California Revels 
Creating Community Through Celebration
California Revels Newsletter
Oakland, CA
September 2011
in this issue...
2011 Annual Christmas Revels
Our Annual Membership Drive
Memories of Autumn Past
Hey Ho, The Wind and the Rain
The 2011 Christmas Revels: The Legends of King Arthur

The Solstice approaches in the court of King Arthur, and as the days grow short, the legendary king summons his lords, ladies, knights and knaves to Camelot. There they will pass the long winter evenings regaling each other with song, dance, feasting, and tales of their fantastical exploits. Complete with dragons, magic, and spectacular costumes, this visit to the mythical kingdom is sure to be a Revels classic.


Robert Sicular who appeared on Revels stage as Saint Nikolaus in the 2009 Christmas Revels returns as King Arthur. Revels favorite Susan Rode Morris will portray his Queen, Guinevere, and the famous magician; Dr. Kim Silverman (a.k.a. Merloch Silvermaine) makes his Revels debut as Merlin.

 Kim Silverman as Merlin

As always, there will be music, ranging from inspiring chorales to hearty sing-alongs, lovely costumes, and country dancing. Our adult and children's choruses will add to the warmth, along with storytelling, and performances by accomplished guest artists - tradition bearers of the culture. Revels is a family-friendly production sure to please all age groups. Celebrate the long-ago winter traditions that join us together in humanity and community. Please join us to welcome the Yuletide.


The Christmas Revels plays at the Scottish Rite Center on December 9-11 & 16-18. Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm & 5pm. Tickets are $19-$52 with discounts for children, seniors and groups of 10 or more.


California Revels has been bringing festive seasonal performances to the Bay Area for more than a quarter-century.  Each December we journey to another era in history bringing our audience music, drama and fun from a simpler time.  Revels is a family-friendly production sure to please all age groups. Celebrate the long-ago winter traditions that join us together in humanity and community. Please join us to welcome the Yuletide.  Tickets are on sale beginning October 17th at Or why not become a contributing Friend of Revels with a gift of $75 or more and order your tickets early?

The Season for Giving Leads to the Season for Reveling.

As a Revels follower, I hope you've been able to join us for some of our seasonal reveling this year. Beginning with May Day, the Summer Solstice and the now annual Abbots Bromliad earlier this month, it's been an exciting year thus far.

You probably also got a letter from us just before Labor Day asking for your participation in our annual fund campaign. Your tax deductible support is crucial to bring our productions to life on stage. Ticket sales only cover about 65% of our production costs and outreach activities.


Your donation not only supports our mission to create community and celebrate diverse cultural traditions, but also provides a way for you to get closer to the Revels family. Donors who give $75 or more to our annual fund become members and are rewarded with the priority opportunity to order tickets to The Christmas Revels before sales open to the general public on Oct. 17th. Learn more about the benefits of membership.


Early response to our appeal is encouraging. We're seeing many first time donors, and returning members who are able to give just a bit more to help us out through these challenging times. If you haven't responded yet, please return your donor form today, or just give securely online now. Online donors receive an email with a priority code that allows you to order your seats online immediately!  Please give. We can't revel without you!


- Dirk Burns, Executive Director



Memories Of Autumns Past


Green Man at Abbots Bromliad

From The Abbots Bromliad 2010.  Among the Revelers was this wonderful Green Man. This year's Bromliad saw nearly 100 dancers parading through the main meadow at Joaquin Miller Park on a warm and sunny Labor Day.

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Revels Events
Calendar for Fall 2011
October 1  - Revels Solstice Ensemble appears at Oaktoberfest in Oakland's Dimond District. We are scheduled to sing at 3:20pm on the Family Stage. Come join us for a pint and a song.
October 17 - Ticket sales begin for the 26th annual Christmas Revels! This year you will be able to order exact seats online and print the tickets from your home printer!  
December 3 - Our 6th Annual Yule at the Oakland Zoo. See our website for all the details.

From the Artistic Director

Artistic Director's Report

Hey Ho, The Wind and  the Rain 


It seems to me that the clouds are gathering again and we're in for a long patch of nasty weather. I don't mean that in the sense that the rains are soon to return. Here on the west coast that won't likely happen for a couple more months and will be a welcome event. I'm thinking about the climate of American political life, where the horizons seem to be shrinking and the sky darkening in an ominous way.


If weather is the product of opposing pressure fronts, what we are currently witnessing is a storm in the making. One side seems to have jettisoned its core values as it retreats in the face of cynical rhetoric and obdurate opposition, while the other side contrives to seize control by framing a fear-based narrative that dismisses both science and economics. Throw in the thunder and lightning of religion and conflicting social values, stir with the cyclonic force of a declining economy, and you have a perfect storm. I don't think the next thirteen months will witness much in the way of civility and reasoned discourse in the American dialogue. I feel a strong urge to head for the storm cellar and keep my head down until this thing passes.


It would be nice to keep Revels - and the arts generally - out of, or above, politics. Certainly that is the premise of what little public arts funding exists, and there is a common perception that aside from a few organizations (e.g. The S.F. Mime Troupe) who take a polemic approach in their performances, art is supposed to be softer, gentler, more exultant, or at least more abstract in dealing with social and political issues.


But humans are political animals by nature. Ever since primitive family groups began to band together for the common good, systems were required to allow big decisions to be made. These systems developed in many ways. Some reflected individual dominance- the ideal of the benevolent tyrant, and some collective decision-making- one man, one vote democracy. No matter the form, every society has had to deal with the allocation and use of power- what we think of as "politics".

 Hey Ho the Wind and Rain

In researching Arthurian literature and history in preparation for this year's Christmas Revels, I am struck by how dramatically the accounts of the legends in different eras trace the larger social sensibilities of the culture in which the story is presented. He is by turns, the valiant and battle-hardened liberator of his people, the elegant and gentle shepherd of chivalry, or even a psychologically complex and conflicted inventor of proto- democracy. Whatever his characterization, he is always somehow emblematic of the people to whom his story is being told. But while Arthur may appeal to our appetite for heroism or our taste for grace, nonetheless his stature is based upon his being a figure of governance.


As king, it is Arthur's role to make decisions about war and peace, application of justice, distribution of wealth and maintenance of the welfare of his subjects. While the conceit may be that all power resides in his throne, nevertheless his ability to rule is tempered by the need to enlist and preserve the support both of his own knights and others who surround him whose stature is sustained by a discreet constituency: the courtiers and minor kings and warlords. Arthur is a politician, and the Arthurian legend is fueled by his attempts to retain power in order to identify and act in behalf of the common weal.


It would be tempting, in creating this year's Christmas Revels, to use this inherent sense of political action to make clear statements about the contemporary scene, or at least to add intrigue and tension to the narrative. At the very least I could map onto the creation of the round table some fanciful projection of constitutional democracy, or I could use the time-honored device of demonizing contemporary public figures by portraying them recognizably as jackasses.


I'm not planning to do that. It's not that I don't have political opinions. I do, lots of them. Just ask my kids.


What stays my hand is my belief that Revels works on a deeper level than strict political allegory. Revels, as we so often assert, is about community. And while the political, decision-making and public policy level of activity is certainly an expression of community on a national scale, I think that Revels functions on a scale that is paradoxically both more intimate and more comprehensive than that.


The whole point of a modern political campaign is to amass enough adherents to pass a particular agenda; to create a community of the committed. Subtlety and nuance must be discarded in the interests of consensus. Supporters must ignore foreground detail and context and instead sign on with a group focused on a simplified objective. Vague agendas and sloganeering usually win. Complex analysis and thoughtful discourse usually do not.


The way that Revels approaches community is, it seems to me, the antithesis of modern politics. Rather than seek a simple doctrine, we tease out the simple threads in the complex tapestry of traditional art and custom. We regale in the unresolved and the contradictory, even the nonsensical. Where politics puts forward a construct, Revels deconstructs, always with the objective of releasing the power and touching the joy of the songs, dances and stories that we present.


And so again this December, when the winds of political discord begin to swirl, we invite you to shelter with us in a place where we celebrate mystery, beauty and fun. Where community is defined, not by polls and media, not by aversion and common fears, but by the family and friends seated down your row, and by those all around the hall. A community made up of those whose voices blend with yours in song, and of those whose hands you touch as you rise to join the endless chain of the dance of life. We send you these words of a traditional Irish blessing:


May the sun make your days bright,
may the stars illuminate your nights,
may the flowers bloom along your path,
your house stand firm against the storm.


-David Parr, Artistic Director


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