2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the much-loved Christmas Revels in Oakland. This year’s show is a comedy bringing together high and low art with vibrant costuming, glittering masks, wonderful music and even an onstage gondola race as our audience and performers join together in an uproarious Revels celebration of the Winter Solstice.
As you may have guessed from the reference to the gondola, this year we venture into Renaissance Italy for the holidays with a new production, A Venetian Masque, written and directed by Revels’ Artistic Director, David Parr. It is 1620 in Venice, a golden age for the City, and the Doge’s palace is abuzz with preparations for the annual Winter Solstice Festival and Masked Ball. It is to feature the finest of elegant Baroque music and courtly masque drama as well as guest performers invited from around the Mediterranean. Beleaguered by requests from eager performers as well as the demands of office, the Doge resolves to “disappear” himself and see how things go without him. He falls into the Grand Canal and seemingly washes out to sea, leaving only his official hat behind. Tartaglia, his chief of staff, dons the hat, ascends the throne and vows to carry on in the Doge’s absence.
Meanwhile, a threadbare troupe of Commedia dell’ arte players lands in the Piazza San Marcos, hoping to find employment in the Festival. They are fleeing a less-than-successful European tour and are hoping for an upturn in their fortunes. They are one player short, but are joined by a mysterious stranger who has emerged, dripping wet, from the direction of the Grand Canal. It turns out that he would be the perfect type to replace the missing player, and so he joins the company.
The story continues as it follows the efforts of the Commedia troop to work their way into the formal proceedings using their wit and ingenuity, while Tartaglia and his bumbling henchmen try to fend them off. Add the sudden appearance of a group of castaway Morris Dancers, an audience participation Gondola race, choral music both sacred and secular, and a grandly danced masked ball, and there are all the makings of a traditionally exciting Christmas Revels. Our madcap Commedia dell’ arte performance will delight the audience and create memories you can cherish for a lifetime.
Featured performers in The Christmas Revels: A Venetian Masque are:
Robert Sicular as Doge of Venice/Dottore
Jeff Raz as Commedia troupe Direttore/Pantalone
Tristan Cunningham as Commedia troupe member/Columbina
Slater Penny as Commedia troupe member/Arlecchino
James Galileo as Tartaglia
Performance days and times are December 11-13 and 18-20. Friday curtain opens at 8:00 PM, Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00 PM and 5:00 PM. Tickets can be had for as little as $20 (just $10 for anyone under 25, students of any age and groups of 10+).
For more information visit californiarevels.org or call 510-452-9334.