Nelson County, VA
Special to NCL Web Edition
By Bonnie Holliday
It’s December and thoughts at North Branch School turn to…dragons and giants! For the last 29 years students at the independent school in Afton have presented the mummers’ play “St. George and the Dragon” in December. Mummers’ plays have been performed throughout the British Isles for hundreds of years. Typically, they occurred during the Winter Solstice, to help people get through the longest night of the year.
“The play is part of North Branch’s tradition, but we are just a small part of its much longer history,” says North Branch co-founder and head teacher, Charlotte Zinsser Booth. “The young students begin as villagers and eagerly await the arrival of the giant, the dragon, and valiant St. George. By the time they are in middle school, they know which parts they would like to play and how to put their own twist on the roles.”
The costumes are an integral and colorful part of the play. The dragon was made by former North Branch parent, Rowena Olwell, of shiny turquoise and black material that shimmers on stage. St. George wears a crown and wields a sword. This year the sword he carries was created by North Branch alumni, Reed Kattmann, as his May 2012 graduation gift to the school. “The hobby horse costume was made by a trio of graduates in the class of ’95,” says Zinsser Booth. “But, hands down, everyone’s favorite for dramatic effect is the costume of the giant.”
The large foam head, complete with pirate patch, dreadlocks, and 5 o’clock shadow was carried into the school’s assembly room in October during handworks class.
Made by students in the mid-90s, each year the Giant needs a little TLC. This year, the honor fell to the Primary II class, ages 7-8. Working with North Branch teacher and alumna, Genevieve Dennis, the group put their newly acquired finger knitting skills to good use as they created new yarn hair for the giant, who was looking a little thin on top. “It’s so exciting to work with students on this,” said Dennis. “St. George was always one of my favorite things when I was here and that hasn’t changed in the 11 years since I graduated at all.”
According to Zinsser Booth, the play is such an enduring memory for past students, that there was an alumni production in 2008, and another planned for December 2013.
If you would like to see the North Branch students, ages 6-14, in this year’s performance, you will have two opportunities: December 21, 1:30 & 7:00 PM at Rockfish Valley Community Center. There is no admission, but the school suggests audience members bring canned goods for the Nelson Food Pantry. There also is an opportunity donate to the school’s Naomi Scherr Memorial Scholarship Fund.
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- Early Start To Summer Fun At This Year’s Bandfair To Benefit North Branch : May 16th, 2009
- North Branch Gets Anemometer Tower