Everybody knows that the tip of an iceberg isn't the whole story. There's a lot hidden beneath the surface. Whenever I see a live performance, a part of my attention always drifts to the how of what I'm watching. I know it's largely professional curiosity, but I can't help but wonder about the underpinnings. I'm one of those people who take the program home and then actually go through it to learn who and how many people were involved.
With some companies it's a case of "what you see is what you get". Everybody who appears onstage is also involved with selling tickets, running props, painting scenery and sewing costumes. It seems a wonder that anyone finds the time to learn lines and attend rehearsals. In fact I suspect that sometimes they don't.
In other companies, the program will list page after page of detailed staff credits where seemingly every task is accomplished by an entire department of skilled workers. This also does not guarantee a quality performance, but chances are the paint will be dry on opening night.
Our Christmas Revels performances are a good illustration of my iceberg metaphor. The stage presentation is usually pretty lavish and colorful. A large number of varied and sometimes rather exotic talents are on display. I expect that the average audience member could name many of the skills and crafts that lurk just beneath the surface, e.g. scene painting, costuming, mask making, and choreography. Some of the artistry probably draws less specific notice: lighting, carpentry, sound (except when something goes wrong), and stage management. And then there is the writing and directing (stage and musical) which are generally assumed to just happen organically and rarely register on the audience at all.
We have a business operation of course, and the public encounters our staff and their efforts when we sell them tickets, usher them to their seats, ask them for money, or publicize the production. Our Executive Director, Dirk Burns, oversees the many activities of the office and supervises a seasonally flexible group of staff and volunteers to accomplish the myriad tasks of a small but active business.
But beneath, behind and in support of all of the above, there is another group of individuals without whom all the rest couldn't happen. I'm talking about the California Revels Board of Directors. Operating behind the scenes and out of the spotlight, this group of dedicated revelers carries the mandate of maintaining the fiscal and organizational health of the company. Theirs is a role heavy on responsibility and light on acknowledgement. To reference my metaphor, they are at the base of the iceberg.
Recently, the board elected one of its members, Robert Henderson, to the presidency. I've asked Bob to join me in this column to say a bit about the structure and goals of this most important element in the Revels.
- David Parr
As David says, The Revels board is the group that is responsible for the production of the Revels. Its goal is to provide the organization and structure for The Revels as well as the funding for the performance and the organization in the form of the creative and management staff.
The board operates through several committees and groups that perform oversight and policy development for the organization, staff, and company, and the hands-on labor to make sure some of the behind the scenes work is done. Members have come to the board through the Revels community in a variety of ways; some through the performance, starting as cast or crew, and some through being primarily audience members and donors.
The board is a diverse group of people that has in common a shared love of the performance and culture of the Revels and an interest in the continued success and sustainability of The Revels. The Revels board is currently: Ellin Barret, Betty Feinstein, Sandy Gess (on leave), M. C. Haug, Dave Hildebrandt, Cathy Peloquin, Janet Prudhomme, Ronya Robinson, Carolyn Thiessen, Terry Trotter, Fred Wagner, Helen Wills-Brown, and myself.
Producing the Revels is a year-round effort and it begins in January with a review of the previous year and the start of planning for the current production. The main task of the board committees is to work on fundraising for the organization, as ticket sales do not cover the entire cost of the annual production or provide for a sustainable Revels organization. These committees are led by board members and staffed by board members and volunteers.
The board's efforts are also supported by an Advisory Council. This body, comprised of former board members as well as other revelers with significant professional and business expertise, serves as an important resource for the board. We plan to acquaint you with the varied and interesting profiles of these individuals in future newsletters.
My own experience with the Revels started as an audience member, attending performances for several years with my wife and son, and supporting the Revels through donations. A few years ago we were asked if we had an interest in serving on the board, and my wife Betty joined.
I then started volunteering at various events supporting the board and discovered some of the additional activities that are part of producing the Revels: washing dishes, loading and unloading trucks, attending fairs and events around the Bay Area, helping sell merchandise and ushering audience members to their seats. There is of course the pleasure of meeting the Revels community; the performers, staff, volunteers, audience, and people at the events we attend. And there is a LOT of really good homemade food, singing, and dancing.
There are many outside promotional activities throughout the year such as civic fairs and cultural and historical events to spread word of the Revels, and we have our own events like the Gala and the Abbots Bromliad to develop our community ties and relations with other related groups. All these need staff and support.
There is indeed a lot that goes on to produce the "unseen Revels", and the board makes sure that all those jobs get done. We can use your help. If you would like to be a volunteer or consider joining the board, please let us know.
- Robert Henderson, President
California Revels Board of Directors
All of David's past columns can be found on the California Revels website under "Dragon Fumets".