Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Professor Gerardine Clark
Visual and Performing Arts
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Acting | Theatre and Performance Studies
Jeanne d’Arc is a one-woman theatrical work, written, produced, and performed as Megan Dobbertin’s Capstone Project. Its intention is to explore religious conflict. How does something like organized religion, which was created to be a force of peace and order in a chaotic world, get twisted into violence and discord? All major organized religions profess to be founded on a basis of peace, tolerance, unity, and love. How then do we have notions such as the crusade or the jihad? This piece seeks to explore the causes behind so-called ‘holy’ wars.
It is the story of Joan of Arc, heroine of the Hundred Year’s War, patron saint of France, and teenage girl. She heard voices telling her that it was her destiny to saveFrance. She believed so strongly that it was emissaries from God telling her to do this that she ran away from home to join the army. Incredibly, she was granted royal patronage by the Dauphin, Charles VII, led the armies ofFrance, and single-handedly reversed the course of the war. France’s adversary,England, was so stunned that they could not believe it was anything but supernatural aid, either. However, they attributed the astounding victories to the devil rather than God.
Joan was taken prisoner, put on trial, and burnt at the stake for witchcraft. Yet the English could not dispel the affect she had on France. Within twenty years,Francehad won back all their conquered territory. This farm girl and her belief permanently altered the map of the world. The political lines she drew are still the French borders of today.
It may seem that this tale of miracles and holy wars is not applicable to the modern world. Yet in Joan, there is an eerie parallel to modern female suicide bombers. They are women who overcome the confines of their femininity, even within a very male-dominated society, to give their lives for what they believe to be a holy cause. They are driven by violence to violence; they receive their reward in martyrdom. The only difference is that historians applaud Joan’s military dominance, and condemn the suicide bombings as senseless murder.
But can things be this black and white? Is Joan merely praiseworthy because she is ancient and lived in a time when life was less valued? Or because she was Western? And are suicide bombings really just random acts of pure evil?
Ayat al-Akhras was a Palestinian eighteen-year-old who committed a suicide bombing in March of 2002 that killed three people, including herself. Jeanne d’Arc is her story, too, intertwined with Joan’s. Two girls, inheriting the violence of generations, refusing to sit passively in that legacy. Both committed unspeakable atrocities. Both killed and died in the name of their god. Both went to their graves, convinced, as people so often are, that they were right and the other was wrong. The real question is not whether or not they were right. It is whether or not they are any different from each one of us. The object of presenting these stories in a presentational theatrical format is to challenge the audience to consider this question.
Dobbertin, Megan, "Jeanne d’Arc" (2009). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 423.
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