A Winter Tale with Many Layers

A post by Roberta Gasbarre, Artistic Director
November 1, 2019

Artistic Director Roberta Gasbarre

Many beloved sagas come with layers of meaning that can deepen and broaden our excitement and enjoyment. The plot surprises and thrills; the characters are funny or charismatic figures whom we identify with or find intriguing in their differences from the folks in our everyday lives. As books, plays, and live musical events, these sagas become visceral feasts with beauty and awe-inspiring sights and sounds that transport and inspire — or moments that startle, confront, and make us think.

The best-told tales stay with people and are re-told on special occasions, the memories bringing up emotions with an immediacy that enriches the gathering. And if one looks closely, there is often another deeper story hidden underneath. This “meta fable” speaks to themes that transcend the particulars of time or place, and remind us of our humanity and all that comes with it: struggle, yearning, community — and love.

This year’s “Celestial Fools” Revels is one of these unique creations. Audiences have seen it before — this will be our third production since 1992. In some ways, it is a quintessential Revels — funny and fun, with rowdy dances and exquisite and evocative music from many regions of the world, singing children, vibrant teens, and an incredibly talented adult chorus. The Lisner stage will burst with the exuberance of 100 people. As always, the audience will be invited to raise their voices with the cast as we “Bring in the Yule!” And, of course, the brass quintet with full timpani is joined by a band of master folk musicians, working together to buoy our celebration even higher, and lifting the audience up in the process. It’s a Revels!

But why is this one so special? Let’s look.

Rustic villagers are putting stores away for winter and preparing for the Winter festivities. The children play in the streets, singing and dancing.

Into this village comes a troupe of traveling players, who strangely call themselves the “Sun,” “Moon,” and “Stars,” dressed in bright colors that have not dimmed with Winter’s chill. They come “from the East” — meaning farther than we have ever imagined. They come with intricate rhythms and music that winds like a ribbon of road snaking up a mountain. They come with wonderful tales of Nasrudin the Wise, with fables of Chelm that open our eyes to new ideas, with stories from Japan told only in movement. They come with a generous spirit (and funny jokes!) and the villagers welcome them into their hearts.

But the Solstice brings darkness and fear for these simple people — Winter can often be hard. They need the “Sun,” “Moon” and “Stars” to light their way. So by the final curtain, these “Celestial Fools” will have to save the New Year and find the light behind the Solstice Sky. How will they do it? We will go with them on this quest. And there will probably be a Yuletide celebration waiting for us when the dawn finally breaks.

This year, we welcome guest artists who are tradition bearers, professional performing artists, and cultural ambassadors. Jump over to our Christmas Revels page to find out about their world tours, their filmmaking for peace and understanding, their ecumenical work and deep commitment to sharing their art and culture. We can’t wait for you to meet them.

I started out to write to you about the “meta” theme of the play: the influence of Middle Eastern and Asian music, arts, culture, and traditions on early Europe; the mixing and blending of cultures that paved the way for the enlightenment to follow.

But there is so much more — and this Revels contains many layers of song, dance, and mysteries that we will discover once we are all gathered and the play begins.

I hope you’ll join us! Come and say hello. I’ll be thrilled to see you.


Roberta Gasbarre
Christmas Revels Stage Director

See The Christmas Revels: “Celestial Fools”

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