Creation of the World (York Corpus Christi Play)

Pageant Wagon (Quicktime Movie)

Wagon Arriving: Faster Downlaod (; 189kb) 
Wagon Arriving: Better Quality (; 355kb) 

Waggon arrives at station 

Actors and stagehands pull a decorated platform, called a pageant wagon or simply a pageant, into a pre-arranged performance location, known as a station, where the audience has already gathered. This pageant, depicting the creation of the universe and the fall of Lucifer, began the York Cycle.
Each play-mounted wagon was the responsibility of a different guild (or group of guilds). In many cases, the guilds and their plays were thematically related. For instance, the play depicting Noah's construction of the ark was sponsored by the shipbuilders' guild; the play of the Wedding Feast at Cana (where Christ turned water into wine) was produced by the vintners; and the play of the Last Supper was sponsored by the bakers. This play, the Creation and the Fall of Lucifer, was sponsored by the Tanners.
Historical records from the town of York suggest that the most successful guilds invested quite a lot of money into their annual production, which we can think of as a combination of corporate bowling league, community theatre, and Thanksgiving Day parade.
The actor playing God stands on the upper level of the stage; angels stand on the main level, and a chute descends from the main stage, down through a gaping and smoking mouth, and to hell (the ground). 

Although this production shows the actors facing the long side of the wagon, some recent scholars conjecture that the streets of medieval York actors may have been too narrow for large crowds to fit between the wagon and the neighboring building.  The actors may have delivered their lines over the long end of the wagon, to a crowd that could spread out down the length of the street.

Deus (God), delivers the first lines: 
    Ego sum Alpha et O vita via 
    Veritas primus et nouissimus. 

    I am gracious and great, god without beginning. 
    I am maker unmade, all might is in me. 
    I am life and way unto wealth winning 
    I am foremost and first, as I bid shall it be.

God announces his intention to create "a place full of plenty to my pleasing at ply" (that is, to work at pleasing Him).
He introduces his angels, most of whom sing His praises -- but Lucifer has other ideas

June, 1997 -- site first published in (Re)Soundings
16 Jul 1999 -- site posted here 
08 Jan 2001 -- page last modified