The creation of a play is a testament to the power of collaboration, creativity, and resilience. This is particularly true for Saint Joan of Arc, an original play conceived and produced through a unique collaboration between Prison Performing Arts (PPA) and Saint Louis University's Theatre & Dance Program.
In the fall of 2019, Lucy Cashion, Associate Professor and Director of the Theatre & Dance Program at SLU, and Rachel Tibbetts, Artistic Director of PPA, co-taught a playwriting workshop at the Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic, and Correctional Center (WERDCC). The workshop, focusing on Joan of Arc, was attended by twenty-eight women at WERDCC. SLU Theatre Major Emma Glose accompanied Cashion and Tibbetts, while Cashion simultaneously conducted an Independent Study with several SLU Theatre students. These students studied the same materials as the workshop participants and began shaping these materials into a play.
Cashion assembled a cast and creative team at SLU to create a new theatrical adaptation of the story of Joan of Arc. The team curated the writings generated from the WERDCC workshops and combined them with selections from various other artistic interpretations of Joan of Arc. Several SLU students also generated additional, original text. The result was the birth of Saint Joan of Arc, which was staged, rehearsed, and performed as part of the SLU Theatre & Dance 2019-2020 Season.
In the spring of 2020, the SLU production traveled to WERDCC and was performed for approximately 200 residents, including many of the women who participated in the workshop and whose writings make up much of the script.
After years of public health and systemic delays during the global pandemic, Cashion and Tibbetts were able to began rehearsals at WERDCC for another production of Saint Joan of Arc in the fall of 2022.
In the winter of 2023, SLU Theatre Major and PPA intern Celeste Gardner began accompanying Cashion and Tibbetts to rehearsals at the WERDCC, demonstrating the power of mentorship and collaboration.
On July 27, 2023, The Vandalia Women's Theatre, a group of artists within WERDCC, will perform their own production of Saint Joan of Arc. This will include four internal and two public performances in the WERDCC Visiting Room. Students involved in the SLU production will travel to WERDCC to attend a public performance.
The development timeline of Saint Joan of Arc is a testament to the power of collaboration, resilience, and the transformative nature of theater. From the initial workshop at WERDCC to the upcoming performances by the Vandalia Women's Theatre, this journey has not only given platform to the voices of the artists in the facility, but also inspired others to embrace the power of art.
Public performances of Saint Joan of Arc at WERDCC are free, but RSVPs are required. Don't miss this opportunity to witness the power of art and support the incredible work of these talented individuals. RSVP now to secure your spot. The deadline to RSVP is July 5. Let's come together and celebrate the transformative power of theater.