By Robyn Collins
Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s next project will be a musical about the life of Joan of Arc.
Titled Saint Joan, the production is scheduled to premiere on Feb 14, 2017 in New York. On his personal blog, the musician explained that, like his 2014 musical Here Lies Love, which was a collaboration with Fatboy Slim, Saint Joan, will include contemporary music and sparse spoken word. The music, he says, is “anthemic and spiritual” rather than the “clubby disco grooves” of his previous stage venture.
Byrne described the creative process involved for the project: “Joan’s trial was the first to be so well documented – so there was a lot of that trial’s testimony to draw on. (There was another trial, as well – one that involved a lot of oral history from those who knew her),” he wrote. “There was actually a lot of primary research to work with! On stage, imagine a singer – a contemporary young woman – backed by her inspired band, ultimately immolated at the end of her concert.”
One of the reasons Byrne was drawn to Joan of Arc is because she has lived on in the entertainment medium for eons. “Why has this story endured over centuries and been made into so many plays and movies?” he rhetorically asked. “Because it’s about someone – a nobody, a teenage girl – who inspired others to act, to overthrow their oppressors and take charge of their lives. She transforms from an innocent, into an androgynous warrior, and finally a martyr. Joan’s story is about the power of the individual to make a difference and (for me) the hubris and sometimes oversteps that often go along with that. In other words – it’s completely relevant.”
Here Lies Love, a disco-musical about former first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, enjoyed an award-winning run on Broadway, but was met with mixed reviews during its London production despite its three Olivier award nominations in 2015.
Saint Joan will play at the Public Theater in New York and will be directed by Alex Timbers, who also worked with Byrne on Here Lies Love.