The Apostate
May 2023 >> Index
'Joan of Arc' by Jules Bastien-Lepage (1879)

'Joan of Arc' by Jules Bastien-Lepage (1879)

Today— May 30th— marks 592 years since Joan of Arc was burned at the stake.
In commemoration, I’d like to share this incredible painting with you, created by Jules Bastien-Lepage in 1879 (like Joan, he was also from Lorraine).
It’s striking—
Joan’s gaze, her figure framed on the right with so much space behind her— the farm and the life she is about to leave behind. And the Saints, in her family’s garden, seeing Joan off on her journey— Michael is obvious, but which of the other two is Katherine? Which is Marguerite?
I’m smitten with Joan’s outfit here, and I wonder if I will simply mention it in my play’s script as reference for the lead actor’s costume in the first scene.
But of particular fascination, the depiction of the Saints. They are embedded within the pastoral environment— it’s moving, but also— not a little eerie. Apparently, Bastien-Lepage was chastised for this, but I find it quite evocative.
I implore you to visit this page on The Met website where you can read more about the painting and also listen to a brief overview from museum personnel. I recommend clicking on the painting itself once on that page— which loads a higher-res version you can examine more closely. The textures of the brush strokes are stunning— and the power in Joan’s gaze— nothing less than mesmerizing.
Last month I mentioned the Joan of Arc movies and television programs I’ve seen to date. I’ve watched one more since then— this one presented by Hallmark.
It’s called The Lark (1957), by French playwright Jean Anouilh, directed by George Schaefer. It stars Julie Harris and Boris Karloff, reprising their Broadway roles. Warwick, played by Christopher Plummer on stage, is played here by Denholm Elliott. This television movie had a more palatable portrayal of the Dauphin than most adaptations. Eli Wallach played him as someone only pretending to be daft, so folks would leave him alone, rather than the usual earnestly foppish portrayal. The staging was minimal, which I liked, and the scene transitions— primarily using lighting and blocking— were nicely theatrical.
The Apostate— these past few weeks I’ve been rewriting Acts I and II (Domrémy to Chinon). I’ve also been looking for a contemporary song Joan could sing. I found a couple that are close, as far as being thematically compatible with my focus, but ultimately I’m just going to have to write my own song in a proper Medieval form and then translate it into Old French. The play currently also includes songs appropriate to the era in both Latin and Occitan.
Here’s a section of Joan and her brother Pierre entering Vaucouleurs. This early draft includes an anachronistic phrase I will have to replace: the idiom “stake our claim” was in use about 400 years after these events, so this macabre and punny joke will need tweaking. Still not sure how much humor I want to include. Though the story is dark, I feel at the onset humor could be used as an appropriate slope into later events. We'll see how it develops in further drafts.
Meyer, The Apostate

work-in-progress sample from scene three

Next month— going to leave the play in Chinon, something of a natural break as I return to working on the audio drama All Praise the Ikon and a sci-fi novel.
Oh— during my research into cultural depictions of Joan, I found this— Katharine Hepburn as Joan of Arc in Technicolor Screen Test (1934).
A Technicolor Joan— imagine. Read the video description on YouTube for more historical context on both Hepburn and Technicolor. This test was for an abandoned movie version of the Shaw play (though the same play was adapted twenty-three years later by Graham Greene for Otto Preminger).