Friday, May 20, 2011

The Maid of Orleans

We saw a production of The Maid of Orleans, Friedrich Schiller's play, in a production by Strangeloop Theatre.

I'm a Schiller fan, having studied and read all his plays more than once, but I hardly ever get to see them on stage. I've seen his Mary Stuart on stage 3 times, but other than that, nothing - until tonight. His plays don't get performed much in this country. Well, they survive in America mostly as adapted for opera.

In Germany it's different. I spoke with one of the actresses from tonight's performance, the charming Geraldine Dulex, who hails from Switzerland, and she assured me that in Germany The Maid of Orleans is produced regularly.

So you may be wondering - is this a play about a maid who comes to clean the house? No. It's a play about Joan of Arc. It's actually the work that revived her reputation in Europe. And it is the source of the great quotation, "Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain."

The play very much depends upon the quality of the actress playing Joan, who must convincingly project inspiring charisma. Letitia Guillaud did a great job at that. The production overall was done inexpensively, but was creatively directed and well acted all around. The spirit of the piece shone through. The plot zips along, with high conflict, soaring poetry, and tender moments.

Schiller was on Ayn Rand's short list of top Romantic dramatists, and that quality is on display here. His Joan is a highly romanticized character, a strong and dedicated heroine pursuing her values, struggling to overcome the odds, struggling to overcome her own internal conflicts, and even when she faces her end she is emotionally victorious.

Joan had a brilliant vision
of militant collision
and chased the English out
in a most embarrassing rout.

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