Faith, Politics, and Joan of Arc

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - 1:00pm - Sunday, February 18, 2007 - 3:00pm
Event Location: 
University Theatre

Joan of Arc (Yvonne Maendel) and Cauchon (Tyson Trachsel). Uncompromising faith, charismatic leadership, political compromise and betrayal were all part of the life of Joan of Arc and The Lark by Jean Anouilh, the third mainstage production of the Department of Theatre and Dramatic Arts at the University Theatre Feb. 13 to 17 at 8 pm. The play, which covers the trial, condemnation, and execution of Joan of Arc, has a highly unusual ending. Joan recalls important events in her life as she is questioned and subsequently condemned to death. The play, an interesting mix of historical fact and quasi-dream sequences, is told from two viewpoints' as a piece of history where those who wished to vanquish Joan unwittingly created a martyr who became a symbol of courage and faith, and Joan's own perspective about all that was happening. "The Lark is a beautifully written play. The language is at once powerful and rich and delicate and precise. It is a highly moving piece with an abundance of the nuance that makes for highly effective dramatic moments" says Director Brian Parkinson. "It is ultimately about betrayal -- about collaboration and the ethics and morality of right and wrong and political expediency. Joan was willing to give her life for Charles VII but once she had secured for him the French crown, he effectively 'sold' her to the English and washed his hands of her." Jean Anouilh's motivation for writing the play was the specter, during World War II, of Vichy France's collaboration with Germany. "Anouilh saw startling parallels between the events in occupied France and the betrayal of Joan of Arc by her King. In both cases there was a disturbing willingness to trade souls and ideals for peace," says Parkinson. Parkinson is fascinated by the multi-faceted Joan of Arc. "Was she simply guided by faith? Or was she an inspired and astute political manipulator with an innate genius for the battlefield? Or was she truly guided by her faith and an unseen hand? Imagine, a 17-year-old peasant girl in the early 1400s with no education, no status, and no military training manages to convince the uncrowned French King Charles VII to give her his army, which she then leads to victory over the British forces." Joan undertook this seemingly impossible task based on instructions from heavenly "Voices," which told her to rescue her homeland from the British. Historically, the course of events is quite stunning. "You have to admire the strength of Joan's convictions, her uncompromising faith, her unrelenting commitment, and all that she accomplished in a very, very short time" says Parkinson. This is a challenging play to stage and this production has not been set in the traditional time-frame of 1430. It has been placed out of time because what happens in the play could happen at any time or place. The cast is large with 35 actors. At the centre of the story is the triangular relationship of church, state and the individual in the form of three characters the French Bishop Cauchon, portrayed by dramatic arts major Tyson Trachsel; the English Earl, Warwick played by Scott Williams (BFA/BEd '05); and Joan of Arc played by dramatic arts major Yvonne Maendel. "The role of Joan is surely one of the most challenging female roles in the theatre," says Parkinson. The title of the play comes from Warwick's comments about Joan. "The girl was a lark in the skies of France, high over the heads of her soldiers, singing a joyous, crazy song of courage. There she was, outlined against the sun, a target for everybody to shoot at, flying straight and happy into battle." Tickets are $15 regular and $9 student/senior at the U of L Box Office 329-2616. The complimentary shuttle bus transports concertgoers from the north parking lot to the theatre entrance.