ew York Revels celebrates its 20th season by returning to our mediæval English roots with a spectacular new show. Set in the royal court, the production focusses primarily on the relationship between the majestic king and his fool.
Throughout history, one of the most beloved characters to evolve from any culture is the fool. This quintessential Everyman through his antics provides us with insight into our own humanity. Our Revels this year celebrates that complex, zany creature who appears throughout world history as shaman, trickster or clown.
This year our celebration takes the form of that most magical of events, The Feast of Fools, a holiday that flourished in parts of Europe during mediæval times. On that colorful occasion, even ordinarily pious priests and serious townsfolk donned bawdy masks, sang outrageous ditties, and generally kept the whole world awake with revelry and satire. Sometimes a Lord of Misrule, a Mock King, was elected to preside over the event. During the Feastof Fools, no custom or convention was immune to ridicule and even the highest personages of the realm could expect to be lampooned.
Leading our cast as the Fool is the incredibly talented Geoff Hoyle, who has clowned for the Cirque du Soleil, the Pickle Family Circus, and Circus Flora. His award-winning solo works, Feast of Fools and The Convict's Return, have been performed worldwide, including London, Paris, and Russia. In 1998 Geoff was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Best Featured Actor for his portrayal of Zasu in Broadway's The Lion King. He has appeared on PBS, the BBC, HBO, and in numerous films.
Joining Geoff this year: The Ensemble for Ancient Music with Wayne Hankin, Karen Hansen, and Mark Rimple; the Greenwich Morris Men; the Hadden Hall Wassailers, and the Children's Aid Society Chorus. And, of course, this anniversary Revels would not be complete without the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, the Boar's Head Carol, the Sussex Mummers' Carol, the Lord of the Dance,and the Revels mummers performing Saint George and the Dragon.
Make your plans now to join us in this celebration of the birth of the new year. Welcum Yul!
What? You're going to Norway in January?
Participating in the Christmas Revels leads to connections across the continents. In February, our producer and chorus member, Nancy Petaja, and five members of the Swedish Dance troupe, Scandia New York, joined Karin Brennesvik and Tom Lovli, two Norwegian performers from the 1998 Revels,in a weeklong workshop in Norway. The goal: to learn to dance the Norwegian springar and gangardances. "It was a wonderful opportunity," says Nancy, "to experience the dancing, not just on stage but in its indigenous culture."
The trip began in Kongsberg, several hours southwestof Oslo, where a traditional dance and fiddle competition, and a festival of Norwegian crafts, was in progress.
There, in the Halling dance, Tom bested Sigbjorn Rua, who danced in the Revels North Christmas Revels, by kicking a hat from a broomstick held more than 10 feet above the ground.
From Kongsberg, the group traveled to the Ble mountains for a week of cross-country skiing by day and dancing by night. Each evening, Karin invited dance clubs and musicians from around the area to join in the dancing and introduce them to the culture and people of Norway. Musicians included some legendary hardanger fiddlers.
Contact the Revels office if you want further information about the workshop.
Participate in producing one of New York's largest, most unique seasonal performances. Sign on as a Backstage Reveler for this year's Revels. We have small jobs, big jobs, light jobs and muscle jobs, artistic jobs, gopher jobs, and jobs that can fit all kinds of busy or not-so-busy schedules. Gain the priceless satisfaction that comes with being a part of a committed team that produces a truly great show! Here are some of the positions:
Assistant to producer
Mailings and databases
Assistant to the Production Manager
Assistant stage manager
Load-in and strike set
Concession manager and assistants
Program compiler/proof reader
Group sales coordinator
Graphic artist for display boards
If you are interested, we want to hear from you. Please call the volunteer coordinator, Nancy Boyd, (212) 666-7728.
Letter from the President...
Welcome to the second issue of "Reveillé," the New York Revels newsletter. In addition to valuable feedback you've given us over the years, you've asked many questions concerning the mission, structure, purpose, and inner workings of NY Revels. Here are some of the answers.
Where did the original concept of the Revels come from?
The Christmas Revels was founded by John Langstaff and had its roots in the annual celebrations of the Langstaff family in Brooklyn Heights. The first Christmas Revels was conceived and performed at Town Hall in New York City in 1958 in collaboration with the Folk Music Club of New York. Central to that performance were the elements of early solstice celebrations, the death and rebirth of the year and the involvement of the audience that have become integral to every Revels performance today. New York Revels was formed in 1978, holding our inaugural performance at St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia University. Now there are thriving Revels organizations in 11 cities across the U.S.
What is the real purpose of the Revels?
The New York Revels is a performing arts organization committed to celebrations of the Winter Solstice and other seasonal traditions through music, dance and theater.
How many people audition? How are they selected?
The full chorus is auditioned each year. Notices are sent to individuals who have indicated they wish to audition, placed in newsletters and newspapers (including those publications that target the community whose material is being presented), posted in music schools, and shared through word of mouth. Approximately 80 people audition each year singing a short song of their choosing. The music and stage directors listen fo rvoice quality, the ability to carry a part against other singers, and stage presence. They also strive to achieve a full diversity of a village or community, including a mix of age, ethnicity, body types, etc. An important goal is to mix new chorus members with experienced ones each year.
For the children's chorus, NY Revels approaches either a school or an existing children's choral group.
How is the theme of the show selected?
NY Revels is a subsidiary of Revels, Inc., in Cambridge, Mass., where the majority of the Revels programs are developed. Each Revels group works closely with the Cambridge staff to select and modify material to take advantage of local talent, costumes, or traditions.
Revels is a volunteer organization, so why does it cost so much to put on a performance?
While Revels utilizes a large number of hard-working volunteers, we are also committed to the ongoing economic well-being of the professionals who make Revels a quality event. While chorus members are talented amateurs, all of the artistic and technical directors are paid, as are the musicians and featured performers. A typical Revels budget is close to $110,000: 22% for directorial and technical staff, 13% for performing artists, 15% for marketing and publicity, 15% for the theater, and 35% for other production-related expenses such as lights, sets, costumes, etc. NY Revels does not employ year-round staff or rent office space all are donated.
On the revenue side, Revels earns 66% from ticket and product sales, 19% from individual contributors,11% from corporations and foundations, and 4% from special events.
What's in it for me?
From my earliest days, as a Peace Corps volunteer in India, I have been seeking ways to bring diverse cultures together. For me, the Revels is a way to participate in creating a set of rituals for our time which are inclusive rather than exclusive, that welcome and weave the common threads of the human and spiritual experience into a fabric that celebrates both our differences and our similarities.
Join a Winning Team and Make a Difference
The board of the New York Revelsis currently seeking new board and committee members. The criteria are simple: a desire to make a difference and influence the direction of the New York Revels; a belief in the mission of the Revels; an ability and a willingness to contribute work, wisdom, or wealth to helping us achieve our mission; and a great love of fun! Many hands make light and enjoyable work. Previous board experience is not required; we will teach you all you need to know. Please contact New York Revels or call (212) 206-6875 for more information or discuss how you might help.
Our hearty thanks to the following people for contributing their writing, organizing, and layout skills to this newsletter: Our writers included Nancy Boyd, Michael Burke, Gary Miller, Robert Rodriquez, and Nancy Petaja. Our technical staff included Michael Burke and Mark Okladek.
If you would like to contribute your writing or layout talent to the newsletter, contact Michael Burke at (212) 799-0090 with your ideas.
Kelvin Domovs for submitting the winning suggestion for the newsletter name "Reveillé" meaning "to waken." Let us waken and welcome each season with celebration. Kelvin will receive 2 tickets to the 1999 Christmas Revels.
Revels and the Storyteller's Art
While storytelling has long been a part of every Revels performance, the New York Revels' 1998 performance featuring Scandinavian cultures and traditions was one of the most successful efforts. The performance revolved around two stories from Finland's epic ancient song cycle, the Kalevala. These were the creation tale and tale of the theft of the sun and moon after they came down from the sky to listen to the magic music of Finland's first man, harpist and magician, Vainemoinen. The performance employed music and dance, magical puppets, haunting sound effects, clever visual imagery and and dramatic recitations by storytellers Rolf Stang and Sigrun Gylfadottir to bring these wondrous ancient stories to life.
For one week, Symphony Space became a magical northern tapestry, with evocations of the most ancient norther traditions and poetry. The stories created a sense of wonder hard to find in today's world, where magic is often replaced by cynicism. This was demonstrated again when th echildren's chorus played the twelve-headed troll in the children's classic, The Three Billygoats Gruff, a reminder that wit can win out over greed.
Storytelling is as an old and venerable art as exists anywhere, and in recent years the art form has been revived, both within the United States and around the world. Individuals and groups perform the old tales, ancient epics, and beloved old narratives. Thanks to the Revels, the old stories and tales, from various world traditions, are now once again being told, heard, and enjoyed by audiences from New Hampshire to California and Boston to Oregon. Whether they be Romany, Celtic, Slavic, Appalachian, English, or Scandinavian, old stories evoke warmth and understanding of our past.
The storytelling of the Revels performances lives on in our memories, as each year the Revels reminds us of stories we have forgotten and introduces us to newones.
|In an age with neither radio, TV, nor even newspapers, the fool was the prime time newscaster and late night talk show host. Stand-up comic, singer, juggler, magician, and raconteur, the fool was expected to know several languages, keep up with all the news and gossip, be able to maintain a witty intelligent conversation, and was often the unofficial psychologist, the distillation of many cultures and many languages. He is Everyman. Enjoy him!