Lab Notes          AOEA PO Box 5646 Arlington, VA 22205


  Dec 2015
Washington Revels
Dec 12 & 13

Many of you may know about Washington Revels, a nonprofit performing arts community that  stages celebrations of traditional music, dance and drama from different cultures and time periods. For 33 years their flagship production has been  The Christmas Revels - a big, festive celebration of the Winter Solstice seen by over 10,000 adults and kids each December -  at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium in downtown DC. I've attended many times and really enjoyed it.

In recognition of the theme of this year's show - humanity's relationship to the natural world - Revels is offering  AOEA and other organizations with nature-based missions a 10% discount on all tickets for any evening performance this weekend:  Saturday, 12/12 at 7:30pm; and Sunday, 12/13 at 5pm. 

You will find  a one-page description of The Christmas Revels and this show in particular; and a short article entitled "Revels and the Natural World" which addresses the tie-in with organizations with nature-based missions. To buy tickets, visit, click on "Buy Tickets Online" and follow the prompts. On the payment page, enter AOEA10% into the Discount/Promotional Code box.
Michael Nardolilli
Arlington Outdoor Education Association

More than any of our previous 32 Christmas Revels productions, this year's celebration of the Winter Solstice invites all participants to think more deeply about their own relationship, and ultimately all humanity's relationship, with the natural world.
Revels and the natural world are hardly strangers. Most of our 32 Christmas Revels productions have been situated in places and times where people interacted daily and closely with the natural world. Our May Revels celebrates the greening and flowering of the earth in Spring after the long "death" of Winter. Our after-school workshops explore how people down through the ages have dealt with the seasons in music, dance and stories. In many respects one might say that the natural world, and humanity's relationship to it, lie at the very core of Revels.
This year's show, however, looks at that relationship differently than most. Most Christmas Revels productions explore the Winter Solstice traditions of a particular culture or several related cultures - sometimes as many as five or six as in our Nordic and Roma (Gypsy) shows. This show does not focus on any particular culture(s). Its time is loosely "medieval," a period that covers over 700 years, and the place is ambiguous - it might be England, but it could be somewhere else in Europe.
Time and place are not as relevant because this show is not rooted in a particular historical event or period - in contrast, for example, to last year's context of Ireland's Great Famine and the accompanying Irish emigration to America. This year's costumes cover a range of approximately 150 years, from about 1250 to 1400, when clothing styles were largely similar over much of northern Europe. The music is mostly medieval, but not necessarily from a single country or region.
Instead, the direct context of this show is mankind and its relationship to the natural world. It starts with the set: we do not find ourselves inside the protection of castle walls; this is a partial castle, either in the process of construction or perhaps the deconstruction of time and age - we never know for sure. The surrounding forest is intertwined with it.
The forest inhabitants are intertwined as well. The Woodland Queen and her court have been invited to attend the King's celebration of a good year marked by a bountiful harvest and peace in the kingdom. The royals and townfolk are not certain what to make of these guests, who neither look nor act like them. There is a hint of supernatural or at least special powers or attributes of some sort.
At the very least, they manifest a deeper integration with the surrounding natural world. This is evident partly in their dress and masks, but also in their responses to events. When the uninvited and mysterious guest of winter appears, the royals and villagers draw back, while the woodland people appear to recognize, welcome and even honor him. When the King confronts and attempts to repel the stranger, and is vanquished, the King's subjects are in disarray - they have never seen him defeated. The woodland folk appear to accept as inevitable that no man can hope to vanquish the forces of nature.
When the King ultimately emerges from his ordeal, we see him visibly transformed (I won't give away how), and, in concert with the Queen, reconciled to a more holistic relationship with nature. So transformed, we sense that this newly fashioned King is less likely to try to bend nature to his will in the future.
This particular show, we say, "straddles the majestic and mythical realms." As so often with myth, the mythical elements are symbolic. Revels doesn't preach, and the show is fun, festive and colorful, with lots of audience participation - features common to all Christmas Revels productions. Yet the message within remains.


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Lab 50th Anniversary - 2017 

WOW - the 50th year anniversary of the Lab will be here soon 2017!  The AOEA Board has been discussing how to celebrate the "golden anniversary" of the Lab.  We are looking to document the oral history of the Lab - particularly from members who may have been involved in the early days of the Lab.  We are also looking for volunteers who could assist with helping us interview/record/edit this history.  If you would like to contribute to the project or know someone who we should interview - contact us through our e-mail at  


An important part of our operating costs come from individual and family members.  Contributions can be sent to AOEA PO Box 5646, Arlington, VA   22205.  Thanks to our members and contributors who have allowed us to provide an opportunity for outdoor education for thousands of Arlington Public School students since 1967!  




President:          Mike Nardolilli
Treasurer:           Maureen McManus
Secretary:           Anita Scott

Committee Chairpersons

Facilities & Maint.:  Bob Schrider 
Fundraising             Ron Oleynik
Outreach:               Judy Collins
Newsletter:             Todd Parker

Other Board Members:  Mary Ann Penning,
Paul Diehl,Carol Goodloe,  Felix Herrera,
Paula  Wolferseder Yabar

Todd Parker
Outdoor Lab
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