Terra Mysterium Presents A Midwinter Mummer’s Tale

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Theatre collective Terra Mysterium debuts its adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, A Midwinter Mummer’s Tale. Esmerelda Pennywise encounters ancient beings who transform her Yuletide season.

The play runs for one weekend: December 18, 2016, at 7pm, December 19th at 4pm, and December 20th at 4pm. They are in The Lincoln Loft  at 3036 N Lincon Ave, Chicago, IL. Tickets are $20. They are available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-midwinter-mummers-tale-tickets-19828942902.

Director Matthew Ellenwood answered a few of our questions.

How does A Midwinter Mummer’s Tale fit into the Terra Mysterium universe. Can we expect to see recurring characters like Professor Marius Mandragore or blogger Ranty Wilberforce?

This play fits our mission (to perform works embracing mythology and culture creation), but it won’t be a continuation of Marius’s life, or the cast of characters surrounding it. More of their lives will be seen, but in future productions and a webseries.

Other than sex, how does Esmerelda Pennywise differ from Ebeneezer Scrooge?

Our play takes place in a parallel history that never was, but might have been, wherein a Regency-era woman could be powerful and independent in business matters, and wherein indigenous traditions could have survived intact to be celebrated openly as the norm. From my perspective, I feel it is compelling to consider how powerfully strong Mrs. Pennywise would have to have been to be able to thrive, without a male partner, in a cut-throat businessman’s world. Her “coldness” would seem to be a trait acquired out of need, and due to circumstance. However, her choice to transform into a woman of integrity and compassion speaks volumes about her soul’s fortitude.

Scrooge was visited by ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. What sorts of deities can we expect Esmerelda to encounter?

Esmerelda will encounter The Trickster-a tutelary being who teaches through unconventional  means, The Holly King-who is the Spirit of all Yuletide cheer itself, and the Dark Goddess-who is the face of death and transformation.

How does the Tale fit into the mummer’s tradition?

Mummer’s plays were (and are) traditionally seasonal plays, performed in disguises with the performers (known as guisers) playing archetypal characters. These simple and humble stories contain universal and profound themes of light and dark, death and resurrection, and the magical power of good over evil, truth over falsehood. They are still performed from door to door in many parts of the British isles.

Our theatrical journey will be slightly more complex in aesthetic, but the central themes of the mummer’s tradition will be embraced along with wonderful folks tunes and Yuletide mummer traditions such as Wassailing, and the Horse Rite-which goes by various names such as The Hoodening Horse, The Obby Oss, Mari Lwyd and in some places, like Cornwall there is a Midsummer equivalent at the Golowan Festival.

With the exception of Tiny Tim’s “God Bless Us, Every One!” A Christmas Carol offered more of a spiritual conversion than an explicitly Christian one. How does this apply to the Terra Mysterium adaptation?

Indigenous traditions co-mingled with other religious practices over hundreds of years, and gifted us with these vibrantly colorful folk traditions (and their modern revivals) which are considered an everyday part of life. We seek to bring our audience into the unique, warm embrace of these Midwinter folkways and rekindle an interest in honoring (or even creating our own) traditions for the current day as we descend into the dark half of the year. We wish everyone good health and happiness! Waes Hael!

Bonus question: What’s your favorite wassail recipe?

2 quarts hard apple cider

½ cup brandy

½ cup unrefined cane sugar

1 tbsp powdered ginger

1 tsp grated nutmeg

6 allspice berries

2 cinnamon sticks

1 small orange

13 cloves

Toast squares

Heat, but do not boil the cider and brandy. When warm to the touch, dissolve the sugar completely and then stir in the ginger and nutmeg with a wooden spoon, taking care to stir only in a clockwise direction (to recall to mind the apparent movement of the sun in the sky).

Place the allspice berries and cinnamon in a muslin tea bag, and add to the mix (remove before consuming).

Pierce the rind of a small orange (representing the Sun) with thirteen cloves (representing one clove for each of the 13 lunar months).

Pour the Wassail into a large, heat-proof punch bowl (white maple if you have one). Add the orange and stir clockwise letting the power of the Sun and Moon bless the drink. Share with friends, loved ones, and perfect strangers. Each cup can be topped with a small piece of toast if one wishes, and drink to each others good health and happiness.

To bring good health to the apple trees, soak several pieces of toast in the wassail and stick them into the branches of the trees with a forked staff (a stang). Sprinkle wassail at the base of the trunk as well, and sing blessings to the tree(s) as you do so.

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