What is Revels?

REVELS is all about creating community, about forging and reinforcing bonds that tie people together, counteracting the forces of ethnic and economic diversity that tend to pull us apart. Revels nurtures communality by staging performances and promoting events that recognize and celebrate seasonal change: everyone everywhere experiences the various seasons and the cycles of life. From ancient times—from the Druids at Stonehenge to the Incas of Machu Picchu—peoples have solemnly marked the solstices and equinoxes, have greeted spring’s new growth with delight and have dreaded winter’s loss of light. They have noted these changes with rituals and ceremonies passed down through the ages. Revels honors and preserves these traditions.

Santa Barbara Revels is the newest of ten Revels companies established nation-wide; the first began in Cambridge, Massachusetts, over 40 years ago. Revels is not an easily definable performing arts entity, but each new company has found its audience and become a tradition in its community. The success of Revels in cities and towns of varying sizes and locales stands as a testament to its broad appeal, and it inspires our efforts to articulate the Revels essence accurately and authentically.

The primary presentation of each Revels company is The Christmas Revels: in Celebration of the Winter Solstice, a fully staged, elaborately costumed, full-length theatrical production that changes scripts, themes, and traditions from year to year. Uniquely, these performances include multiple elements—music, dance, and drama, as well as story-telling and seasonal rituals—that combine with the special Revels hallmark of audience participation: getting people out of their seats to sing and dance. The National Endowment for the Arts called Revels a new form of musical theater. Charles Donelan of the Santa Barbara Independent described our production as “educational, traditional and simply fun.” We concur with Josef Woodard of the Santa Barbara News-Press, who said “[Revels] is best experienced as an ‘experience’, live and onstage and spilling into the audience.” We couldn’t agree more with Donelan’s conclusion that “Revels creates just the kind of holiday spirit that bypasses the commercial and heads straight to the heart of the season.”

Purposefully, our Revels casts are intergenerational, non-denominational and multi-ethnic; it is particularly important for us that—in a city like Santa Barbara—those who are onstage reflect and represent our community at large. Our cast of almost 70 actors, singers, dancers, and instrumentalists combines select volunteers with seasoned professionals, and the two groups inform and energize each other, to create moving drama, music of the highest caliber, and an atmosphere of magic and mystery.

After winning a Santa Barbara Independent Indy Award in 2011 for excellence in theatrical production, Santa Barbara Revels is looking forward to our upcoming annual presentation of The Christmas Revels, now at the Lobero Theatre. Our move downtown—to a beloved, historic theatre —represented an important step in the growth and development of our company. In addition to our December performances, we always host a Pub Sing in March to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and the spring equinox, and we stage a May Day event, complete with singing and dancing around the May pole. Future events planned include: Revels Salons, which give our audience an opportunity to come together, converse with each other, and learn from a tradition-bearer in music, dance, or drama; and Community Sings, which will provide another opportunity to join together in song and communal spirit. Santa Barbara’s interest in and need for such celebratory community activities are abundantly clear to us.

We invite you to become a Revels volunteer, to keep this “worthy contender” (Woodard) in place as one of our town’s annual holiday traditions. We urge you to come to a performance this December, to enjoy the “family-suitable revelry” (Woodard) that we present. We encourage you to get in touch, to ask questions, and to check out the web sites of our Revels sister companies. Whatever you choose to do, remember what we always love to say:


— Susan Keller, Artistic Director, Santa Barbara Revels

© Santa Barbara Revels   ·   805-565-9357
Susan Keller, Founder/Artistic Director