Reveling in Tradition

Revels 2017I joined the Dana Hall community last year as the Student Affairs Associate and 11th Grade Class Dean. Having worked at another New England independent school for many years before coming to Dana, I was well aware that in a private school environment a job title does little to explain the variety of a faculty member’s responsibilities and roles.  I believe that at my former school, “duties as assigned” was listed as one of my job responsibilities. The wearing of many (and sometimes new) hats is what has kept me in independent schools; I appreciate the novelty it offers. So, I reacted with amusement when in an early meeting to discuss my class dean responsibilities, I was asked, “Do you happen to have any performing arts experience?” With vague speculation about where the conversation was headed, I responded, “Yes, I do,” which elicited, “That’s great because you’ll be co-directing Revels; it’s a junior class tradition!”

Over the course of the next few months, discussions of Revels would include statements like, “The girls in the Mummers’ Play have decided on a Hannah Montana theme” and “We’ll recess behind the bagpipers over to the Dining Center for tradition cake.” I was asked questions like, “Can you pick up a king’s sceptre when you’re running errands today?” and “Do you have a medieval dress to wear at Revels?” You know, the normal things that one usually hears at the office.

Without a complete understanding of what Revels was, I plunged into preparations for the performance. I was doubtful—and also slightly panicky—when I learned that the junior class would pull the performance together in two weeks’ time. All of my skepticism and worry faded, however, on the day of the Revels. Not only did the students pull the performance off with poise and competence, but also, I realized, it wouldn’t have mattered if there had been missed lines or skipped lighting cues. Revels is a celebration of community, of light and joy, of the end of the calendar year (and of the beginning of a well-earned break). As a tradition, it honors the past and looks to the future, which is fitting for a play that is set on, and whose performance coincides (roughly) with, the Winter Solstice. Last year, as I followed the bagpipers over to the Dining Center after the performance, I realized that all of the aspects of Revels that weeks earlier seemed mysterious and baffling to me now made sense. The play itself is a conduit for celebration.

Next Thursday, the Dana Hall community will gather in Bardwell to watch the Class of 2020’s Revels production. The seniors may be making comparisons to their version; younger classes may begin thinking about what it will be like to take the stage as juniors. But everyone will feel the magic and joy of the tradition. The opening lines of the narrator will, as they always have, set the scene: the shortest day; the want for light; the feasting, caroling, and hoping for peace. And with these words he will be describing not only the medieval setting of Revels but also the Dana Hall community.  Welcome Yule!

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About Rebecca Pressman

Rebecca Pressman is the Student Affairs Associate, 11th Grade Dean, and an English Teacher. She joined the school in 2017.

5 Replies to “Reveling in Tradition”

  1. Becca,
    It’s been years since I’ve been involved with Revels planning and rehearsing, but you reminded me of how much joy, energy, and love goes into the process– from the girls and the adults involved. You gave me goosebumps with your snippet of the opening narrator’s lines; I can’t wait to hear them live next week!

  2. Becca,
    Your reflections helped me (and, I trust, many others) to remember the true goals of Revels – to connect to traditions and to celebrate our community with joy. My wizard costume is ready for next week, and I’m gearing up for tradition cake! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and for shepherding this group of 11th graders through the process of producing their own take on the Revels tradition.

  3. Becca, What I love most about this reflection is that your words express the humor (and, yes, silliness), seriousness of purpose (that sceptre is important!), and dedication that I most value in my colleagues at Dana Hall. The class deans are a particularly special crew, as they help bring these traditions to life. And these traditions highlight generations of fun, silliness, community and love… things that make Dana Hall such a special place. Thank you for all you do to support our students!

  4. Becca, thank you for sharing how the wearing of many hats in an independent boarding school community can bring such happy surprises. Can’t wait for Revels on Thursday!

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