To some extent, we have all heard some parts of the story of Joan of Arc: the bold teenage girl living in 15th century France, who claimed to hear the voices of angels and saints telling her God’s will. Her faith brought her so much confidence that she became a soldier who led the armies of powerful world leaders, but she was accused of being a heretic and a witch, brought to trial, and was sentenced to be burned at the stake. But we haven’t seen Joan quite like we do in Manhattan Theatre Club‘s new Broadway production of Bernard Shaw‘s Saint Joan starring Condola Rashad.
Rashad brings Joan to life in a way that spotlights her self-assurance and bravery, no matter what is going on around her. In the production, we meet Joan as others do: through the nobility she interacts with, the soldiers she inspires, and the history-making battles she wins. We see her eyes sparkle as she talks about her ambitions, and the way even kings and bishops are enamored by her faith in God’s plan for her.
As Joan’s prayers work miracles around her, she earns the trust and following of major political players throughout her country. And when the voices in her head lead her to effective military strategies, she shows much success in her achievements. But soon, the political and religious leaders once captivated by her become threatened by her influence and sway — and stop at nothing to prove her guilty of heresy with no chance of redemption.
It’s hardly a spoiler to say that Joan’s trial ends with a fiery execution. After all, her horrible demise is a famous one throughout history. But it’s not where the play ends. Without giving too much away, audiences get a creative look at what happens after Joan’s passing, when her family steps in to fight for justice and the Church has to take a careful look at their corruption and posthumously declare her innocence.
In 1923, this play’s original production was exciting and timely because Joan had been canonized a saint just three years prior: yes, it was four whole centuries after her death when the Church to formally recognized her actions as miracles. But in 2018, the show feels modern and relevant once again. For keeping history alive, of course, but because we can also relate to a teenage girl today rising up and inspiring masses — but get caught in a controversial story woven into the complicated tangles of the justice system. Or, be torn between her loyalties to her country, her faith, and her personal responsibilities.
There will never be a moment in time when Joan’s story of heroism feels outdated, but this show is your perfect chance to catch a hot new interpretation.
If you go, Saint Joan is playing in preview from now until April 25, and then will run until June 10, 2018 at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater at 261 West 47th Street in New York City. Tickets are available for purchase at the box office and through Telecharge.
Hear more from Condola Rashad and director Daniel Sullivan in the show’s behind-the-scenes video below.