The Catholic University of America

York Cycle of Mystery Plays

Toronto 1998


Created and maintained by Steve Wright

Department of English, The Catholic University of America


Introduction: The pictures on this website were taken during the performance of the complete York Cycle of Mystery Plays in Toronto on June 20, 1998. The performance was organized under the auspices of the Poculi Ludique Societas, a society dedicated to the preservation and performance of early English drama. The Toronto performance was the first outdoor processional presentation of the entire cycle of 47 surviving plays since the final performance in York in 1569. The event was a useful experiment for theatre historians interested in determining how or even whether the entire cycle could be performed processionally on a single day. Even more importantly, however, it was also a genuinely entertaining and profoundly moving theatrical experience for audience and actors alike.

History: The earliest mention of the York pageants is a 1376 record concerning the rental of storage space for one of the moveable stages. By 1399 the city's annual Corpus Christi Day procession included performances of biblical plays. A 1415 list compiled by the clerk of the town council shows that the cycle of plays, each of which was staged by one or more of the city's craft guilds, had taken on the general appearance of the surviving cycle, although the plays continued to be revised, rewritten, and reassigned to different guilds over the course of many years. The manuscript in which the plays now survive is the official register of the plays compiled for the civic authorities sometime between 1463 and 1477. The plays were staged regularly on Corpus Christi Day until a combination of economic hard times, the zeal of Protestant clergy, and the hostility of government authorities brought the tradition to an end in 1569.

Staging: In the streets of fifteenth-century York, the plays were performed processionally on pageant wagons at a series of twelve predetermined acting stations designated by the circles on this map of the city (created by Dennis G. Jerz). In order to approximate these conditions, the Toronto performance also took place on pageant wagons that moved through a series of four stations on the campus of Victoria University (map created by Chad Engbers). In medieval York, the plays were sponsored and performed by the craft guilds of the city. In our performance, the role of the guild-sponsors was taken by companies of actors gathered from throughout Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The Toronto performance began at 6:00 A.M. and lasted until about midnight.

Sources: The fully searchable online text of the York Plays resides at a website provided by the University of Michigan. It is based on the standard critical edition by Richard Beadle, The York Plays, York Medieval Texts, 2nd series (London: Edward Arnold, 1982).  A modernized version of the York Plays by Chester N. Scoville and Kimberley M. Yates (copyright 2003) is also available at a web site hosted by the University of Toronto.  Gerard NeCastro is currently preparing a new online version based on both Beadle's 1982 edition and the 1885 edition by Lucy Toulmin Smith;  see The York Cycle. At From Stage to Page - Medieval and Renaissance Drama (copyright 2007).

 For the pageants listed below, you can click on the thumbnail image to see a larger picture of the performance, or click on the hyperlink to read the text of the play itself. In some cases, hyperlinks also lead to separate websites devoted to individual pageants or to additional pictures of the performance. After viewing an image, reading a text, or visiting a separate website, you can always return to this main page simply by using the Back key on your browser.

Please bear in mind that the pictures were made by amateur photographers working under difficult conditions . It is our hope that even low-resolution shots taken from a great distance, in poor light, or from a less than ideal angle will nevertheless help readers appreciate some of the ways in which talented actors and directors were able to solve extraordinarily difficult problems of stagecraft.

Photo credits: Gloria Betcher (Play 11, 18, 24, 25, 44-47), Michelle Butler (Play 3, 4, 7, 21- 23, 28, 32, 37, 43), Kathleen Campbell (Play 2, 8-9, 14-15, 37), Sarah B. Campbell (Play 19, 31, Endnotes), Mary Dzon (Play 1,2, 4, 6-10, 12-17, 19-21, 26, 30, 32, 42, 47), Chad Engbers (Preface, Play 19), K. R. Hanley (Play 3, 5, 7, 8, 12, 14, 18, 21-23, 27-30, 32-34, 36-41, 43), Linda Hutjens (Play 23, 33, Endnotes), Janet MacLellan (Play 2-6, 8, 14, 19), Ted Nescier (Play 17), M. K. Piatkowski (Play 27), Kristina Rutledge (Preface, Play 1-2, 5-8, 13-17, 19, 22), Michael Winkelman (Play 1-2, 4, 6, 10-11, 18, 25, 28-31, 33-34), Will Wright (Preface, Play 10-11, 19-20, 26-27, 35-38). Throughout this site, photographers are identified by their initials. I am grateful to all of these contributors for their generosity and encouragement. Without their collaboration this site would not exist.

Contact: Please share your comments and suggestions by sending e-mail to the creator of this site, Steve Wright, Department of English, The Catholic University of America (Washington, DC). I am eager to expand this experimental online photo album by adding new pictures or links to other sites.


Links to other sites of interest:


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Play 1: The Fall of the Angels (The Barkers).

Performed by Vagabond Knight Company, with the support of the Alumnae Theatre Company, Toronto (directed by Jennifer Parr).

Click here for the original text of Play 1.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 1.

For additional pictures, click here (MD) and here (KR).

Click here for photos of the Creation at the 1977 performance of Play 1 in Toronto.

Click here for photos of the Fall of Lucifer at the 1977 performance of Play 1 in Toronto.


Play 2: The Creation to the Fifth Day (The Plasterers).

Performed by Department of Drama and Theatre Arts, University of Birmingham, UK (directed by Joel Kaplan).

Click here for the original text of Play 2.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 2.

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For additional pictures, you can click here (JM), and click here (KR), and click here (JM), and here (MD), and click here (KR), and click here (JM).


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Play 3: The Creation of Adam and Eve (The Cardmakers).

Performed by University of Dayton (directed by Linda Dunlevy-Shackleford).

Click here for the original text of Play 3.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 3.

For additional pictures, click here (MB) and click here (MB), and click here (KRH).


Play 4: Adam and Eve in Eden (The Fullers).

Performed by Department of Performing Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago (directed by Natalie Crohn Schmitt).

Click here for the text of Play 4.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 4.

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For additional pictures, click here (MB), and click here (MD), and click here (JM), and click here (MB).


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Play 5: The Temptation and Fall (The Coopers).

Performed by University of Alberta, Edmonton (directed by Garrett P. J. Epp).

Click here for the original text of Play 5.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 5.

For additional pictures of the performance, click here (KRH), and click here (KR) and click here (KR), and click here (JM)..


Play 6: The Expulsion from the Garden (The Armorers).

Performed by Poculi Ludique Societas (directed by Paul Hall).

Click here for the text of Play 6.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 6.

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For additional pictures, click here (JM), and click here (MW), and click here (MD).


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Play 7: Cain and Abel (The Glovers).

Performed by University of Connecticut, Storrs (directed by Jerry Krasser).

Click here for the original text of Play 7.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 7.

For additional pictures, click here (MB), and click here (KRH), and click here (KR).


Play 8: The Building of the Ark (The Shipwrights) and Play 9: The Flood (The Fishers and Mariners).

Performed by Towson State University (Ralph Blasting, director).

Click here for the original text of Play 8, the Building of the Ark.

Click here for the original text of Play 9, Noah's Flood.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 8 and Play 9.

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For additional pictures of the performance, click here (KR), and click here (JM), and click here (MD).

 


Play 10: Abraham and Isaac (The Parchmentmakers and Bookbinders).

Performed by Harlotry Players, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (directed by Martin Walsh and Kate Mendelhoff).

Click here for the original text of Play 10.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 10.

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For additional pictures, click here (WW) and click here (MD).


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Play 11: Moses and Pharaoh (The Hosiers).

Performed by Department of Drama, Scarborough College, University of Toronto (directed by Kevin Wright).

Click here for the original text of Play 11.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 11.

For additional pictures, click here (WW), click here (WW), click here (MW), click here (GB) and click here (GB).


Play 12: The Annunciation and Visitation (The Spicers).

Performed by Department of Languages and Letters, University College of Cape Breton, Sydney, Nova Scotia (Todd Hiscock, director; John Lingard, assistant director).

Click here for the original text of Play 12.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 12.

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For an additional picture of the performance, click here (MD).


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Play 13: Joseph's Trouble about Mary (The Pewterers and Founders).

Performed by the Medieval and Renaissance Players of Duquesne University, Pennsylvania (directed by John Lane).

Click here for the original text of Play 13.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 13.

The Medieval and Renaissance Players have created an excellent website devoted to Joseph's Troubles about Mary, including a modernized text of the play and a dozen high-resolution photographs.

For an additional picture of the performance, click here (KR).


Play 14: The Nativity (The Tilethatchers) and Play 15: The Shepherds (The Chandlers).

Performed by Department of English, Lemoyne College, Syracuse, NY (directed by Michael Barbour).

Click here for the original text of Play 14, the Nativity.

Click here for the original text of Play 15, the play of the Shepherds.

Click here for modernized texts of Play 14 and Play 15.

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For additional pictures, click here (KRH), and click here (JM), and click here (KR), and click here (JM).

LeMoyne College has established a website with two pictures of their performance of Plays 14 and 15.

 


Play 16: Herod and the Magi (The Masons and the Goldsmiths).

Performed by "The York Cycle" class of Prof. A. F. Johnson (directed by Stephanie Halldorson).

Click here for the text Play 16.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 16.

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For other pictures of the performance, click here (KR) or click here (KR).


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Play 17: The Purification of the Virgin (The Hatmakers, Masons, and Labourers).

Performed by Graduate Centre for Study of Drama, University of Toronto (directed by Teresa Simm).

Click here for the original text of Play 17.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 17.

For five additional pictures, click here (KR), click here (KR), click here (TN), click here (TN), and click here (TN). For a picture of the pageant wagon being moved, click here (TN).


Play 18: The Flight into Egypt (The Marshals).

Performed by The Lampe Light Players, Buffalo, NY (directed by David Lampe).

Click here for the original text of Play 18.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 18.

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For additional pictures, click here (KRH) and click here (MW).


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Play 19: The Slaughter of the Innocents (The Girdlers and Nailers).

Performed by The Catholic University of America (directed by Roland Reed).

Click here for the original text of Play 19.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 19.

Chad Engbers has produced an excellent Slaughter of the Innocents website devoted to this performance, including a detailed synopsis of the action, production notes, numerous high-resolution photographs, a map, and several essays.

For additional pictures of the performance, you can also click here (MD) to see Herod ranting to his councillors, or click here (KR) to see the messenger explain that the three magi will not return to Herod's court, or click here (JM) to see Herod giving orders to his soldiers, or click here (MD) to see the soldiers lower their masks as they advance toward the audience, or click here (SBC) to see the soldiers confront the mothers, or click here (WW) to see the soldiers seize and kill the infants.


Play 20: Christ and the Doctors in the Temple (The Spurriers and Lorimers).

Performed by Poculi Ludique Societas and Department of English, University of Leeds, UK (directed by Peter Meredith).

Click here for the original text of Play 20.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 20.

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For an another picture of the performance, click here (MD).


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Play 21: The Baptism of Christ (The Barbers).

Performed by Departement d'anglais, Universite de Moncton, New Brunswick (directed by Glen Nichols).

Click here for the original text of Play 21 .

Click here for the modernized text of Play 21.

For additional pictures, click here (KRH) and click here (MB).


Play 22: The Temptation of Christ (The Smiths).

Performed by Durham Medieval Theatre Company, Durham UK (directed by John McKinnell).

Click here for the original text of Play 22.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 22.

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For an additional picture of the performance, click here (MB). To see the pageant wagon being moved to the next station, click here (KRH).


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Play 23: The Transfiguration (The Curriers).

Performed by Poculi Ludique Societas (directed by Janet Ritch).

Click here for the original text of Play 23.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 23.

For additional pictures, click here (KRH) and click here (LH).


Play 24: The Woman Taken in Adultery / The Raising of Lazarus (The Capmakers, Plumbers, Pattenmakers, Pouchmakers, and Bottlers).

Performed by The St. Mary Magdalene Players, Toronto (directed by Doug Cowling and Viola Lang).

Click here for the original text of Play 24.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 24.

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For three additional photos (GB), click here, here, and here.


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Play 25: The Entry into Jerusalem (The Skinners).

Performed by Stratford Central Secondary School, Stratford, Ontario (directed by Nancy Stotts Jones).

Click here for the original text of Play 25.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 25.

For additional pictures, click here (GB), and click here (MW), and click here (MW).


Play 26: The Conspiracy (The Cutlers).

Performed by Graduate Centre for the Study of Drama, University of Toronto (directed by Chuck Costello).

Click here for the original text of Play 26.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 26.

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To see another picture of this performance, click here (MD).


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Play 27: The Last Supper (The Bakers).

Performed by St. Mary's Players, Brampton, Ontario (directed by M. K. Piatkowski).

Click here for the original text of Play 27.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 27.

For additional pictures of the performance, click here (KRH), click here (MKP), click here (MKP), click here (MKP), click here (MKP), click here (MKP), click here (MKP), and click here (MKP). To see the pageant wagon being moved to the next station, click here (WW).


Play 28: The Agony in the Garden (The Cordwainers).

Performed by Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School, London, Ontario (directed by K. Reed Needles).

Click here for the original text of Play 28.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 28.

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For additional pictures, click here (MW) and click here (KRH).


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Play 29: Christ Before Annas and Caiaphas (The Bowyers and Fletchers).

Performed by Poculi Ludique Societas (directed by Victoria Shepherd).

Click here for the original text of Play 29.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 29.

For additional pictures of the performance, click here (KRH), and click here (KRH), and click here (KRH).


Play 30: Christ Before Pilate I: The Dream of Pilate's Wife (The Tapiters and Couchers).

Performed by Harlotry Players, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (directed by Martin Walsh and Kate Mendeloff).

Click here for the original text of Play 30.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 30.

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For additional pictures, click here (MW), and click here (KRH), and click here (MW), and click here (MW).


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Play 31: Christ before Herod (The Litsters).

Performed by Willing Suspension (SBC), Boston University (directed by Jason Beals).

Click here for the original text of Play 31.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 31.

For additional pictures, click here (SBC), and click here (SBC), and click here (SBC).


Play 32: The Remorse of Judas (The Cooks and Waterleaders).

Performed by Poculi Ludique Societas, Toronto (directed by PaulBabiak).

Click here for the original text of Play 32.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 32.

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For additional pictures, click here (MD) and click here (MB).


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Play 33: Christ Before Pilate II: The Judgement (The Tilemakers).

Performed by Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto (directed by Steve Killings and Jonathan Herold).

Click here for the original text of Play 33.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 33.

For additional pictures, click here (KRH), and click here (LH), and click here (KRH).


Play 34: The Road to Calvary (The Shearmen).

Performed by The Conference on Education in Independent Catholic Schools, Toronto (directed by Claudia Sommers).

Click here for the original text of Play 34.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 34.

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For an additional picture, click here (KRH).


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Play 35: The Crucifixion (The Pinners).

Performed by Sacred Stone Players, Davidson, NC (directed by Scot W. Meyers).

Click here for the original text of Play 35.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 35.

For an additional picture of the performance, click here (WW).

You can also click here for a synopsis and a series of photos from the 1977 performance of Play 35 in Toronto.


Play 36: The Death and Burial of Christ (The Butchers).

Performed by Department of Mathematics, University of Toronto (directed by Shai Cohen).

Click here for the original text of Play 36.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 36.

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For an additional picture of the performance, click here (KRH).


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Play 37: The Harrowing of Hell (The Saddlers).

Performed by Shepherd College, Shepherdtown, WV (directed by Thomas R. Papeika).

Click here for the original text of Play 37.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 37.

For additional pictures of this performance, you can click here (KRH), and click here (WW), and click here (WW), and click here (WW), and click here (MB).

 


Play 38: The Resurrection (The Carpenters and Sawyers).

Performed by Department of English and The Newman Centre, University of Toronto (directed by Karen Sawyer).

Click here for the original text of Play 38.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 38.

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For additional pictures of the performance, click here (WW), and click here (KRH), and click here (KRH), and click here (KRH).


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Play 39: Christ's Appearance to Mary Magdalene (The Winedrawers).

Performed by Department of Drama and Theatre Arts, University of Birmingham, UK (directed by Joel Kaplan).

Click here for the original text of Play 39.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 39.

For an additional picture of the performance, click here (KRH).


Play 40: The Road to Emmaus (The Sledmen).

Performed by Poculi Ludique Societas (directed by Jerry Han).

Click here for the original text of Play 40.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 40.

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Click here for a brief video from the 1977 performance of Play 40 in Toronto.


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Play 41: Christ's Appearance to Thomas (The Scriveners).

Performed by Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, Michigan (directed by Gwendolyn Waltz).

Click here for the original text of Play 41.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 41.


Play 42: The Ascension (The Tailors).

Performed by Institute for Sacred Music, Yale University, New Haven, CT (directed by Terri Cain).

Click here for the original text of Play 42.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 42.

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Play 43: Pentecost (The Potters).

Performed by Rosedale Presbyterian Church, Toronto (directed by Lindsay Empringham).

Click here for the original text of Play 43.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 43.

For an additional picture, click here (KRH).


Play 44: The Death of the Virgin (The Drapers).

Performed by This Band of Happy Pilgrims, Toronto (directed by Glen Molto).

Click here for the original text of Play 44.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 44.

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For an additional picture, click here (GB).


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Play 45: The Assumption of the Virgin (The Weavers).

Performed by The St. John's York Mills Players, Toronto (directed by Sally Armour Wotton).

Click here for the original text of Play 45.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 45.


Play 46: The Coronation of the Virgin (The Ostlers).

Performed by Earl Haig Secondary School, Toronto (directed by Natasha Pike and Alison Stein).

Click here for the original text of Play 46.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 46.

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Play 47: The Last Judgement (The Mercers).

Performed by Handmade Performance, Toronto (directed by Stephen B. Johnson).

Click here for the original text of Play 47.

Click here for the modernized text of Play 47.

For additional pictures, click here (GB), and click here (GB), and click here (GB).

The York Doomsday Project is a hypermedia work-in-progress under the direction of Meg Twycross and Pamela King.

Click here for a brief video from the 1997 performance of Play 47 in Toronto.