Whitworth Theatre presents the heroic, yet tragic tale of Joan of Arc

By Caleb McGever | Staff Writer

The cast St. Joan during dress rehearsal at Cowles Auditorium, Whitworth University, Monday, March 6, 2023 in Spokane, Wash. Caleb Flegel/The Whitworthian

From the weekend of March 10-12 and March 17-19, the Whitworth Theatre will present the play “Saint Joan,” which details the bravery and faith of Joan of Arc. Written by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, “Saint Joan” covers the people and events that surrounded the final years of Joan of Arc’s life before her martyrdom in 1431.  

The play begins in 1429 with seventeen-year-old Joan receiving a divine message from the voices of Saint Margaret and Saint Catherine. Joan believed that these voices were telling her to lift the Siege of Orleans. After disguising herself as a man, the History Channel states that Joan successfully led French forces to victory against the English on May 8, 1429. 

The story wrestles with balancing good intentions and harmful results, as evidenced by Joan’s military prowess leading to her execution. Michael Holroyd, a writer for “The Guardian,” said it best when he wrote that, “Saint Joan is a tragedy without villains, for everyone, in some way or another, believes he or she is acting for the good.” 

Whitworth brought in guest director Brian Tyrrell for this production. According to “The Chronicle,” Tyrrell taught, directed and produced theatre productions at Centralia College for 25 years. In total, he has directed over 100 academic productions. 

“It’s an amazing story that I think is perfect for Whitworth University,” Tyrrell said. “In a setting that is built around faith. . . where we pursue faith as rigorously as we pursue the truth, this play does both of those things. It pursues one sense of faith and the sense of truth at the same time.” 

Tyrrell believes the relevance of the play extends beyond its historical time period.  

“For a 2023 audience, I think you’ll not only get a history lesson, but I think you’ll find, as all good theater does, a sense of relevance that is somewhat eye-opening,” he said. “You may find yourself saying, ‘oh my goodness, the struggle between the liturgical world, the religious world and the secular world is still going on today. And there are still people who are trying to convince you and connive you into believing their point of view.” 

In addition to wrestling with balancing faith and reason, the play also works to recognize the way humans relate to one another as they grow and evolve. “Everyone has a story,” said Fiona Beattie, one of the two actresses portraying the character Joan. “I’m really glad that even a show that was written 100 years ago is still so relevant and I can be a part of that.” 

Beattie and Sydney Anderson will alternate playing the role of Joan, providing a unique artistic flare to each of Whitworth’s performances of “Saint Joan.” 

Tyrrell offered a final thought for the audience. “As the saying goes, ‘history keeps repeating itself,’” he said. “I think it will be very evident to our audience that we seem to have come a long way. And then the question is, or have we?” 

“Saint Joan” will show in Cowles Auditorium on March 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. and March 12 and 19 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door, or by following the link here

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