Joan of Arc has inspired works by Shakespeare, Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw and a host of others.
Add Melissa Leilani Larson to the list. Rising Star Productions will present Larson's 2004 work, "Martyrs' Crossing, A Story of Joan of Arc" for the next three weekends.
Joan's story, a mix of history and legend, is rife with literary possibilities.
The French girl, born in 1412, reportedly began hearing the voices of St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret when she was 12. The voices told her it was her divine mission to free her country from the English, who occupied what is now the north part of France. The voices also told Joan to cut her hair, dress in a man's uniform and pick up arms.
When she was 17, Joan led troops to a miraculous victory over the English at the Battle of Orleans. She was later captured and tried for witchcraft and heresy in ecclesiastic court by a pro-British bishop; the main charge against her was wearing men's clothing. She was burned at the stake at the age of 19.
"For girls particularly, Joan of Arc is fascinating, because there aren't that many strong women leaders in history," said Rising Star director Jueanne Meyers.
This play gives a new twist to the story, Meyers said. "Even more than Joan's story, it's Catherine's story," she said.
In the play, Catherine and Margaret are preparing for heaven themselves during a period after their deaths and before judgement. Alexis Bloomfeldt said her character, Catherine, is struggling in the afterlife to come to terms with her own death. "She's wanting to save Joan from this same fate" of becoming a martyr, Bloomfeldt said.
Frances Cansler, who plays Margaret, said her character and Catherine are themselves "figuring out who we are."
It's the first major role for 20-year-old Kim DuPerron, who plays Joan.
The play has been described as giving the story a Mormon perspective. A writer on the Association of Mormon Letters website called Larson, who lives in Provo, Utah, "one of the finest young playwrights in Mormondom."
Meyers said Mormons will recognize some aspects of the story as relating to their faith that non-Mormons wouldn't notice.
The play is "not overtly denominational," she said. "Anybody can come to this show and enjoy it."
The plays' message is that "the power of faith to move us is amazing," Meyers said.
"It's a struggle we all go through," Cansler said. "What do we stand for?"
The play isn't gruesome, Meyers said. Joan's fiery death is portrayed with lighting, and the subject matter is appropriate for middle schoolers and older, she said.