Chorus member Terry Winslow e-mailed this photograph of a tarasque to the chorus this week:
Here’s proof that the tarasque is a real live piece of Provence’s folk history: a carving on a column at the church of Saint-Trophime in Arles. If I understand the construction history correctly, the oldest parts of the complex date back to the 12th century. This column is part of the cloister next to the church. Explore the church on this nifty website.
Terry’s wife, Diane, was the one who had the idea to knit tiny tarasques, and she pointed out how much this carved tarasque looks like my design. My brilliant team of tarasque knitters used my pattern to produce 10 of the little guys to be sold at the merchandise table the second weekend of The Christmas Revels.
If you’re a knitter, the tarasque has its own pattern page on Ravelry, although I haven’t uploaded the pattern yet.
Well, it’s over. Our beautiful Andalusian world has been dismantled.
The final step in The Christmas Revels is taking down the set and moving all of our things out of the theater that we’d occupied for the last two weeks.
The entire cast helps out with strike. The actual set was mostly taken apart by professionals wielding power tools. The main task for the rest of us is carrying things. Props, pieces of flooring, bundles of costumes tied up in sheets. When the truck was full, anyone who was available drove to the Revels office in Silver Spring to move everything back off the truck. I’m not usually one for volunteering for extra heavy lifting, but I know it goes better with more people, and I didn’t have to get up early in the morning.
We formed bucket brigades passing merchandise up to the mezzanine, programs to the mezzanine, programs back down from the mezzanine (there was indecision about the programs), props into the rehearsal room to await sorting, hair and makeup supplies down to the basement, and programs to their final location, stacked on a landing halfway to the basement. It was midnight when I left the office.
The enchantment has ended. The magnificent treasure room has somehow turned back into two-by-fours and piles of elderly sofa cushions. And those of us in the chorus go back to our regularly scheduled lives as lawyers and teachers and speechwriters and science writers–taking the memory of Al-Andalus forward into the world.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few days helping to finish the Christmas Revels program. Our program is really elaborate. It has about eight articles, some about Revels activities and some about aspects of this year’s show. There’s a section of program notes that list every song, poem, and dance in the show, with a ton of information contributed by a lot of different people. It’s quite a job to make the notes both accurate and concise. Not to mention that things change, so we have to make sure the items are in the right order and list the right performers. The final product is beautiful. (And, I hope, interesting.)
Yesterday I had some expert assistance on the final proofread.
That’s a teeny knitted tarasque, the mythical beast that will appear on stage. We plan to sell these little guys at Lisner, so start saving your pennies. Not this one, though – I don’t think I can part with him.
We saw the full-sized tarasque in action yesterday. WOW. Seriously. I had no idea. It’s so…lively. And I heard the tarasque puppeteers are scheduled for a special rehearsal tonight to make it even cooler.
By the way, if anyone wants to pitch in and knit some tarasques for the merchandise table, I’ll e-mail you the pattern. It takes about three hours for me to knit one. There’s no crochet pattern, but anyone is welcome to design one and share it.
Usually our Mummers play–the play-within-a-play in the second part of The Christmas Revels–features a hero fighting some kind of terrible monster. St. George and the dragon, for example.
This year instead of a dragon we have a tarasque. The tarasque is a fearsome beast that ravaged, so the story goes, a town in Provence and was tamed by a young girl. You may recall seeing it carved on a pumpkin.
On Sunday we got our first look at our tarasque’s body–including all six legs. Take a look at this:
That is one exciting puppet.
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Every year, Reveler Barry Galef brings us a special treat: One of his carved pumpkins. These aren’t the jack-o-lanterns you’re used to, with the triangles for eyes and the half-moon for a mouth. He treats the pumpkin as a work of art, carving a detailed scene into their orange skin.
The pumpkin always relates to the theme of the Christmas Revels. We had a flying canoe for the French Canadian show in 2008 and Henry VIII for 2007’s Elizabethan show. (Hey, he was Elizabeth’s dad.) So during the break in tonight’s rehearsal, we all filed upstairs to the mezzanine to ooh and ahh over this year’s offering.
The main pumpkin this year has the tale of Saint Margaret and the Tarasque. The Tarasque is a sort of dragon-like creature with lots of legs. It makes an appearance this year in the Christmas Revels, as the monster in the mummers play. In the story, the Tarasque ravages the town of Nerluc, in Provence, and sets it on fire.
A young woman goes out with a jug of holy water, tames the Tarasque, and brings it back to show everyone how calm it is. But the angry townspeople kill it anyway. In remorse, they name their town “Tarascon.”