Grad students co-produce well-known story of heroism with time period twist

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April 4, 2014
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April 4, 2014

Grad students co-produce well-known story of heroism with time period twist

Diana Little rehearses her role as the lead in Joan of Arc; she is co-producing the play alongside grad student Johnathan Schofield. Photo: Amanda Ross

Imagine being completely in charge of producing a play, a task that includes securing a venue, selecting the play’s script and cast, designing all the set pieces and costumes,  and raising your own funds through marketing strategies.

Second year theatre arts graduate students, Johnathan Schofield and Diana Little are doing all that and more for their final thesis project: co-producing the play Joan of Arc.

“We get kicked out of the nest,” Schofield said, “and have to go and fly on our own.”

Little said the whole process, although challenging, is good because they learn the business aspect of theatre.

According to Schofield, the idea of the project is to go out into the community, connect with a local audience and express your worldview through your art.

For their project, Schofield said he and Little chose a more obscure script of Joan of Arc, written by Jane Alice Sargant in 1840. According to Little, because of its older published date, the play is considered public domain, meaning anyone can use the play without having to pay copyright fees. Schofield said he has also adapted the play to fit modern audiences by shortening it and simplifying some of the lines, which are written in Elizabethan iambic pentameter.

Besides working as co-producers, Little said she and Schofield have to take on major roles in the play. Schofield himself became director because, he said, he has always wanted the opportunity to direct a large-scale production. He said he loves seeing all the pieces come together “like a well-oiled machine.”

As director, Schofield feels he’s taken a creative, non-traditional approach to the story of Joan of Arc. He said his costume designer describes the look of the show as “Steam-Edith,” as in the character from the BBC show Downton Abbey, because the play has a modern flair as well as some eighteenth-century Victorian influences. He said the upcoming 100th anniversary of World War I was one of his greatest inspirations for the design.

“We’ve created our own kind of world,” Schofield said.

He added that the purpose of combining the classical text with a more recent period in history is to help a modern audience connect the old Shakespearean language to something more familiar.

Schofield said that Little, as a performance studies undergrad, decided to take a thesis-level performance role playing the lead, Joan of Arc.

Schofield said he has enjoyed working with Little. “She’s bringing a very committed level of professionalism to the role [of] Joan,” he said.

Little said she has done a lot of research on Joan as a historical character to better understand her and the world in which she lived. And Little said she’s enjoyed having a role where she, as a female, leads men into battle. “It’s really exciting, because she is a woman in a man’s world,” Little said.

Schofield described the play as a kind of historical thriller with a bit of a love story in the background.  Little said the love story allows the audience to see a more human side to Joan, not just the brave warrior.

Both Schofield and Little said they love the cast, and Schofield described the 15 actors as exceptional. He said a couple of cast members are alumni from town, and the rest are BJU students. He said although they all have varying degrees of acting experience, they work well together as a team.

According to Little, everyone in the cast has great chemistry and has been working hard to make this production a success.

She also said that Schofield has been a great director, encouraging the cast to do their best and listening to their input.

“He has a great vision for the play,” Little said. “I think part of the reason we’ve bonded so well as a cast is because of his direction.”

She added that his excitement about the play radiates to the rest of the cast, as well.

The play’s off-campus venue is an old converted auto-body shop owned by the First Presbyterian Church of Greenville. The theater, which seats about 180 people, is located at the corner of Academy and Washington Streets in downtown Greenville.

Joan of Arc will be performed April 7 through 12. Tickets can be purchased on the website joanofarcplay.com or at the door.