Despite Covid, Revels returns in person for 100th year

2021 was a historic year for the Dana Hall Class of 2023: The juniors produced the 100th Revels. 

Every year, on the last day before the school gets let out for Winter Break, the 11th-grade class puts on Revels, a holiday show that the entire school watches. The cast ranges from jesters and princesses, to minstrels and more. Even the Dana Dragon has a role in a section of the annual show, The Mummers’ Play.

The Covid pandemic has affected the show for the last two years. Last year, the class of 2022 put on a virtual Revels, where everyone stayed home and watched from Zoom. Last year’s junior class kept the Revels tradition alive, but Emma Gershberg ’22 said, “I was a sword dancer in Revels last year. The whole experience was kind of sad. The Junior class lost the bonding aspect of it, and we had to put our own costumes together. I just wore a white shirt and made a sword out of cardboard. We didn’t learn the dance or have any rehearsals. I just filmed a video of me at home walking in a circle and then I sent it in.” 

This year, the show returned in person, but both performers and audience members wore masks. The show was staged in Bardwell Auditorium as usual, but the Middle School watched on screen from Waldo Auditorium and some faculty watched on screen from Common Ground to reduce crowding in Bardwell.

The Mummers’ Play has a different theme for each production. This year, the theme was Avengers, and students played Marvel characters like Thor and Captain America. 

There is also a dance that changes its song and choreography for each class’s production. The dancers chose to do the currently trending song on TikTok: “Dance With Me Tonight” by Olly Murs, along with the dance associated with the song.

11th-Grade Class Dean Meg Gayton wrote about the 100th Revels on The Roar, the faculty/staff blog, and the ways in which Revels has changed over the years. Originally, she said, “The Sword Dance was performed on May Day or Class Day. Now, the Sword Dance is a part of the Revels performance. It was most likely incorporated in the late 1960’s.” 

Every year, the Revels cast remains a secret from the entire school community until they watch the show. Only then is each role revealed to everyone. 

In her article, Ms. Gayton said that, originally, “the play opened with Harry and Timmy’s opening scene. Now, the play starts with a recitation of Susan Cooper’s poem ‘The Shortest Day,’ read by a member of the faculty or staff nominated by the junior class.”

Like the cast, the faculty member is also kept a secret to the community. Even the Juniors don’t find out who it is until the final open-dress rehearsal which takes place the day before, and is open for parents to come and watch. This year, the staff members were math teacher Melissa Palmer, who recited the poem in English as usual, and Spanish teacher Myriam Villalobos, who recited it again in Spanish, the first time that the play has opened bilingually. Ms. Palmer and Ms. Villalobos dressed as 1920’s flappers to commemorate the year of the first Revels. 

After the show, the school typically congregates in the Erisman Student Center to enjoy Tradition Cake, an Oreo ice cream cake, and listen to jokes with the Jester and Head of School Katherine Bradley. This year, the jokes happened in Bardwell right after the show ended, and Tradition Cake was served during lunch instead.  

The Jester, Megan Coveney ‘23, said, “I thought that Revels turned out really good. The day of Revels, everyone was really excited and had good energy so the show flowed really well.” She continued, “My favorite part was getting ready. Putting costumes and makeup on for pictures was really fun, and I think it bonded everyone closer together.” 

She described the process as “long and exhausting,” but remarked, “However, it was all needed in order for it to come together in our first dress rehearsal. It’s a really big tradition at Dana, and it was rewarding to have such a good show.”

After the show, the Juniors were led in the procession by the bagpipers, and we all walked out in our costumes to be greeted by teachers and members of other grades. 

Director of the Upper School Jessica Keimowitz said, “it wasn’t just good, it was great.” Mr. David Coleman, Director of Choral Music, agreed that “that was a very tight show.” Ms. Freya Maltz, Upper School Administrative Assistant, said, “it was the best I’ve seen in years.”

Throughout the long rehearsals and putting together of the show, the Juniors go through an experience that bonds us together as a class and gives us the opportunity to look back on a moment that we can all be proud of. 

Photo credit: Adam Richins Photography.

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