creating community through celebration

In Memoriam, Lisby Mayer - contd.

Lisby did not confine her energies to the annual Yuletide show. She also produced a series of instructional videos featuring Jack Langstaff’s musical pedagogy, a volume of essays, appropriately titled “About Revels”, a popular CD “Christmas in an Irish Castle”, and was active in developing outreach programs to encourage the participation of people from all backgrounds in the Revels experience.

Above all, Lisby was great at capturing and expressing the unique sense of community that is at the heart of Revels. Her quality of commitment and excitement was infectious.

And so, California Revels will continue to grow and move on. But though we will find ways to do the work and continue the celebration, we will never find a way to replace our founding spirit, Lisby Mayer.

By Jim Herron Zamora, Chronicle Staff Writer, January 6, 2005

Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer, a UC Berkeley psychology professor and researcher who in 2003 drew acclaim for her theory to explain seemingly unrelated coincidences, died New Year's Day. She was 57.

Professor Mayer died in her sleep at her parents' home in Hanover, N.H., of complications from intestinal scleroderma, a rare disease she battled for about 15 years.

To many Bay Area residents, she may be best known for her work with California Revels, a theater group where she served as artistic director. The group puts on a series of shows every year just before Christmas at Oakland's Scottish Rite Temple celebrating the holiday season with song, dance and skits incorporating traditions from around the world.

Professor Mayer drew international attention in 2003 when she introduced “coincidence theory,” a conceptual model to explain seemingly inexplicable events scientifically. The New York Times magazine hailed her theory as one of the “most exciting” new ideas for 2003.

At the time of her death, she was just finishing a book titled “Extraordinary Ways of Knowing: Making Sense of the Inexplicable in Everyday Life.”

She became interested in coincidence in 1991 when she was searching for a stolen family possession, according to published reports. On a dare, Professor Mayer sought the aid of a self-described psychic who lived 800 miles away. The man was able to tell her precisely where to find the missing object. Professor Mayer began more than a decade of research seeking a scientific explanation for what had occurred.

She began working with Robert G. Jahn, a science and engineering professor at Princeton University, who published an article exploring similar territory in 2001. In their view, the unconscious mind absorbs bits of information that rise into awareness producing the phenomenon commonly called clairvoyance. At the same time, the unconscious may be able to alter the physical world.

Professor Mayer, known to her friends and loved ones as “Lisby,” was born in New York City in 1947. After graduating from Radcliffe College in 1969, she received her doctorate from Stanford in 1974. She then graduated from San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute in 1984, where she subsequently became a supervising analyst.

While doing research, maintaining a clinical practice and raising two children, Professor Mayer also found time to become heavily involved in California Revels in the 1980s.

A contralto with a long-standing interest in traditional folk and classical music, she helped bring Revels performances to the Bay Area in 1985 with John Langstaff, who founded the first Revels in New York in 1956. She served as artistic director of the California Revels since 1988. Last year, she compared her research on coincidence with what happens on stage.

“My work with Revels is about what happens when you put the power of just those same connections on stage, harnessing all the magic of the performing arts,” she said on the Revels Web site.

Professor Mayer is survived by her parents, David and Pamela Mayer of Hanover, N.H.; her sisters, Rebecca Mayer of Rehoboth, Mass., and Anneke Mayer of Dragoon, Ariz.; her brother, Michael Mayer of Washington, D.C.; and her daughters, Meg Renik of San Francisco and Byrdie Renik of New York City.

A Memorial Service was held Sunday, February 27, 2005 at The Herbst Theater in San Francisco.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions in her name be sent to California Revels, 337 17th St., Suite 207, Oakland, CA 94612.