California Revels 
Creating Community Through Celebration
California Revels Newsletter
Oakland, CA
April 2011
in this issue...
5th Annual Summer Solstice Celebration
The Seasons of Reveling
Chorus Auditions
What's So Funny?

5th Annual Summer Solstice Gala

Save the date of Sunday June 19th for California Revels 5th annual Summer Solstice Gala at the Oakland Zoo's Snow Building. The evening will include a wonderful dinner, fine local wines, plenty of wonderful entertainment and a silent & live auction with some truly unique items.  All tickets are $85 this year. Each year the gala becomes more popular than the year before. The 2010 gala sold out early so get your tickets now!

Solstice in a wine glass 


Revels Events for 2011


2011 Calendar of Events 

(See our website for updates.)



April 30 - Revels' May Day Celebration at the Oakland Zoo 1pm

This is our annual celebration of May Day with the crowning of the May Queen, Morris and Maypoles, and lots of good singing from and with our Solstice Ensemble. Join us at the Valley Children's Zoo for a traditional celebration the whole family will enjoy. Procession starts at 1:00 PM. Free with Zoo admission.

For more on annual May Day festivities at the Zoo, see the 2010 article in the San Francisco Chronicle.


May 1 - Revels' May Day Celebration at the Pelican Inn , Muir Beach  1:30pm

What better place to welcome in the May than on the lawn of the famed Pelican Inn. Traditional English fun includes singing, Maypoles and massed Morris!  Free admission. 1:30 parade, featuring the fearsome Padstow 'Obby 'Oss. 
June 4 & 5 - Adult & Teen choral auditions the 2011 Christmas Revels.   (NEW DATES!) See below for details.

June 12 - Children's (7-12) auditions for the 2011 Christmas Revels. (NEW DATE!) See below for details.  

June 19 - Revels' Summer Solstice Gala. Dinner, drinks and wonderful entertainment, Revels style. 

June 21 - Revels' Summer Solstice Sundown Celebration at Muir Beach. Free. Details coming soon.

September 3 & 4 - Revels Solstice Ensemble appears at the 145th Scottish Highland Gathering and Games in Pleasanton.
September 5 - The 2nd Annual Abbot's Bromliad. Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland. 

December 4 - Yule at the Zoo, Oakland Zoo.
December 9-11 & 16-18  The 26th  Annual Christmas Revels: A Celebration of the Winter Solstice at the Oakland Scottish Rite Theater.


Auditions Set for the 2011 Christmas Revels

Audition dates are set for the 26th Annual Christmas Revels: A Theatrical Celebration of the Winter Solstice. We are looking for singers to join our talented chorus of adults, teens and children.  Rehearsals begin in early October and continue until performances on December 9-11 & 16-18. The 2011 Christmas Revels will be based on the legends of King Arthur and Camelot. 



adultauditionADULTS AND TEENS:

June 4 & 5  by appointment

Oakland Scottish Rite Center

1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland 

 Parking for the Scottish Rite is behind the building on Madison Ave between 17th & 15th Streets.
Call Chorus Manager Lynn Ungar to schedule your audition time: (510) 247-3234. You can also email her for more information.  Auditions will be held between 9am - 12pm for on Saturday and 12:30pm - 4pm on Sunday.  Your specific audition will last about 15 minutes.


Bring one prepared song.  You will also sing with a small group of other potential cast members.


Please bring any advance notification of possible rehearsal or performance conflicts.



childrenauditionsCHILDREN ages 7-12

June 12, 12:00-2:00pm

Oakland Scottish Rite Center

1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland

Parking for the Scottish Rite is behind the building on Madison Ave between 17th & 15th Streets.


Please arrive at the Scottish Rite Center at 12:00 sharp. 


Children do not need to make an appointment and do not need to prepare a song in advance. This is a group audition which may take up to two hours. Please be patient.



Revels Past: 1993 Christmas Revels.
Jean Ritchie and Stan Strickland 1993
Stan Strickland and Jean Ritchie perform in the Appalachian themed 1993 Christmas Revels. 

From the Artistic Director

Artistic Director's Report

What's So Funny?

 An article about humor seems an obvious choice for an April Newsletter.  After all, what other month has as its gateway holiday an occasion so obviously named as "April Fools' Day"?  Bear in mind that writing about humor is not the same thing as actually being funny, so we should be able to uphold the usual staid and academically rigorous tone of this column despite the subject matter.


There are lots of different ways to get a laugh, and over the years, Revels has explored many of them. From witty elocution to pants-dropping slapstick, we've tried pretty much everything. For example, at the subtle end of the spectrum, our Elizabethan show tried eliciting laughter by means of a clever shift from prose to iambic pentameter verse in Will Kemp's portrayal of Pluto, King of the Underworld (missed that joke, did you?). On the less subtle end of the spectrum are several instances that come to mind where goat droppings provided the fuel for our comic exploits.


In between these extremes, Revels foolery has taken many forms. We've done music hall-style comedy, Commedia-style comedy, line humor, sight gags, pratfalls, rhyming jokes, singing jokes, juggling jokes, and eyeball pokes. We've done japes with capes and takes with snakes, and even careless steps on rakes. Not to mention the pie in the face. We even indulge in the earthy humor of Mummers' plays, which some (many) might argue is not really comedy at all.

 April kangaroohop

I expect the Revels hijinks that stick most firmly in the minds of audience members (probably because they are involved directly) are jokes that involve audience members directly. They work like this: at some point in most Christmas Revels, we announce that it's time for the Feast of Fools, or some local variant thereof. We send the teen choristers to ferret out a few audience members who are either too good-natured or too slow to escape. Then we deliver them onto the stage and into the tender mercies of Geoff Hoyle or some other purveyor of indignities, who then proceeds to put them through a series of antics such as reading doggerel verse, miming animals doing rude things or attempting archaic forms of folk dance. The rest of the audience invariably finds this very funny.  Partly it is because they feel a connection with their peers on stage and partly, I'm sure, because they are relieved that they are not up there themselves.


As anarchic and unforced as these moments seem, they are in reality the result of a Careful Comic Calculation (CCC) by the joke-meisters behind the scenes. You see, there is a science to all of this and the CCC is the formula that guarantees good fun for all. Here's the secret: our random selection of "volunteers" isn't really random at all. We purposely try to identify individuals who will be seen as possessing "status".  That is, the trappings of authority as expressed by physical stature, fashionable dress, a well-trimmed beard, dignified carriage - things that cause us to look up to and respect an individual.  This is necessary because the loss of status is inherently funny and the effort to retain it even more so.


Allow me to illustrate by citing a simple yet scientifically rigorous experiment - one that you can perform in your own suitably equipped and properly precautioned home. You'll need a dog, a cat, and one of those funny conical party hats with an elastic chinstrap.


Now it is fairly well known that maintenance of dignity is crucially important to a cat, but for a dog, not so much. That is because a dog is an inherently lower status animal. His or her main purpose in life is to seek your approval.  Whatever delights you, delights the dog, and if the dog can actually be the source of that delight, so much the better.


A cat on the other hand is unconcerned with what delights you, but is highly aware of the behavioral trappings that guarantee it a status higher than yours, e.g. napping undisturbed on the dining room table, sharpening claws on the easy chair, relieving itself among the kale seedlings - things you're not allowed to do.


So here's how to perform the experiment.  First, call the dog over and have it sit or do whatever it does when it is paying attention to you. Then, holding the party hat, pointy end up in your left hand, and carefully stretching the elastic with your right, nestle the hat on the dog's head. Slowly remove your right hand, being careful not to let the elastic snap (that's not funny!), and observe the dog.  One of two things will likely happen. Either the dog will reflect your pleasure in his suddenly festive appearance and wag his tail, sharing the moment - and your status- with you, or he will seem crestfallen, put his chin on the floor, and gaze up balefully. One outcome is pleasant, but not particularly hilarious and the other is definitely a downer. A low-status creature had had his status lowered even further. No prospects for comedy there.


Now follow the same procedure with the cat. Once you release the elastic, slowly count to fourteen. This is the time it will take the cat to evaluate what has happened and decide upon an appropriate response. (Note: I don't know why it takes a slow count of fourteen, but it seems to be the same from cat to cat. Animal behaviorists call this the "denial delay".) Observe the cat's behavior. It will probably not rest its chin and gaze.  If it does wag its tail, it will not be a positive thing. More likely it will start to back away and swat at the hat, perhaps vocalizing its annoyance while doing so.  The subtext here is, "This is not supposed to happen to the likes of me, and if I move quickly enough with just the right display of indignation, it will not have happened to me." This is funny.  Although your laughter will not please the cat, who has probably left the room by now anyway.


It is the loss of dignity, or even better, the denial of the loss of dignity that is the secret of the Careful Comic Calculation. It is a truth rooted in natural history, a behavioral pattern embedded deep in the animal genome, somewhere between the humerus and the funny bone. Remember it this way:


For every creature, great and small,

Just as a winter goes before a spring...

Pride goes before a fall.


                    - David Parr, Artistic Director



 All of David's past columns can be found on the California Revels website under "Dragon Fumets".




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