There being no historical record of Jesus’ actual birthdate, the early Church assigned it a date close to the Winter Solstice and the feast of Saturnalia, when Romans were already used to taking a couple of weeks off from work to party. The Roman custom of celebrating Saturnalia with a temporary topsy-turvy social order, during which servants were permitted to lord it over their masters, persisted well after the Christianization of Europe. In his Anatomy of Abuses in England in Shakspere’s Youth (1583), the pamphleteer Phillip Stubbes railed against the ongoing practice of a Lord of Misrule being appointed by a mob to take over a country church at Christmastime.
That odd tradition has largely been forgotten, but the Brooklyn-based Dzieci Theatre – known hereabouts for its performances of Makbet at Opus 40 – does its best to keep the memory alive via a performance that the troupe calls Fools Mass (with no apostrophe). In Dzieci’s living example of Holy Theatre, a group of medieval village idiots are forced to enact their own Mass, due to the untimely death of their beloved pastor. Bursting with buffoonery and comic audience participation, Fools Mass is balanced with lovely hymns and chants dating from the eighth to the 14th century, creating a work that has been Dzieci’s signature piece since 1998.
On Sunday, December 8 at 4 p.m., Dzieci brings Fools Mass to the Old Dutch Church in Kingston’s Uptown Stockade District. A light supper and conversation with the actors will follow the performance. It’s family-friendly fare, and admission is by a free-will offering. To learn more about the piece, visit http://dziecitheatre.org/the-work/fools-mass.
Fools Mass with Dzieci Theatre, Sunday, Dec. 8, 4-5 p.m., Free/donation, Old Dutch Church, 272 Wall St., Kingston, (845)338-6759