"What grace we have fun" : an examination into the feasibility of presenting medieval religious drama to a modern provincial New Zealand audience : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Medieval Studies at Massey University
This thesis centres on the presentation, with appropriate music, of some medieval religious drama before a public audience at the Church of the Nativity, Blenheim on 23rd November, 1996. The three pieces - the Limoges Trope of the Shepherds at the Manger, the Fleury Play of Saint Nicholas and the Three Scholars, and the Secunda Pastorum from the Towneley (Wakefield) Cycle - were translated for the occasion into Modern English. The aim of the performance was to see how well members of a twentieth-century, provincial, New Zealand audience would respond to a type of drama outside their normal cultural experience. The first two chapters of the thesis outline the considerable task of preparing for the presentation, covering such aspects as the background reading of scholarly views on medieval religious drama and especially on the chosen texts, the process of translation from Medieval Latin and Middle English, the choice of venue, the plays' characters and the selection of actors to portray them, the design of the set and the costumes, the acquiring of properties, the importance of music and the arrangements of the banns (advertising) Chapter III describes the actual performance, while Chapter IV attempts to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the project, discussing as a test case the gifts of the shepherds to the Christ-Child in the Secunda Pastorum with regard to scholarly interpretations, director's intentions and audience reactions. The Conclusion points to the success of the project, but emphasises that a modern director of medieval religious drama needs to be aware constantly of a number of issues to be faced in presenting such plays: the place of scholarly opinion in relation to production practicalities, language change as it affects translation, and the advantages and drawbacks of adaptation to the tastes and pre-conceptions of twentieth-century audiences who may enjoy a limited understanding of medieval times. The thesis ends with the hope that considering these issues will encourage future undertakings, not prevent them. The Appendices to the thesis include the writer's translations of the plays chosen for performance and the Commentator's script for the 23rd November presentation.