Inspired by the life and death and sainthood of Joan, George Bernard Shaw, in 1924, published his play titled Saint Joan. Perhaps this was Shawâ€™s only tragic play â€“ yet a tragedy without any villains. And through the years this play has mesmerized audiences as enacted by numerous theatre companies all over the world.
Diogenes Theatre, the relatively new company who has already marked its bold presence inÂ its production of Bibi and a few other plays, is now set to bring it to the stage here in the vibrant theatrical city of Cincinnati. Saint Joan has a colorful cast with one of the most talented actorsÂ in Cincinnati, Sara Clark, as the lead. According to Sara, enacting this character is as interesting as doingÂ Hamlet, if not more. Sara finds the saint in this play a complete â€œhumanâ€ who is also “humanly flawedâ€. Despite Saraâ€™s forte in enacting Shakespeare on a regular basisÂ she feels challenged in this role. â€œShakespeare is easy,â€, SaraÂ stated candidly during a recent interview aboutÂ portraying Joan of Arc.
The director of Saint Joan, Lindsey Augusta Mercer, finds contemporary relevance in this play â€“ the story of which took place nearly six hundred years ago and was written about a century ago. Ms. Mercer says, â€œLook around and you are still going to find all kinds of injustices against women. Look at Hillary Clintonâ€™s campaign and what she has to fight against.â€ Lindsey is fascinated to be able to direct this play for three particular reasons, â€œShaw, feminism and Sara.â€ According to the director of the play, it is a â€œsoulful play with intellect.â€
Both the director and the lead character are very excited to welcome the audience to this historical as well as humanitarian play. As we were about to conclude the interview, Lindsey invited the audience in advance â€œto come prepared to be includedâ€ in the play because the theatre has been altered and the play would be presented in an arena setting, where the audience would be sitting in aÂ circle, and the actors would enter and exit from all sides right through theÂ seats, appearing almost from within them. And the witty Sara Clark with her charming smile and crisp utterance of every word whispered the following suggestionÂ for the audience: â€œhave a good meal, a cup of tea and peeâ€ before entering the auditorium, because you will be there for a while andÂ be enchanted by the great spirit of Saint Joan. And I would add, also by Sara Clark and the team that includes Billy Chace, Geoffrey Barnes, Patrick Phillips, Jared Earland, Nicole Smith and Rory Sheridan. Behind the scenes, lighting design is being done by Alan Kleesattel, costume design by Amanda McGee, sound design by Doug Borntrager and set design by Sarah Beth Hall. Brian Isaac Phillips, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s Producing Artistic Director serves as a special consultant on the production, as I was toldÂ by the company manager and stage manager for this play, (and a very talented actor himself) Justin McCombs.
Saint Joan opens at Diogenes on February 18th at the Fift Third Bak theatre of the Aranoff Center. There are seven performances scheduled through March 5th with two matinees at 2PM on Sundays. Tickets can be purchased at www.cincinnatiarts.org or www.diogenestheatrecompany.com