Green Mountain Mummers return with a weekend of street theater around the county
The Green Mountain Mummers in 1976. Standing: Dick VanKleeck. Jeremy Coleman, and Dan MacArthur, Steve Green. Kneeling: Tony Barrand, Fred Breunig, Bob Brown. Absent: Steve Mindel, and John Roberts.

Green Mountain Mummers return with a weekend of street theater around the county

BRATTLEBORO — The Green Mountain Mummers, having been prevented from performing for two years, are returning to Windham County towns to present their symbolic death-and-resurrection street theater, rain or shine, in six locations.

The group of 10 (mostly) Windham County residents is probably the oldest continuing sword dance and mumming troupe in the United States. Founded in 1975, the group operates in the manner of the old English morris and sword dancers from which the dances were originally collected - they meet to practice and perform only once a year.

The group's mummers play has been characterized as a “live political cartoon,” often drawing on current events and providing social commentary through humor.

The Green Mountain Mummers sword dance was collected in northern England, but has developed its own Vermont character after almost 50 years in this area. The six dancers are connected by holding long, inflexible metal swords and, without breaking the ring, they weave and turn intricate figures to live music.

Each figure ends with the making of a lock of the swords in a progressively more complicated manner. The final lock of eight swords is the fateful one, which traps an innocent bystander in the middle and causes their death. After the antics of a questionable doctor fails to revive the victim, the fool saves the day with a magic ritual.

Visiting customs have long been an important part of the human existence. Caroling at mid-winter, morris dancing in the spring, and mumming are all related by this common thread of the need to reach out to one's neighbors at significant times of the year.

The audience, which is just as important as the performers in such events, can participate in the ritual both during the play and afterwards, when the dancers pass the hat. It is the exchange that brings luck and the promise of spring's return.

The Green Mountain Mummers' full schedule for Halloween weekend in Windham County is as follows:

- Saturday, Oct. 29: Pliny Park, Main Street, Brattleboro 12:30 p.m.; Brattleboro Common, Park Place, 1:30 p.m.; Whetstone Inn, Marlboro, 2:30 p.m.

- Sunday, Oct. 30: Williamsville Town Center, 11 a.m.; Dummerston Center common, noon; The Gleanery, Main Street, Putney, 1 p.m.

For more information or directions to any of the performances, call 802-254-9019.

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