Stage

Mother of the Maid at Main Street — the Joan of Arc Story Through a Mother's Eyes

(L-R) Elizabeth Barnes as Joan, Shannon Emerick as Isabelle Arc and Dain Geist as Jacques Arc.
(L-R) Elizabeth Barnes as Joan, Shannon Emerick as Isabelle Arc and Dain Geist as Jacques Arc. Photo by Ricornel Productions
Imagine, if you will, having a child so full a blend of religious and patriotic zeal that she not only straps on armor to lead her countrymen to war, but persuades a king that it's a good idea and takes two of her brothers along to go into battle with her. And for her efforts, is convicted of heresy and burned at the stake.

Yes, that's the story of historical figure and later saint Joan of Arc, the young French peasant girl who was convinced that God and Saint Catherine were speaking to her and telling her she would prevail in what became the 100 Years War between France and England.

Now imagine you are her mother, equally filled with religious fervor but worried, of course, about the path your daughter has chosen. Standing at your side is your husband who wants to marry off your daughter, a disposition while common to the culture of the early 15th Century is one resisted by the daughter as she seeks to fulfill her mission.

In Mother of the Maid at Main Street Theater, playwright Jane Anderson tells the oft-told tale of the virgin warrior but from a different perspective. "It's the story of Joan told through her mother's eyes,." says 16-year-old Elizabeth "Ellie" Barnes who plays Joan. Shannon Emerick plays Isabel, the mother.

Audiences will be making a mistake if they think the part of Isabel is just background noise with her just standing by, wringing her hands. In real life, following her daughter's death Isabel spent years working to clear her daughter's name and get the charge of heresy rescinded. And was ultimately successful.

Barnes, who is homeschooled and been a theater student for a while, says Main Street Artistic Director Rebecca Greene Udden who is directing the play called her in to audition for Joan, a role she never expected to play. She's amazed at what Joan did and readily admits she couldn't see herself commanding an army at the same age.

Describing her character, Barnes says: "Joan is, at the beginning she’s a kid. She has a lot on her mind. She’s burdened by what she hears from the Lord and from Saint Catherine and as time goes on she matures. She had kind of a fiery spirit. She was very brave."

She credits the enduring appeal of the Joan of Arc story to Joan's character. "What a strong woman she was. And just being able to do what was on her heart and try her best to make things right I just think is a beautiful story."

Performances are scheduled for February 5 through February 27 at Main Street - Rice Village, 2540 Times Boulevard at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID test within 48 hours is required. Masks are required. For more information, call 713-524-6706 or visit mainstreettheater.com. $36-$55.

The production will also be available online February 10-27. Online only tickets $20-$40.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing