My Second Family, A Bubble of Kindness

Clare Hardin started as a Revels Kid in elementary school, and then later in high school.  She has grown into an intern extraordinaire and current volunteer. The following is a guest post about her experience in the Washington Revels community, and why she thinks your kids would love to revels with us.

Dovie Thomason with Clare Hardin in the 2006 Christmas Revels.

Hi, I’m Clare, and I’ve been a “reveler” since I was born. Here’s some of my story.

My mom had already been to a few Washington Revels events because she knew Greg Lewis (Executive Director) and his wife Susan (Company Manager) who both sang with The Choral Arts Society of Washington. I guess that’s how we were introduced — and, my family has been involved since then. My dad was invited to be Music Director for the Christmas Revels in 1999 and 2000. I attended my first May Revels when I was two or three, watching my big sisters perform with the other kids. I’m sure I was waving a tiny ribbon stick to “welcome in the May-O.”

Clare as the May Queen  in the 2014 May Revels at the Washington National Cathedral.

All three Hardin sisters participated in May Revels as soon as we were old enough. My memories are happy ones of the cobbled path in front of the Washington National Cathedral, of dancing in hand-held circles, of cotton candy and repetitive verses of “The Rattlin’ Bog” that were somehow still fun after the 12th time. All three of us were also in the Children’s Chorus for several Christmas Revels productions — I performed in the 2006 and 2007 shows.

Clare with Dovie Thomason in the 2006 Christmas Revels.
From left to right: Umoja Rufaro, Keith Moore, Dovie Thomason, and Clare Hardin in the 2006 Christmas Revels.

My first Christmas Revels was in 2006 — the theme was “Early American.” I remember sitting around a pretend fire near Native American storyteller we knew as Dovie (Apache storyteller Dovie Thomason), in awe and feeling lucky I was chosen to be in that particular scene.

I remember being endlessly excited because I got the solo in “Morning Star,” and then nervous and embarrassed when during the first Lisner rehearsal, Music Director Betsy Fulford noticed that I was singing off-key. We were absolutely NOT allowed to eat in costume, except the clementines and goldfish in the kid’s Green Room. I got to tell my teachers that I was in a “big, important production” so I had to get my homework for “tech week” in advance. Staying up past 11pm was a big deal, and I got to do it every night for a show I loved.

Those productions were fantastic, but the thing about Revels is that the shows themselves aren’t the most important part — it’s the people and the community that matters. That community — my second family — raised me. They taught me values of acceptance, togetherness, cultural awareness, teamwork, respect, and more. To be a Revels Kid is a privilege, and I don’t know who I’d be without it.

Clare in the 2013 Teen Chorus in our Balkan Christmas Revels.
Clare (on right) with Terry Winslow and Aryn Geier in the 2013 Balkan Christmas Revels.

Fresher memories come from my four years as a teen in the Christmas Revels — they have been an integral part of my story. For a teenager dealing with the ups and downs of high school, Washington Revels was a refuge. It was a place where it didn’t matter if I had a bad day, if I didn’t feel like smiling. I would say that there is a sort of radical acceptance within the Washington Revels community, and you never have to ask for support — it was always there waiting for you. Though many people in my life outside the Washington Revels community knew about my Revels world, it still felt like a separate entity. It was my little bubble of kindness — where a 17-year old could laugh and sing alongside a 57-year old like they were best friends, where I learned to sing in 10 different languages, and more. Truly, there is no performing arts experience like it. There is no experience, in general, like it.

If your child or teen gets a chance to be a Revels Kid, they should do it. Take part in an After-School Workshop. Audition as a child or teen for The Christmas Revels (each year during the weekend after Labor Day).  Even if all you can do is come to a performance — do it! No matter who you are, you will be welcome. You will be loved. You will be valued. There is nothing more important than our community.

Being a Revels Kid in Autumn

A guest post by Emilie Moore, Washington Revels Teaching Artist.
Revels Kids

As a Washington Revels Teaching Artist having grown up in Revels, passing on Revels traditions to kids feels quite natural to me. Each workshop explores cultures and traditions through movement, song, and story– we get to play while we learn, and we grow and change along with the changes of the season. Revels emphasizes the significance of each season and its rituals, and as a Teaching Artist, I get to turn my focus to these things too.

Revels (drawing)As autumn arrives and summer bids us adieu, our Revels Kids workshops will be a journey– we will usher in the harvest and start to say goodbye to the sun. We’ll visit France, Germany, Poland and Russia before making our way westward to end in Ireland and Britain, experiencing Samhain in Ireland, St. Martin’s Day in Germany and Bonfire Night in Britain, among many other holidays and traditions.
Found itemsI’m excited to relive things I did as a child: constructing lanterns, pumpkin-carving, making “thankful heart” felt hand-warmers, creating harvest-inspired nature tables, and crafting watercolor stars and sun-catchers — just a few of the crafts that we will use to celebrate and honor autumn in many cultures. I’m just as excited for our weekly nature walks– they help us reconnect with mother earth.

Telling stories

I love experiencing traditions that I learned about as a child in Washington Revels through my Revels Kids eyes; I love witnessing that fascination and that thirst first hand. We sing songs and play games that were brought into my life because of Revels, and sharing these gifts with them brings me immense joy.

A Journey Back to My Revels Roots

A Guest Post by Patrick Malone

Attending The Christmas Revels each year with my family was probably my very favorite tradition. I remember vividly riding from our home in McLean, over Key Bridge, past the sparkling December lights of M Street, and stepping into the warm glow of Lisner Auditorium.  Attending the Revels was more a part of our holiday ritual than anything else, and the final notes of the Sussex Mummers Carol would reverberate within me for the rest of the season. The rest of the year, even.

Patrick with his two boys at a music class.
Patrick with his two boys at a music class.

In 2013, I lost both my parents, my father in April and my mother in August. I was not a child when this happened, and I cannot overstate the empathy I feel for those who lose their parents as children or teenagers. But, I can say that even as a grown man with a wife and child of my own, the sense of loss I felt was immense. I struggled.   The hardest part of that first year was the waves of grief that would roll over me during the happiest moments – my son’s first words and steps, Thanksgiving, the news my second son was on the way – because my parents were not there to share it. I withdrew.  I missed Revels that year. It was, simply, too much.

Patrick on stage in the 2014 Irish Christmas Revels.

The following spring, I received a note from Susan Lewis encouraging me to audition for that year’s Christmas Revels. “Just wanted you to see the theme of this year’s December production: Irish!!” she wrote, knowing the proper way to sell an idea to someone named Patrick Morland Malone. I had toyed with the idea of auditioning before, but had always found a reason not to. But here, I decided, I would take my first step toward reclaiming the joy in my life. I auditioned. I got in. I smiled

Over the next months of rehearsal, I was embraced, often literally, by the members of a group that I had only known from the outside, but which now held me close as one of their own. I found myself staggered by the talent, compassion, empathy and, above all, sense of community present in every single Reveler I met. Those who have sung in groups know that it is a powerful experience, allowing you to be both an individual and part of something greater than yourself at the same time. I have never had that feeling more than in the rehearsals for, and on the stage of, the Christmas Revels.

My wife told me, only a few weeks ago, that from the time of my parents’ deaths until the time I joined The Christmas Revels, I had seemed a shadow of myself, quieter, sadder, and that it was only when I threw myself into the rehearsals and performance that I became my old self again. That’s hard to hear, but absolutely true. All along, the right answer was never to withdraw from joy, but to fully hold it in my heart.

Patrick (center, left) with actors and chorus in a scene from the 2014 show.

I learned that I am a Reveler. I was always a Reveler. And I will always be a Reveler. I emerged from my shortest day as promise wakened, caroled, feasted, gave thanks, and dearly loved my friends. I am immensely, and will remain eternally, grateful for the opportunity.

Patrick Malone was a member of the Adult Chorus in the 2014 Irish Christmas Revels. We eagerly await his return to the show when his littlest is out of diapers!

What’s Going on Down There? The Costume Shop in Summer

Costumes assembled on a rack in the Washington Revels shop
Costumes assembled on a rack in the Washington Revels shop

It’s July. It’s 85 degrees outside in a hazy, sluggish world full of Nature’s brightest greens, yellows and oranges. Of course no one is thinking about Christmas and December, right?

Wrong. In the busy and cool basement of Washington Revels, the costume team is scurrying around with a pace that suggests we might be on stage any moment now. There are different colors going on down here—gold, deep reds and blues, a patterned purple, some browns and tans. Summer doesn’t live down here, where actions and thoughts are populated by a Solstice celebration that is three and a half months away.

There’s antique lace zooming past to the left, and a rainbow of thread colors heading by on the right. Here’s something that looks like fabric leaves, there’s something that looks like part of a kingly robe, and then something that looks like…a placemat?

IMG_0061Mollie, the Associate Costume Designer, mumbles through the pin in her mouth “I had no idea what to expect here, and it has been remarkable. I came from college theater. Rosemary Pardee [the head Costume Designer] said I should come to Revels and I said: What’s Revels? I had no idea. Now I get it. It’s community, it’s family, it’s joyful, it’s creative—it’s really special. Every day I come to work and think— my friends would be jealous of me– I don’t work, I play! I throw things on a form, I paint things, I go home—it doesn’t feel like a job because I’m having so much fun.”

Mollie says Revels, and costuming for Revels, is about rethinking, repurposing, and renewing. “I’ve used materials I wouldn’t have considered before. It’s a good metaphor for Revels— we’re engaging in a nonconventional exploration of traditional things to create something new. Whether costume or performance or song, it engages your mind and your brain in a new way, while still feeling oddly familiar.”

The placemat is under discussion on Mollie’s right. She eyeballs it, raises an eyebrow, and then looks triumphant. “Just try this. Put this on your head.” Sigh. “I know it’s a placemat, but just try it!”

IMG_4887Over the last month the costume shop has been populated with volunteers who stop by regularly, as well as those who seem to live there. Lois, who started as a volunteer, worked on sets, ran the Wednesday-Night Work Parties, made hand-crafted merchandise, and did plenty of other things for “ages.” She then joined Revels staff as Costumier, and has been in the costume shop exclusively now for over ten years. Janice, who started volunteering at Revels in the 80’s, says she loves to be there because it’s completely outside of what she does anywhere else in her life. Lois agrees. “I love it– sewing is one of the things I love to do more than anything else—it satisfies a lot of my need to be creative. The fact that it’s different than what you’re doing all day at your job has tremendous appeal.”

IMG_4879Mollie and Lois both love the problem solving. “It’s kind of like doing a jigsaw puzzle,” says Mollie. “I have to make things fit, there are insane pieces and you have to figure out how they can go together. You say—hey, look at this fabric no one remembers– I found it in a bin in the back, and I think it might exactly fix this mess I’m in.”

Lois agrees. “It’s an exciting challenge trying to solve some of these problems– like this one right here,” she says, pointing to a complex-looking swath of material draped over a dress form. Lois suddenly appears to be her own age and a little girl all at once. She sighs. “It makes me think of my mother – who taught me to sew. Sewing was a place she could solve problems – like not enough fabric, or a hard to match pattern— she knew how to work around it. I feel like I’m channeling my mother—I think she’d be proud of me.”

All the costume volunteers agree– they solve the puzzles and fix the problems, and then appreciate seeing their work under lights for two weekends in December. “You work hard before the show,” says Lois, “and then the show is up on stage and you are still working hard, and suddenly there’s this moment– you pause and look out at the magic on stage and a costume swirls by you under a light, and you look at it and realize: I did that. That’s really moving.”

You’ll see the handiwork of Rosemary, Mollie, Lois, Robbie, Cecily, Rachel, Janice, Mike, Willa (and so many others) when it shimmers under the lights this December.

Revisiting an Article by Mary Swope

This article, written by former Executive Director Mary Swope eighteen years ago for the then-print newsletter Revelations, shows how some aspects of Revels are timeless. As we are deep in the middle of the upcoming 2015 show, we all appreciate seeing the overlap — Piffaro, a medieval castle, Mark Jaster, Roberta Gasbarre, Rosemary Pardee, Mary Gene Meyer and other aspects still bring endless spirit and energy to this year’s show, but we all also enjoy knowing how fully different the result will be than it was in 1997. How different? You’ll have to wait and see!

The Christmas Revels, 1997: An Article by Mary Swope

Banqueting Hall, Haddon, DerbyshireFor a 15th season, the Washington Revels brings to Lisner Auditorium the ancient and joyous celebration of the year’s rebirth that surrounds the winter solstice. We return to the great Banqueting Hall of a medieval castle in England with a king, his court and the versatile and entertaining musicians of Piffaro, The Renaissance Band.

The court, including a Fool and sour-faced bailiff, is set to celebrate the season and the Feast of Fools with carefree merriment, secure in prosperity and power. What begins as a traditional challenge between the king and a stranger turns the destiny of the kingdom upside down.

DSCF6873The humble Fool, played by Mark Jaster, finds himself bearing the full weight of his king’s heavy crown. What happens remains to be seen, but along the way there is music, jesting and drama, including such Revels favorites as The Boar’s Head Carol and Lord of the Dance, and all are invited to join in the fun.

The evocative interpretation of the medieval Feast of Fools celebrates the Fool’s tradition association with the cycle of death and rebirth that lies at the heart of the Revels solstice festivities. At this dark season of the year, humanity counters natural and supernatural forces by turning to humor and an inversion of the everyday order of life.

Roberta Gasbarre will direct the cast, and Judith Harrison is back as Music Director. The Washington Revels is again fortunate to have the service of set and lighting designer Michael Philippi, who, with Miriam Hack, has designed the dramatic setting in which the story unfolds. The company will be gowned and wimpled, doubleted and hosed by the talented costume team headed by designer Rosemary Pardee and associate designer Emilie Long. Stage props created by Mary Eugenia Myer’s group will further evoke the magic of the solstice season.

MorrisMenStar2004The production interweaves the tale of the King and his Fool with song, dance, and a rich variety of instrumental music. From Piffaro, the Renaissance Band, come the dulcet tones of a recorder and lute, the squeal of medieval bagpipes, and the blare of a shawm and sackbut. From the musicians of The Solstice Brass, once again led by Robert Posten, sound forth trumpet fanfares and robust accompaniment to processional and carols. Belled and masked, the Foggy Bottom Morris Men appear in several guises, in wonderful wild dances with sticks and kerchiefs as well as the ritual sword dance during the traditional mummers play Saint George and the Dragon. An auditioned chorus – The Haddon Hall Wassailers and Playford Dances – will sing, dance and lead the audience in rounds, wassail songs and the ever-popular Twelve Days of Christmas.

AllSing2004Children, as always, play a special role in The Christmas Revels. This year’s Piney Branch Children, selected by an audition from Janney Elementary school, a public school in the Tenleytown section of the District, will sing There Was a Pig Went Out to Dig and other Revels favorites. These youngsters will be featured also at other moments in the story, in roles both dramatic and humorous, much to the delight of children in the audience. Janney music teacher Judith Block, who has produced many of the productions of the local Children’s Summer Musical Theatre Workshop, will direct. For young and old alike, it’s sure to be a joyous celebration.

Raising Kids in the Revels World: Birthdays, Rhythms and Spring

The author’s son at an earlier birthday, dancing in birthday crown and cape.

It’s not my son’s birthday today, but there are 40 people singing a birthday song to him (and to two other people). My son is turning 9. One of the other people is turning 41, and the other is turning 73. The song isn’t the traditional “Happy Birthday” song. There are many people harmonizing, and there’s accompaniment on a half dozen ukuleles. Sound like a good quirky story?

rain dance Revels
A community of Revelers singing and dancing in the rain.

Something just like it happens every month at Washington Revels-Carpe Diem monthly Community Sing– birthday songs celebrate all the people who have a birthday that month. My son is glowing. It’s May, and his birthday isn’t for another week, but he has been gleefully anticipating it all month, since the word “May” to him means, “my birthday month.”

Since Revels is founded on the significance of seasonal and traditional celebrations, the idea of a birthday month isn’t just a childish notion—it is the idea that each month brings its own expressions of the season and its own traditions to be honored and celebrated. May is a good month to be a kid growing up in the Revels world, whether it’s your birthday or not. May is the time for May Day and Maypole dances, and singing in the May. For my son and his three siblings, the meanings they’ve come to associate with “May” are just part of their logical understanding of the world. Kids have a natural instinct toward rhythms, so seasons, traditions, holidays, and special days are just a way they’ve learned to navigate the world.

May, like every month at Revels, is a good time for singing and dancing.

For us adults, we may be relearning it. Our natural rhythms get overshadowed by outside forces. April means taxes. Halloween means managing the sudden surge of sugar in the house. Christmas means long To Do lists. But Revels is about recalling and reliving the natural and historical meanings of the seasons and the months. May is a good month to be an adult in the Revels world too—an excuse to wear a flower crown and to sing hundreds-year old songs that remind us to glance up from our cell phones and notice the blooming heather (well, okay, blooming lilacs, since we aren’t in England).

Whatever month your birthday is, it’s a great month to be a kid or an adult in the Revels world. For as far back as we know, humans have been inventing reasons to mark time by rituals and celebrations. From Revels, my children are learning how to understand their small world and the big world– through new and old routines, through natural and human determiners, and in today’s beautifully interracial society, through the varied traditions of humans from around the globe.

Maypole top
We can carry images and experiences of Reveling with us wherever we go.

What Revels offers to all of us, parents and children, happens many times in every month: it’s the building of a moral compass, a value system, and a joyful map of humanity. If we carry that map with us every day in school or work, to the grocery store or the doctor’s waiting room, or to family celebrations, we will find the Revels joy will serve us well there.

May and birthdays are only the beginning of a discussion about how Revels grows healthy children. It’s a conversation we can have year round.

This is the first in a series of exploring what it means to parent children in the Revels World.


A New Intern’s View: Guest Post by April Li

April 1Greetings, Revelers!

My name is April and I am so honored to be a new event planning intern at Washington Revels. I’m finding myself in a treasure island full of wonderful people and magical discoveries. I’m under passionate and inspiring hands from such a welcoming community who are so willing to teach me the world of arts, culture, and traditions. Let me take you on a short adventure of the curious little things I found around the office!

April 2



I love how these random and exciting things are scattered around. I couldn’t help but sit in the chair that could fit two of me and giggle. As I worked, I looked above and found a colorful bird enjoying its time hanging in a corner smirking at me.


April 3These bells reminded me of Esmerelda from Disney’s “Hunchback of Notre Dame”, who I was head over heels for when I was a little girl. The colors just make me so giddy! I’m also fond of seeing halls of history, where I can see the evolution of costumes, pictures, stages, and plays in general.

April 4


To top it off, it’s so intriguing to see so many different kinds of props that are catered to different time periods, cultures, and stories. This is a place where imagination runs free and allows us to time travel through story-telling, singing, dancing, and simply being together as a family to celebrate!

I’m excited to be starting my Revels journey!


Revels Star Power: Volunteers! Guest Post by Christine Alexander

Ergen deda
A view of the CR14 Revels stage, with some of the cast, props and sets required to make it a grand event! photo by Joseph Kroupa

The average Christmas Revels takes
A LOT OF STAR POWER to produce.

Some of the teen cast in the 2013 Christmas Revels. photo by Shep Ferguson





Between the performers, production crews, and backstage crews an awe-inspiring amount of time is donated to the Washington Revels. Last year about 750 volunteers donated roughly 12,000 hours of their time.

costume vols
Volunteers packing boxes in the costume shop– it takes a lot of hands to move our operation down to Lisner.

An adult chorus member with perfect attendance gives about 164 hours within the months of September, October, November, and December. Our backstage Props Running Crew members donate 60 hours each over the course of tech and performances.

Wed night work parties
Volunteers at a Wednesday Night Work Party make beautiful crafts for the Merchandise Volunteers to sell at Lisner.

The Wednesday Night Work Party volunteers contribute about 280 hours during the rehearsal period, while the Merchandise Crew totals about 260 volunteer hours over the run of the show.

To say that we could not produce the Christmas Revels without the tremendous support of our volunteers is a massive understatement. Not only do our volunteers contribute their time, they contribute the energy that makes a Christmas Revels unique every year. Each show is powerful and possesses its own force thanks to the variety of people who contribute to it.

If you are interested in contributing to the power of the 2015 Christmas Revels, please fill out a volunteer form and email it to, or call our office at 301-587-3835.

Christine Alexander is the Volunteer Coordinator for Washington Revels