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Bard SummerScape Presents New Production of George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan

Mark Primoff
845-758-7412
primoff@bard.edu
06-01-2007

BARD SUMMERSCAPE TO PRESENT NEW PRODUCTION OF GEORGE BERNARD SHAW’S SAINT JOAN, DIRECTED BY GREGORY THOMPSON, ON JULY 12–15 AND 19–22

SHAW’S PLAY HEADLINES THEATER OFFERINGS FOR
“ELGAR AND HIS WORLD,” THE FOCUS FOR THIS YEAR’S
BARD SUMMERSCAPE FESTIVAL, WHICH ALSO FEATURES MUSIC BY ELGAR AND WORKS WRITTEN AND INSPIRED BY HIS NOTABLE CONTEMPORARIES, INCLUDING GILBERT AND SULLIVAN, OSCAR WILDE, AND ZEMLINSKY

“Gregory Thompson has been quietly creating spellbinding theatre for years now.”

– London’s Evening Standard

Saint Joan challenges the prevailing orthodoxy and exposes deeply held beliefs that are actually hiding self-interest. The whole world is facing a clash between liberalism and fundamentalism, between freedom and control. Joan is an unlikely heroine in this battle.”

– Director Gregory Thompson

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – Bard SummerScape 2007 will present a new production of George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan, directed by the UK’s Gregory Thompson, the 2006 recipient of England’s coveted Jerwood Young Vic Directors Award. Thompson’s adventurous AandBC theatre company will perform Saint Joan in LUMA Theater of the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry and celebrated since its opening as a major architectural landmark. The production, with sets and costumes designed by Ellen Cairns and lighting by Judith Greenwood, opens on Thursday, July 12, with additional performances on July 13–15 and 19–22.

According to London’s Evening Standard, Gregory Thompson “has been quietly creating spellbinding theatre for years now.” In 1989 he founded the AandBC company, and he has led Glasgow’s acclaimed Tron Theatre since August 2006. Under his leadership, AandBC continues to create innovative theater, revisiting classical texts with the aim of making them more accessible, and combining vivid physical imagery and original music to create truly vibrant performances. The Guardian says Thompson’s work “often has a beguiling magic and an appealing directness.”

“Saint Joan is a masterwork by one of the greats,” said Thompson about his upcoming production for Bard SummerScape. “We hope to give it life so that the play inspires, provokes, and enlightens those who come to see it. We’ll be honored if we can go some way toward this.” 

Shaw himself referred to the heroine of what many consider his greatest play as “the most notable Warrior Saint in the Christian calendar, and the queerest fish among the eccentric worthies of the Middle Ages.”  Born circa 1412 and burned for heresy, witchcraft, and sorcery at the age of 19, Joan of Arc was canonized as a saint in 1920. Shaw’s 1923 play was instrumental in earning him the Nobel Prize two years later. Given his spectacular reputation as a freethinker and assassin of sacred cows, many feared that Shaw would satirize Joan or portray her as a fraud. Instead, without romanticizing her as a victim or tragic heroine, he paints her as a human being of unparalleled vision, courage, confidence, and imagination.

Thompson brings a British authenticity to this passionate play of conflicting truths, and he explains how it resonates with modern audiences: “The play itself is relevant today. Saint Joan challenges the prevailing orthodoxy and exposes deeply held beliefs that are actually hiding self-interest. The whole world is facing a clash between liberalism and fundamentalism, between freedom and control. Joan is an unlikely heroine in this battle.”

Director Gregory Thompson

Born and trained in Sheffield in South Yorkshire, England, Gregory Thompson founded the AandBC theater company in 1989, served as its artistic director, and is justly esteemed for his innovative productions of Mahabharata, The Rape of Lucrece, As You Like It, The Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night, and Pericles, among others. He has also worked on projects for the Young Vic, Royal National Studio and the Royal Shakespeare Company. In August 2006 Thompson became artistic director of Glasgow’s Tron Theatre, which supports and premieres the work of both emerging and established Scotland-based playwrights.

Thompson made his U.S. debut in 2003, directing the Royal Shakespeare Company’s As You Like It at the Kennedy Center and on tour. AandBC company’s American debut followed that year with The Tale that Wags the Dog at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles. In October, Thompson and AandBC will return to the States for a tour of The Tempest in Wisconsin as part of “Shakespeare on the Fox,” with additional performances at the Krannert Center in Illinois.

“Theatre is a very subtle reality,” Thompson commented in an interview with the Independent. “We talk of a performance as though it is happening up there, on stage, but really it’s what’s happening in the hearts of the people in the seats.”

“Thompson is no ordinary director,” continued the Independent. “He likes the idea of an audience watching the play from different angles and thinks that by having the play happening around them it allows the audience to connect with different performers in different ways. He is thoroughly against the ‘watch me’ school of acting.” 

“Theatre should put its audience in touch with their humanity,” Thompson elaborated. “It should change them each time, make them more like themselves, make them that bit more alive. If we don't have that effect on people, then we become mere entertainment, and we have failed.”

Theater at Bard SummerScape 2007

SAINT JOAN

By George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Gregory Thompson
Ellen Cairns, set and costume designer
Judith Greenwood, lighting designer
Performed by AandBC

Thursday, July 12 at 8:00 pm

LUMA Theater

Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts

Tickets: $45 General Admission

Additional performances: July 13, 14, 19–21 at 8 pm, and July 15 and 22 at 3 pm

BARD SUMMERSCAPE – TICKET INFORMATION

For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, phone the Fisher Center box office at (845) 758-7900 or visit www.fishercenter.bard.edu.

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This event was last updated on 08-20-2007