REVIEW: “Knowing Joan”: Perfect mix of past, present

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by Olivia Samples, Advertising Director

“Knowing Joan,” written and directed by professor Jennifer Nostrala, is the latest production of the Theatre Department, and it did not disappoint. The mingling stores of Yolande, played by Morgan Merrill, a stuck barista and the courageous Joan of Arc, played by Addison Grant, the story’s complex structure is powerful and well done.

The play began with the introduction of Yolande, the barista who lacks passion or drive. She works at a coffee house with her friend Kate and dreams her life away. She loses her apartment, sleeps on the coffee shop couch and writes music.

The shy songwriter uses her talents in the culmination of the story to save the coffee shop from closing. Yolande’s story is the modern. It is relatable and simple.

Joan’s story on the other hand is introduced in Yolande’s dreams. Joan of Arc is a historical figure best known for her courage in battle to save France in the early 1400s. Joan helped to reclaim France during the Hundred Years War and was charged with many crimes, including heresy. For these charges, she was burned at the stake.

Freshman Addison Grant was charged with playing the role.

“Tying to defy the stereotype of what Joan is is difficult, but it’s a fun challenge,” she said.

In the play we see many events of Joan’s life, from being imprisoned, to being raped and even burned at the stake. Addison’s portrayal of Joan was both powerful and moving.

Theatre students were the first, worldwide, to perform “Knowing Joan”– an awesome opportunity for students to see how a show comes together from start to finish.

Earlier this semester, Nostrala told The Simpsonian, “My favorite part is watching the play go from being some idea into something that lives and breathes in other people.”

Freshman Ryan Yurczyk was the assistant stage manager and said it was hard at first to be directed by the the author, but “she has it how she wants it and if she changes it, she changes it.”

Grant agreed and said, “It’s a work in progress, but it makes it interesting.”

The play itself was not only filled with amazing acting but other great student work as well. The sound production was purposeful and made the story even stronger. The scene production was simple and helped the audience to focus on both story lines at once. The costume design was also spectacular with several types of clothing from the 15th century. All the student work on this piece was spot on.

The opposing storylines help to build each character on their own and show the contrasts between the two. As Joan stands by her convictions, Yolande struggles to find hers. The comparison between the two is what makes the overarching themes so powerful.

“Knowing Joan” was powerful and filled with stunning examples of student production. It is another example of excellent work by both successful theatre students and by Simpson’s own faculty.