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Summer Mummers logo
|Date(s)||First weekend in June through Labor Day weekend|
|Begins||First weekend in June|
|Ends||Labor Day weekend|
|Frequency||2 shows on Friday and Saturday nights during summer months|
|Location(s)||Midland, Texas, United States|
|Organised by||Midland Community Theatre|
Summer Mummers is a yearly production presented at the historic Yucca Theater in downtown Midland, Texas. Running from the first weekend in June to Labor Day weekend, There are typically 30 performances each summer. The nightly show consists of a locally written melodrama, followed by the Olio. The profits from Summer Mummers directly benefit Midland Community Theatre, even though Summer Mummers is a separate entity from Midland Community Theatre. It is estimated that 25% of Midland Community Theatre's budget is provided by the success of Summer Mummers.
The early years
In 1949, supporters of Midland Community Theatre were looking for a way to bring extra money into the newly formed organization. One supporter brought up the fact that melodramas were still popular in California, and it was soon decided to present a production of "The Drunkard." Another supporter remembered that street performers in the 1800s were called "mummers." After deciding that the production would be presented in the summer, the name "Summer Mummers" was born. The four individuals usually considered the 'founders' were Art Cole (then the Director at Midland Community Theatre); William F. Pennebaker, a Midland attorney; Bill Pomeroy, a Midland oilman, and Norris Creath who played the first Mummers 'Villain'. Cole directed and starred in the first production (and many later ones also) and Pennebaker and Pomeroy ran the front-of-house operations. In the early years of Summer Mummers, productions were presented in various locations, including VFW halls and Theatre Center, the former home of Midland Community Theatre.
The Yucca Theater
After the 1981 restoration of the theater was completed, the Yucca became the new home of Summer Mummers. Summer Mummers still performs exclusively at the Yucca to this day.
The first half of the show features the melodrama. A new locally written melodrama script is written every year, with some scripts being repeated now and then. Each script also features a general "theme" for the story (e.g., superheroes, zombies, Woodstock). The storyline usually follows the same linear structure, with a female heroine and her sidekick finding themselves in distress. The villain and his sidekick look to take advantage of the heroine's plight, with the ulterior motives of financial gain and the love of the heroine. The hero and hero's sidekick confront the villains, a struggle ensues, with the hero coming out victorious. The villains are vanquished, the hero and heroine fall in love, and the hero's sidekick gains the (sometimes unwanted) admiration of the heroine's sidekick.
The title of each script is alliterative. Each script title also features a subtitle. Examples include:
- "Debauchery on the Drawbridge (or More Than Just Another Sworded Affair)"
- "Scurrilous Among the Stars: (or May the Farce Be With You)"
- "Psychedelic Trip To The Summer of '69 (or Dude, Where's My Time Machine?)"
The name of each character changes every year, however, the same basic character-types are featured in every script. These include:
- The Hero – Throughout the story, the hero is shown to be a moral, upstanding character who stays away from alcohol and sex. He is short in stature, with blond hair, and no facial hair. Although he often takes the leadership role, he is often shown to be less intelligent than he believes. A point is always made to remind the audience that the hero graduated from Texas A&M University.
- The Hero's Sidekick – the hero's trusty companion. Although he stands for what's right, the Hero's Sidekick's interests are largely sexual. Although he is usually presented as the dumbest person in the story, it can be argued that he is one of the smarter characters. The Hero's Sidekick is significantly taller than the Hero. He has ratty red hair, is missing a tooth, and is usually seen wearing red long-johns as part of his attire.
- The Heroine – Like the Hero, she is portrayed as being a naive person. She stands for what's right, although some scripts hint at the idea that the Heroine is sexually frustrated. She is short in stature, with blond hair, to complement her true love, the Hero.
- The Heroine's Sidekick – is the Heroine's best friend. She looks out for the best interests of her naive friend, while frequently acting sexually toward the Hero's Sidekick. The Heroine's Sidekick is usually portrayed as a woman who is overweight and wears excessive amounts of makeup.
- The Villain – Driven by greed, the Villain is always looking for the next way to make money. Every script features the Villain kidnapping the Heroine and the Heroine's sidekick. His physical battles with the Hero always end up with the Villain and his sidekick being vanquished and subjected to some odd form of punishment. The Villain dresses in black clothing and usually sports black facial hair.
- The Villain's Sidekick – The Villain's Sidekick is usually seen as being easily persuaded, and often deceitful. He helps the Villain carry out evil plans, with hopes of financial gain.
The moviola is a short, silent film shot by a three-person team, and features the characters continuing the story in different areas of Midland. A new moviola is shot every year. The moviola features title cards, which take the place of dialogue. Title cards are also used to notify the audience members that an intermission is beginning.
During several parts of the melodrama, a movie screen drops down and shows what is known as the moviola. This is done for two reasons. One, to advance the storyline, and two, to give the actors some time to take a break.
The moviola relies on sight gags, as well as occasional cameos from local newscasters, politicians, and business owners. In keeping with the Vaudeville style of Summer Mummers, the moviola is sped up significantly and is shot entirely in black and white.
For many years, the moviola was shot on film. With the increasing availability of video cameras, the moviola transitioned to being shot on video and projected using a VCR. Eventually,[when?] digital video took over, leading the moviola to be burned onto a DVD and projected in a digital format. This has allowed the editor of the moviola to add special digital effects where needed.
The shooting of the moviola is known to be particularly hard on the actors, as they perform purely physical acting (while wearing heavy costumes, wigs, and makeup) in triple-digit temperatures.
After the melodrama is finished, the Olio begins. Composed of approximately 20 "acts," the Olio can best be compared to a comedic variety show. All acts are set to music and usually last 90 seconds or less. Although many of the acts are replaced every year, some acts have become constant yearly features in the Olio. These include but are not limited to:
- Mule Train – Set to the Frankie Lane version of the song "Mule Train", a cowboy runs onto the stage, lipsyncing with the song. He continues to use a whip on a small, stuffed goat. Despite remaining the same act since the early 1980s, audiences often name Mule Train as their favorite act.
- Les Girls – The Summer Mummers female dance troupe performs a dance routine, in which they proceed to remove various articles of clothing, until wearing only a merry widow.
- The Guys – A male strip routine, in which four male Olio troupe members strip down to their underwear. Actors in this act are required to wear colored boxer briefs. This is to avoid the situation of the intense stage lights making white underwear appear translucent.
- Blackout jokes – When more time is needed to set the stage for the next Olio act, two to three actors will walk onstage and engage in scripted conversation, ending with a punchline. These jokes are known as "groaners." Their function is to give the audience something to which they can react while giving the stage crew time to set up for the next act.
- CanCan – The Summer Mummers dance troupe performs in the final act of the night, presenting a traditional cancan routine.
- Finale – The entire cast joins onstage to sing "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "You're a Grand Old Flag."
- Melodrama – Don "Woody" Woodward
- Olio – Hannah & Eli Torres
- Choreographer – Misti Ray
- Moviola – Lance Armour
Current board members
- Michelle Wagner
- Cody Massengale
- Crista Black
- Rosanne Eaden
- Wally Hudnall
- Melissa Hagins
- Bryce Swinford