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A few years ago I began writing a new musical (the first one was Here Lies Love, about Imelda Marcos). This one is about Joan of Arc, the teenage warrior who reinvigorated a disheartened army, and whose martyrdom led to the liberation of France from almost 100 years of English rule.
My friends at the Webb Gallery in Waxahatchie, TX sent me the picture above of this tattoo by Jackie Dunn Smith. Obviously, Joan continues to resonate. Her imagery pops up everywhere.
I started collecting pictures of Grimes, Madonna, Kate Bush, Sinèad O’Connor, on and on—popular musicians are obsessed with her. This trend inspired the premise for the show: a pop star decides to give in to the Joan obsession and tell her epic story in concert.
Early on I played a few of the songs for director Alex Timbers. I wasn’t pitching the project yet, but Alex said “I really like these—they might be better than Here Lies Love.” He might have been flattering me, but eventually I did ask him, “Alex, do you want to work on this together?”
The Public Theater came on board after Oskar Eustis heard the material. A huge thanks to them for once again giving a project of mine a home. Another huge thanks goes out to our producer Hal Luftig for sharing in the vision of this show. We’ve had some amazing workshops… some songs were cut, some were tweaked and new ones written. It’s a process getting songs to tell a story clearly.
The music is very different from Here Lies Love. This is a girl who heard voices from God and Saints, who led an army to victory, who was betrayed but held tightly to her beliefs, and in the end was burnt alive for doing so. The music has to capture her belief, her intense love of God, her fearlessness in battle and the inevitable forces that bring her down. It’s anthemic, moody and deeply emotional. But who am I to say? You be the judge.