Friday night, I went to Revels with my mom. I had basically zero expectation, but I actually enjoyed it a lot.
It opens with an excerpt from "Black Elk Speaks" -- "Black Elk's Vision," about Black Elk's vision of the Tree of Life (I thought of Revelation, of course). At one point he's tending the [invisible] tree and a little white boy asks him what he's doing and he tells him and asks the boy, "Do you see the tree?" and the little white boy says no, and Black Elk says something like, "Well I guess I'll have to try harder," which I found so powerful (hi, I am a child of CWM, where we are so about embodying God's Kindom here on Earth).
At one point, a little girls asks him what his people do in the winter, and he tells her that they gather together inside and tell stories. She says something like, "We do that, too. I like stories," and I almost cried. Though I almost-cry like all the freaking time these days.
I was a little disturbed by the representation of Native people/culture. In part because when they were in groups they were usually (a) in full-body costumes that hide their faces, which felt a little dehumanizing/Othering to me (though it also meant I didn't have the visual squick of White people playing Native Americans) and (b) felt like an interlude passing through, without real connection either to the other characters on the stage or to the narrative as a whole.
And after a point at which Black Elk is lamenting that the Tree is withering, he sees white kids finishing a Tree of Life quilt and asks them the story of it, and they tell a weird folk tale about pregnant!Mary and a cherry tree, and most of the rest of the Second Act is Christmas music. I mean, I know it's called "The Christmas Revels" (the "In Celebration of the Winter Solstice" subtitle notwithstanding) but I felt a little bit like the subtext was, "The Tree of Life is Jesus Christ -- Native Americans couldn't keep that Tree alive; it takes Christ[ianity] to make that happen." I mean, I do think in some ways that the story of Jesus Christ is The Greatest Story Ever Told -- that God incarnated, enfleshed God's self, dwelt among us amidst the marginalized people, proclaimed an open and abundant table to all, endured death and triumphed over IT, resurrecting in body and spirit, promising the same (present and future) hope for us -- Christ stands between us and the powers of darkness, assures us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. But at the same time, it feels problematic to me to imply "our story is the culmination of your story."
There were a bunch of parts where we sang along (the last song before Intermission was "Lord of the Dance," and we sang the chorus, and as they exited into the atrium, they brought the people sitting in the front rows with them, dancing). The guy leading us in that, as he had us practice, said: "I love harmony. There are no wrong notes, just poor choices in the moment. And then we move on to the next moment, with new choices."
5 months ago