WORLD 3
1030
SYNGE'S CLASSIC OF 12:30
MODERN IRISH THEATRE 2:30
4:30
A stranger falsely asserts the brave 7:00
murder of his tyrannical father and 9:30
becomes a hero and romantic idol 93 ENDS THURSDAY
of a small village.
THURS: THRONE TO BLOOD 4
CART
1015
12 15Ma I TO
CINEM A GUILD 2C15Y EUGENE
415 BILL MACY.,w EUGENE
TONIGHT AT 7:00 & 9:05 6:30 '" yROBERT ALTMAIN
OLD ARCH. AUD. X9:00 ENDSTH
$1.50

MOM"

THURSDAY, OCT. 6th
at NOO
Turntable Semina
Come in and learn why specifications do not tell the whole story of
turntable performance. Also join in on discussion of belt drive vs.
direct drive. Conducting the seminar will be Gary Worzin, Repre-
sentative of LINN SONDEK Turntables in the U.S.
l a

A ROBERT CHARTOFF-IRWIN WINKLER Production A KEN RUSSELL Film

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