The mission of California Revels is to promote the celebratory and community building power of the performing arts through a unique and innovative form of musical theater that embraces diverse cultures and ritual traditions to connect an audience of many ages and varied backgrounds.

Since 1986, California Revels has brought the unique theatrical, participatory arts-form founded by singer, author and music educator John Langstaff in Cambridge, Massachusetts, more than twenty-five years ago to the audiences of the Bay Area. Crossing religious and ethnic boundaries and appealing to young and old alike, Revels blends traditional music, dance, ritual and folk plays, presented by a large volunteer chorus of children and adults drawn from the community, and a number of highly talented professional actors, musicians, artists, directors, and “bearers of tradition” from many cultures. Highlighting a particular culture and period, from a medieval English court to an Appalachian homestead in Kentucky, from a Russian village to the land of the midnight sun, Revels employs traditional materials and seasonal rituals to draw the audience into a magical revelry of song and dance.

Every December, California Revels produces “The Christmas Revels,” a joyous production welcoming the return of the light back from the darkness of winter. Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer, California Revels late Founder, claimed that many people celebrate the Solstice without realizing it. Decorating homes with lights for midwinter, for example, is an ancient ritual for “calling back the light” that predates Christmas by centuries. “The Winter Solstice falls on the shortest day and brings on the longest night of the year. Across the centuries, people have chosen this time to acknowledge and celebrate the cycle of light and darkness, good and evil, life and death, that governs all our lives.”

Throughout the year, California Revels holds a series of community-based performances, celebrating the seasons and highlighting our professional actors in musicians in more intimate settings. Our outreach and education programs also continue year-long, providing mentoring in the performing arts for at-risk youth and holding free performances for social service organizations and schools.

Reveling Across the Nation

The Revels was founded by John Langstaff in 1971. Many different Revels productions occur annually in nine cities across the country, and many smaller Revels-inspired productions are performed in various small towns throughout the nation.

This December, over 70,000 people around the country will attend Revels performances in 10 different cities - 10,000 in the Bay Area - satisfying a deep human need to come together in communal celebration of the turning of the year and the re-birth of light out of darkness. Says Linda Schacht, KPIX newscaster and mother of two who's been taking her family to Revels every year for 15 years: “Christmas wouldn't be Christmas for our family if we didn't have the Revels.”

See all of the Revels Cities