Given its occurrence nearly 600 years ago, Joan’s arc – from peasant to war heroine in men’s clothing and ultimately religious martyr – is oft-recounted at a macro level, as told in Luc Besson’s 1994 film The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.
But what if you were Isabelle and Jacques Arc, Joan’s mom and dad and, like many parents, you just wanted your daughter to be OK in the world?
That’s the lens through which playwright Jane Anderson explores Joan of Arc in Mother of the Maid at the Marin Theatre Company through Dec. 15. It’s a gripping tale that begins in the bucolic fields of 15th century Domrémy in northeast France and ends with the horror of parents knowing that their daughter’s fate is out of their control.
“Mother of the Maid is one of those rare plays that gets to the heart of what it is to have a child and know they are extraordinary, yet struggle to understand that child,” MTC Artistic Director Jasson Minadakis, who directed MTC’s Mother of the Maid, said prior to the play’s opening on Nov. 19. “Many caregivers will be able to relate to what it means for Isabelle and Jacques Arc to have a child who they can’t quite understand, but whom they know they need to support; even when that support may put their child’s life in danger.”
And in the retelling by Anderson, a part-time Marin resident and an Emmy award-winning writer and director for theatre, film and television whose credits include The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio, and HBO’s Olive Kitteridge, the story goes beyond the Arc family’s tribulations. Anderson’s portrayal on the Arc family was influenced by Anderson’s own young life as a gay girl in the Bay Area, and how difficult it was for her own mother to understand her at that time, according to MTC Artistic Producer Trevor Scott Floyd.
Mother of the Maid’s closing series of scenes marks the transition of Isabelle and Jacques Arc from parents baffled by their daughter’s choices to being awed by her storied rise. “I raised an extraordinary young woman,” Isabel Arc says.
But before long, the parents are faced with the dreadful discovery of the desperate, squalid conditions the English kept Joan in before her demise. In her final visit with Joan, a distraught Isabel says it all: “I just want to know how she was!”