Notes from Nils

A monthly column from the desk of Artistic Director Nils Fredland, with news, musings, and more!

Mumming (Through the Eyes of a 7-Year Old)

My 7-year old son August is hooked on mumming. He’s really into plays, and costumes, and being silly…so his love of mummers’ plays is not that surprising. But I found myself wondering recently about the depth of his understanding, and so I sat down with him this morning and asked for an interview. It went something like this:

ME: “August, can I interview you about mummers’ plays?”
AUGUST: “Sure. What’s an interview?”
ME: “It’s where I ask you questions, and you get to talk.”

(He loves to talk, so this was my in.)

AUGUST: “OK! Great!”
ME: “What do you like about being part of Revels Mummers?”
AUGUST: “It’s silly. I love costumes and plays. Everyone gets to dress up and be silly, so it’s kind of perfect and REALLY fun. Sometimes the adults talk too loud when we have lines all together, and that’s frustrating because I don’t think I can be heard. But I like that you get to be a character and do things other than just say your lines.”
SIMON (younger brother, 4-years old): “Saint George gets killed by the Dragon. And then the Doctor comes.”

(Simon, in contrast to his brother, tends to get to the heart of the matter with as few words as possible. Following Simon’s succinct description of the action, August launched into a lengthy description of the Doctor character in the play he is currently working on, letting me know that the Doctor is “fake” and can’t bring the dead back to life.)

ME: “Does everyone die?”Green_man
AUGUST: “Yes. Even the Dragon in this play.”
ME: “So, if the Doctor doesn’t bring the characters back to life, who does?”
AUGUST: “Green Man. He’s wise.”

(Then August recited Green Man’s lines: “Like winter’s end when spring rains fall, nature be freed and heed my call. Bloom again, rise again, one and all!”)

So, that’s that. It seems to me that August gets the broad stroke themes of a mummers’ play, and that’s just fine for now. There’s plenty of time for meaning, especially for a child who tends to live in his head.

(I wonder where he picked up that tendency?).

The real gift here is that I have the opportunity to see, through the eyes of my 7-year old, what mumming really boils down to: silliness, quackery, wisdom, death, life. And the chance to have A LOT of fun in the process. I feel especially grateful to be shown the current relevance of such an old art form, and I guarantee that my understanding of the place that mumming holds in Revels North programming will be deeply affected by my son’s fascination. He is, after all, my greatest teacher.

Friends, go forth and mum! And if it’s with Revels North, all the better.

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