Thespians at Ponoka Secondary Campus are bringing the story of Joan of Arc to life with a musical.
Drama teacher Kevin Ferguson reprises his role this year writing an original script and score, again with the help of son Mark, to bring together Joan and the Hopeless Romantics.
The play follows the life of Joan of Arc using religious undertones in the original music. This was done by design, said Ferguson, because of Joan’s strong religious convictions. “Because she is tied to God, there is always that element of hope … and the music is tied to that as well,” he explained.
The roots of the music go back to the church and one number takes inspiration from traditional black gospel music. The play tells how Joan in the 14th century was used by royalty to meet their goals and takes away some of the mystery behind how events unfolded.
“It was an opportunistic time for the dauphine (eldest son of the King) of France to use this little girl,” he explained. “And then once she’s used, there are consequences to follow.”
“For instance there’s a Princess Yolande, who is kind of the main power broker. She’s kind of the brains behind the dauphine at the time,” said Ferguson.
Princess Yolande finds ways to manipulate Joan’s belief for an end goal but pulling those strings comes at a cost and it “breaks her heart.”
“She actually has a final solo and, well, it will rip your heart out,” said Ferguson.
The two-act drama features strong performances from the young actors playing Joan and characters that live on the periphery of her life. This year, special costumes were rented out from Red Deer College and Ferguson said actors look the part of 14th century royalty.
Tennessa Meredith takes on the challenging role of Joan. She took her acting experience from the Klaglahachie Fine Arts Society productions to become Joan. “It (the play) shows you how much people respected the religion and the law. She kind of stood out toward everyone else I find,” said Meredith.
While Joan and the Hopeless Romantics has some dark undertones, Meredith said that allowed the actors to put more thought and dedication to their roles.
Adding to the strong cast of characters is Dylan David Hart, who plays Dauphine Charles and Karen Green, who plays the dauphine’s wife, Princess Marie.
Courtney Chesterman takes on the role of Princess Yolande and she was drawn to the character’s manipulation of key players in the story, including the dauphine. She looked at Yolande’s history when seeking inspiration to play the part.
Deciding Joan’s fate falls to three judges — played by Caitlyn Bolze, Victoria Colyn and Cassie Hall — who end up going against their better judgment to appease those planning her death. For the actors, this gave them a chance to delve into complicated thoughts and emotions.
“Even if we have feelings we can’t let them show because if we do it could end badly for us and we could be either be exiled or killed,” explained Bolze of their role.
Acting out these ideas and contradictions created an opportunity for self-reflection.
“In the end just doing your job doesn’t outweigh going against your personal beliefs,” said Colyn.
Those costumes added to the passion the 23 to 25 student-led cast and crew put into the play and it helped create a dynamic play.
Ferguson credits musical director Cam Hinton for guiding actors through the musical routines.
He added they are quite ready to put on the play that will be held over two weekends set for Friday, April 22 and 23 and the week after from April 28 to 30. All plays start at 7 p.m. with special dessert night hosted by the PSC culinary students for the April 28 performance. Tickets are $10.