Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

Our Lady’s Tumbler

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About the scene and clip:
A solo performer tells the story of Our Lady’s Tumbler.

About the work:
Our Lady’s Tumbler is among the best-loved tales of the Middle Ages. It tells how an acrobat, weary of life in the world, entered a monastery. Ashamed at not knowing how to read, chant, or pray like the other monks, he began to do his tumbling acts before a statue of the Virgin, as loving service to her. The abbot learns of this unusual behavior and, going to witness it for himself, he sees the Virgin come down in person to wipe the brow of the tumbler, exhausted from his labors of love.

About the genre:
This story belongs to the genre of hagiography – that is, lives and legends of the saints and other holy people. This genre was particularly popular in the European Middle Ages, but in one form or another it exists almost everywhere in the world, since the lives, deeds, and miracles of holy men and women are widely appreciated. Stories about the saints exist in Latin – and in other sacred languages, such as Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic – and in virtually all the vernaculars.

About the edition/translation:
Our Lady’s Tumbler, in Aucassin & Nicolette and Other Medieval Romances and Legends, tr. Eugene Mason, New York, E.P. Dutton & Co, 1958, pp. 59-73 [abridged and slightly modified]. French: Del Tombeor Nostre Dame/ Du jongleur de Notre-Dame, in Vierge et merveille: Les miracles de Notre-Dame narratifs au Moyen Age, ed./trans. Pierre Kunstmann, Paris, Bibliothèque mediévale, 10/18, pp. 142-177.

About the performer/ensemble:
Sasha Orr is an Economics Major in the College of Arts and Science at New York University (2005). She was a student in “Storytelling,” taught by Vitz, spring 2005.

About the production:
This performance was given at an event sponsored by the Medieval and Renaissance Center of New York University on “Mary: Mediterranean, European, Global,” held at St. Joseph’s Church in April 2005. Videography by NYU-TV.