Nothing says romance like David Byrne and his avant-garde aesthetic, and nothing says devotion like the tragic story of Joan of Arc, so why not bring the two of them together for a musical that’s set to debut at the Public Theater on Valentine’s Day?
Yes, you’ll be able to show your undying loyalty and affection for your loved ones next year by taking him, her, or them to a performance of Saint Joan in New York City. Byrne expounded upon his reasoning for retelling the oft-told story of Joan of Arc, explaining that it’s message of inspiration — that a young woman with no standing in society could bring about such movement — and is more so now than ever very politically pertinent. His email reads:
Why has this story endured over centuries and been made into so many plays and movies? 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.
As Pitchfork points out, Byrne’s idea for the closing of Saint Joan is especially, uh, violent, and really piques the interest of this writer, who can’t resist a good on-stage immolation. “On stage, imagine a singer—a contemporary young woman—backed by her inspired band, ultimately immolated at the end of her concert.”
In that same email Byrne talks about the fact that he was able to work with lots of historical documents, so, while the musical will be made up mostly of contemporary music (rather than spoken word interspersed with musical performances), the lyrics were drawn from real testimony given about Arc in her trials.
For a taste of Byrne’s pure romanticism, watch a big-blazered performance of “Girlfriend Is Better” below. OK, so it’s not romantic, but it’s still fun to watch.