Young thespians rehearse

Sunfield School students to perform medieval play

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Make way for Saint George who, in a display of bravery, will save the princess from the maws of a treacherous dragon this weekend.

Kings, queens, knights and dragons will descend upon the Chimacum Grange Jan. 10-13 as sixth- and seventh-grade students from the Sunfield Farm and Waldorf School perform the medieval play, “Saint George and the Dragon.”

“We are going to be immersing ourselves in the medieval period,” said Helen Curry, a teacher at the school and the play’s director.

Using bits and pieces from the traditional script of the mummers’ play — a traditional form of English theater typically performed in the streets of villages — Curry and her troupe have learned traditional language, songs and dances.

“Mumming as a tradition, it was entertainment,” Curry said. “This was the entertainment of the time. There were few stages in most cities; instead, there were traveling troops that came by.”

Learning the lines has helped students prepare for studying the medieval period, she added

“Most children can memorize really quickly,” Curry said. “It is a challenge to have language that you can’t quite relate to, so I’m having to make sure they understand what they’re saying instead of just reciting lines.”

The play is full of knights, both good and bad, who engage in numerous comic sword fights, and upon their near-deaths have to be revived by doctors.

The theme of death and revival symbolizes the resurrection of the new year. Mummers’ plays were traditionally acted during the Christmas period or on Plough Monday in January. Their roots lie in ancient European history, but they became very popular during the late medieval period, particularly in the British Isles, where they are still performed today.

“Children are so enthusiastic about learning new and interesting things,” Curry said. “It’s definitely not a polished performance, and it doesn’t have to be for mumming. What we’re working on in the last week before the show is really having fun with it, and we’re at a point where the students can start improvising in their parts.”

Beyond memorizing their lines, the students also learned several medieval dances, including the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, and medieval songs such as the “Boar’s Head Carol.”

As in traditional mummers theater, the play requires some audience participation in the form of cheering the heroes and booing the villains.

The play will be performed at the Chimacum Grange Hall at 7 p.m. Jan. 10 and 12, and at 4 p.m. Jan. 13. A suggested donation of $10 is welcome, but Curry said no one will be turned away. Audience members are welcome to dress in medieval style.

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