Below you’ll find Cordelia Ross’ introduction to Saturday’s reading of two York Corpus Cristi Plays, along with photos from the production courtesy of Michelle Dowd, the director of the Hudson Strode Program. Special thanks go to Dr. Chester N. Scoville and Dr. Kimberley M. Yates, who adapted the texts we performed.
(Also, if you’re wondering why the photos all look a bit purple, it’s the lighting at First Christian Church in Tuscaloosa!)
Good morning. I’m Cordelia Ross, an instructor at the University of Alabama. Welcome to the Improbable Fictions staged reading of two York Corpus Cristi plays “The Resurrection and Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalen.” Improbable Fictions is a project of the Hudson-Strode Program in Renaissance Studies, Department of English at the University of Alabama. Its mission is to present staged readings of plays to make them more accessible to students and to the community. Although Improbable Fictions principally performs works of Shakespeare, their work has ranged from modern adaptations to ancient Greek tragedies. A staged reading means that the actors have rehearsed a limited number of times and will be performing with scripts in hand. “The Resurrection” and “Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalen” are medieval dramas that would have been performed by a local guild on a traveling wagon that went to designated spots in town. Guilds took great pride in their productions and were carefully regulated in when and where they could perform. Each performance had a designated feast day when it should be performed, and the town leaders would choose locations around town for the carts to go for their performance. They even levied rather steep fines when guilds disregarded these regulations. The “Resurrection Play” and “Christ’s Appearance” were the domain of the carpenter’s and winedrawer’s guilds. A winedrawer worked in a vineyard and acted as professional tasters.
Like other medieval dramas, “The Resurrection Play,” and “Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene” dramatizes a particular Christian narrative: in this case, two, Christ’s resurrection and his appearance to Mary Magdalene. Like many medieval dramas, the plays contain a bit of humor that in some ways pokes fun at other guilds. In the first play, we see the soldiers panic when Christ’s body disappears and come up with a rather ridiculous explanation to avoid discipline. Despite the humor we also see a careful reflection of one of the most important holy days of year, Easter. Today’s performers are a combination of members of Tuscaloosa’s Shakespeare troupe, The Rude Mechanicals, and students and faculty from the University of Alabama. We hope you enjoy the plays as much as we do.