Local playwright Mary Tuomanen set out to write a solo show about Joan of Arc. But as a symbol of female activism, Joan was played out, and Tuomanen struggled to find a new take.
So when Jay Wahl, artistic director of the Kimmel Center, saw “Saint Joan, Betrayed” and suggested Tuomanen workshop the play through the Kimmel’s theater residency program, she grabbed the opportunity — and turned it into a meditation on her frustrations with the topic.
The result is “Hello! Sadness!”, a comedic one-woman show set in a poppy field with “silly dances,” clips from French New Wave films, and a cameo from Emily Dickinson.
What is this play about?
It’s about art and activism — that’s a good way to describe where it is now. I was working on the Joan of Arc show through the Kimmel residency and I was super frustrated and confused and upset. So they said, “why don’t you write about why you don’t want to write a Joan of Arc show?” And that became “Hello! Sadness!”
Why was it so frustrating?
The Joan of Arc show did very well. And it was cool. But Joan of Arc has been used by so many people: She’s been useful as a metaphor, she’s been appropriated as a symbol. I didn’t want to do the same thing to her. If I was going to use her, I wanted to do it in a way that I could talk about issues of misogyny and activism. I started writing about the ways that were wrong with how people had appropriated her, and then I started writing about my own feelings about misogyny and my frustration.
So how did you even start working on the Joan of Arc show?
My artistic partner said, “hey, you remind me of Joan of Arc! Let’s make a show about her.” I have a sort of androgynous look too. So that’s something I was puzzling out too — why do I look androgynous? Why do I try to look more like a man? Why do I bro down? It led to some soul searching.
The show is described as “comedic,” but it sounds like the process got pretty heavy.
Humor is a great weapon. Against prejudice, against people who take reality too seriously. It’s a great weapon against myself. In this show, I do a lot of making fun of myself.
If you go:
Thursday to Saturday
SEI Innovation Studio at the Kimmel Center
Broad and Spruce streets