• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!


PBM Teaching Workshop

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 5 months ago


Organizers feel free to use and edit this text in your recruiting flyer, festival booklet or event program.


Paper Bag Mumming: Don't Rehearse, Just Perform!

Lynn Noel of the Paper Bag Mummers will lead you in putting on a traditional English mummers' play with no rehearsal. Yes, it can be done--and you can do it! You do not need any special clothing, advance read-throughs, or acting experience. Mummers plays were traditionally done by regular people in regular clothes, making fools of themselves for their friends and neighbors to celebrate the season. The tradition continues!


What's Provided


  • Chapbook scripts (small booklets) that you may keep
  • Paper bag kit (costumes) for up to 10 people
  • Silly hats and character props
  • swords, dragons, magical potions, and mystical foolery


What You Need


  • At least 4 players of any age/gender. 6-8 players is ideal. More than 10 means some are in the chorus and only get silly hats.
  • At least 15 minutes to gather and get organized for a performance, and a hour for a teaching workshop. (Yes, you can do a performance without having had a workshop.)
  • The clothes you're wearing. Black is nice but not required.
  • All roles can be played by any gender. However, a man with a beard is the customary choice for the Old Woman (Betty).
  • Children who can read aloud easily are welcome. Younger/shyer children can double up a part with an adult.

For Outdoor Street Tours

  • A small flashlight will help you read your script.
  • Dress in layers rather than a bulky coat since the kit goes on over your clothes.


Workshop Outline (5-15 min per topic)


  • Why We're Doing This
  • Plot and Characters
  • Blocking and Stage Presence
  • Let's Do the Play!

For details, see the Squire's Notes. Each workshop participant will receive a copy of these notes at the end of the session. Please do not hand them out in advance, as our chief weapon is surprise.



Once your cast of characters is assembled, we--YOU!--can be onstage with less than 30 minutes advance notice. Why so quickly? Won't it be terrible? Oddly enough, no. PBM's approach to mumming is based on storytelling and melodrama, using the script as a scenario and improvising around it. Our friends in commedia dell'arte explain it very well:


So, it's a scripted play then?

Not really. Each of the actors knows his or her character's history, needs, and relationship to the other characters. All of the characters know the scenario, a written plotline, generally 3 to 4 pages long. [Some] of the dialogue, the specific interactions, and [most of the] physical bits (fights, dances, or romance) are improvised.


You're trying to tell me all this is really "improvised from the thinnest of outlines"?

Yes, that's what we're trying to tell you.


So tomorrow's show could be completely different from tonight's?

Not completely different, no. But pretty different.


(from FAQ, I Sebastiani, The Greatest Commedia Troupe In The Entire World)


Paper Bag Mummers aren't as extreme as this, since we work from a printed chapbook and stick fairly closely to the written script. However, the mummers soon find that the text gives LOTS of room for backchat, physical comedy, and mugging for the audience. In fact, there is a secret sauce at work here.


The PBM Secret Sauce: Surprise

We surprise the ACTORS. You'd be surprised at what happens when you are NOT reading aloud. In particular, we simply skip that dreadful mumbling read-through where the actor is relating to the script and not the audience. And we have no expectation of memorization, so there's no pressure there. This is why we don't pass out printed materials until the very last minute (see the Squire's Notes). Again and again for several decades now, we've found that we get the best edge in performance by keeping the troupe a little off balance, while promising you that there is no such thing as a mistake. And we really mean that.


The thrill of victory is pretty exhilarating when the group declaims the PBM motto--"We never rehearse, we ONLY PERFORM!" There is a mad rush offstage, and people look at each other a little sheepishly. "Hey, we were pretty good!" "Yeah, you were GREAT!" "And YOU! When you jumped in like that..." and so it goes on. Anyone can do this, and you just did. There's no greater satisfaction for a Squire, or a Fool..






Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.