by Revels, Inc. music director and first-time attendee, Megan Henderson
The blizzard had just touched down in earnest and ours was the last flight to leave the Logan Airport runway that morning. The planeful of anxious passengers applauded with enthusiasm when we were clearly airborne. Off to LA we go!
Prior to leaving for our national Producers/Directors conference earlier this month, Paddy and I had either seen the live shows or watched the DVDs of the other Revels productions from Boulder, Houston, Hanover (NH), Portland (Oregon), Puget Sound, Oakland, Santa Barbara and Washington, DC. That alone was a fascinating experience and one which put Cambridge Revels into a much a larger context for me. I was the lucky one who drew the Santa Barbara straw when it came time to travel in December to see the other productions. To see the audience gathering under palm trees on a warm winter day was somewhat disorienting, but nonetheless wonderful! Lord of the Dance, Dona Nobis Pacem, a Mummers’ Play, The Shortest Day and Sussex Mummers’ Carol were beautifully presented and the audience participated with gusto! WHAT? THIS REALLY HAPPENS IN OTHER CITIES TOO?!
By the time I boarded the plane on February 9th, my head was spinning with the sights, sounds, plot-lines, jokes, costumes, innovations and longstanding traditions that uniquely characterize every Revels production. Three cities did a Welsh show. Two did a Scottish show. The other themes were French Canadian, Nordic and Italian Commedia. It’s incredible to consider that we are one of nine cities in the U S. that join our voices with people of all ages in our audiences to celebrate the season, honor the shortest day of the year and the return of the light through song, dance, drama and comedy. There is a purity to Revels that is so refreshing and renewing in this very accelerated and technological age we are living in.
So, off to Malibu to meet the folks behind all of these productions! (Some people just have to make sacrifices for their art and spend the weekend in beautiful Malibu, across the street from the wild Pacific Ocean. Ah well.) As I traveled along the Pacific Coast Highway from LAX to the conference center site, I saw surfers, palm trees, cacti, pelicans, seagulls, frolicking dolphins and seals, bikers and touches of botox here and there among the locals. Southern California was lush, green and warm. The car windows were down.
It was at first overwhelming to meet so many new people when I arrived at the the conference. Not surprisingly, everyone was friendly and very welcoming. Each city has their own unique and somewhat ineffable identity. Well deserved pride in each team’s recent production was palpable as we all viewed 20 minute clips of everyone’s show throughout the weekend. Camaraderie and support were evident. For me, it was fun to see clips for a second or third time.There is always something new to notice. Revels is such a unique entity and these other folks very quickly felt like family. One evening found the group breaking into spontaneous song. Washington D.C.’s Greg Lewis and Portland’s Robert Lockwood acquitted themselves very well indeed as song leaders! Our own Howard Grant spared no expense for the h’ors d’oevres and potables, by the way.
Our days and evenings were spent in meetings with various topics. The stage directors, music directors, executive directors and marketing directors spent some time in separate meetings discussing the challenges and delights that come with the respective territories. When these gatherings weren’t occurring, Paddy and I met with each city’s staff individually to review the past production and look ahead to the next. The days were long, but punctuated by great communal meals, walks on the lovely grounds and quick little escapes to see the ocean from a hilltop. Many new friendships were formed and common ground was easily found.
In the end, I came away feeling part of the much larger whole that is Revels. New resources, respected colleagues and kindred spirits were discovered. I am feeling inspired and rejuvenated and ready to dive into the gems of the Venetian Renaissance with renewed vigor. Some new Portland friends are coming to visit in June. We will compare notes on our Italian projects, hit a few museums and slurp a few oysters. I am already looking forward to next year’s conference in beautiful Malibu. The view from the conference center:
Revels development director Diane Kennedy’s did not go to the conference. This is the view of her driveway at the same time the above photo was taken: