Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Joan is for all ages

Even though everyone who lives in New Orleans knows that Mardi Gras is as much a family affair as anything, it's a hard thing to convey to outsiders, who are typically offered only images of the bawdy revelry that is indeed part of the colorful chaos of the season.

However, the St. Joan of Arc parade was designed to be inclusive of all ages...how could we celebrate an ageless, timeless girl and exclude youth from the celebration? Some of the first institutions I contacted when organizing the event were local schools, and one of the diehard participants turned out to be a French teacher at Louise S. McGhee School--Lil Pinney, pictured with her daughter, Martha.
Lil created a sheep outfit for Martha, because Joan was a sheperdess when she first heard her voices. Lil's creativity made me realize all of the possibilities for children's involvement in the parade...fairies, peasants, farm animals. Throughout the planning process, parents contacted me asking if their children could come as angels, princesses, and knights. I was always pleasantly surprised and happy to see that the parade was attracting families, and reflected on its appeal.

Here are a few reasons, I think, that the St. Joan of Arc Parade is a great event for kids:

1. It's a way to get down to the French Quarter with the whole family in a safe way. When else can you walk through the Quarter escorted by horses and cops?

2. It's an early night. We started the parade at 6 p.m., shortly after nightfall, and the celebration at the statue wrapped up by 8:00 p.m. Diehards remained longer at the Market Cafe...

3. Who can resist an opportunity to costume with the whole family? A friend of mine dressed her kids in velvet capes, gave them swords, and called their get-ups medieval. Great! If they believe it, so do we.

4. There aren't many open events for Twelfth Night, the most under-celebrated part of Mardi Gras. What better way to shake off the holiday eating, shopping, cleaning, and recovering than to stroll with fellow citizens as one favorite season flows into another?

5. The parade is definitely secular but it has sacred tones and an obvious Catholic connection, so it's inviting to families who want to enjoy Mardi Gras in a more religious fashion (after all, we are marching on what is actually the Feast of the Epiphany).

6. It's an educational opportunity for kids who may not yet know about the Maid of Orleans. What better way to teach medieval and French history than via a parade?!

7. Those over 21 may drink a shot of Goldschlagger to toast Joan's birthday, but the king cake's for everyone. As are the birthday candles! (And anyone lucky enough this year to get the birthday horns and blowouts).

In summary, we are honoring a Saint, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, the French Quarter, the past, present, and future, by walking through America's Favorite City with horses, armor, swords, butterflies, candles, sheep, angels, glitter, and candy. It's quirky and it's solemn but not too wild nor too serious to prevent your kids from being safe and having a blast!

Next year there will be more formal opportunities for youth. For one, thanks to Lil Pinney, we'll be able to make my dream come true of choosing a Joan to lead us as they do in Orleans, France, each May for their FĂȘtes de Jeanne d'Arc.

We will put a call out this spring to public and parochial schools, asking for nominations of girls studying French who have displayed leadership, scholarly success, and community involvement. The one girl selected will lead us as Joan. Some krewes have a Queen with her Maids...we'll have a Maid "as" our Queen.

Details TBA...

In the meantime, start thinking of what your boys and girls can wear to next year's parade!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

More photos from the parade!

Photos taken by Fred and Bobbi Kane.

Thanks to Amanda Helm for forwarding these...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Thanks to the people whose names I don’t know who came out in costume to walk with us and watch us despite the weather, to those who kindly forwarded and posted articles, photos, announcements, and to those who emailed to say “good idea“ or “I can‘t do this year, but next year I‘ll be there in costume!”…like Tennessee Williams, another New Orleans icon, we definitely relied on the kindness of strangers for this first annual parade!

Below is a list of the many talented, generous and positive people who helped make Joan’s 597th birthday and our first “birthday” as a parade krewe a festive experience:

MAIN PARTICIPANTS (in alphabetical order):

ArtSpot Productions: Kathy Randels, Lisa Shattuck, Sean LaRocca, Anne-Liese Juge-Fox
Corinne Bachaud
Rob Clemenz
Kelley Faucheaux
Helen Gillet
Janet Gisleson
Susan Gisleson
Ray Jackson
Australia James
Deb McDonald
Caye Mitchell
Fred Mitchell
Pierre Pichon
Lil Pinney
Frank Stansbury
Julie Wallace
James West
Laura Jane Yarbrough

DONATIONS: Bienville House, French Market Corporation, SaintsforSinners.com, Gambino’s Bakery, Bee Sweet Cupcakes, Glazer’s of Louisiana.

MEDIA: Times-Picayune (Ann Maloney, Molly Reid, Rusty Costanza); WDSU (Rup Raj); WRNO (The Castner & Walensky Show); WNOE (Ron Brooks); WWNO (Diane Mack); WIST (Eric Asher); WBSL (Christopher Tidmore); WWOZ (Hazel Schlueter); Associated Press

SPECIAL THANKS: Annie Flettrich, French Quarter Business Association; Ken Ferdinand, French Market Corporation; Marci Schramm, French Quarter Festivals; Cheron Brylski, The Brylski Company; Andrea Thornton, Hotel Monteleone; Erin Boreros, Bienville House; Kristian Sonnier, Peter A. Mayer Advertising; Betsie Gambel, Keating-Magee; Kelley Faucheaux and Renaissance Publishing; Antoinette de Alteriis, Fleur de Lis Consulting; Miriam Ogden and Nancy Albert, Prayer Warriors for Joan of Arc; Molly Jahncke, Delgado Community College; ; Cheri Blair, Audubon Institute: Mary Beth Romig, New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau; Thais St. Julien, Musica de Camera; Karen Kern, Arts Council of New Orleans; Michelle Levine, Arts Market of New Orleans; Warren Hart; Ben Kennedy, author; Janet Shea, NOCCA Institute; Bonnie Warren; Beatrice Germaine, Speak Easy Too; David Johnson, Bennett and Associates…and Saint Joan of Arc.

My favorite parade photo so far

This came across my Google alerts for the St. Joan of Arc parade today...to whomever posted this on Flickr, thank you! That's Kelley Faucheaux in gold as Saint Joan and Laura Jane Yarbrough modeling the hat she made, a replica of the paper hat Joan was forced to wear on the way to her execution, naming her a "Heretic, Relapsed, Apostate, Idolatress"...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A few photos from January 6, 2009 pre-parade!

The above are the only photos I was able to snap before other participants arrived and before the rain came and before the parade took on a life of its own! From top to bottom:
1. The armor plate that our Soldier Joan, Caye Mitchell, wore. It was made by her amazing and multi-talented husband, Fred Mitchell, who rode next to Caye/Joan in the parade as The Bastard of Orleans!
2. Artist Julie Wallace, arriving with the butterfly sculptures she made: taffetta ties on real tree branches, painted white. Gorgeous, simple, and rain-proof! (In case you didn't know, legend has it that when she entered Orleans, Joan's banner was surrounded by white butterflies). Julie also made torches and two puppets of Joan's voices (St. Catherine and St. Margaret) that will need to debut next year...they were not as sturdy in the rain and had to sit out the evening in Julie's van...
3. Deb McDonald putting on her monk's robe, which was borrowed from a local Poor Clare (so I guess that makes it not a monk's robe?). Those are the ominous clouds looming over the Mississippi that showered us about 30 minutes later...despite that, doesn't it look great, the river, the light, the sculpture? It just feels...medieval? Kind of?
4. Kelley Faucheaux, our Saint Joan, covered in gold like the Joan of Arc statue on Decatur where our parade culminated! It was Kelley's birthday and she joked that I really "helped" her get over turning 40 by putting her age in our press release! Ha! Oops! But don't you think every woman should be covered in gold, riding a horse, on her 40th birthday? Especially if she is surrounded by angels, as Kelley was...and especially if you look as great as she does at 40!
5. Me, self-portrait in the John Scott sculpture. When I was still dry...
so I can post more and share them with both the public and the press for next year's parade!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

This is just the beginning!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the first annual St. Joan of Arc Twelfth Night Parade! It rained, but we reigned back!

I learned a ton...and can't wait to apply the lessons to next year (SAVE THE DATE! WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 6TH!). Thank you to all who jumped on board in the beginning, middle, and end of this project...I will post a more formal recap next week after refining the one I sent to the email list.

Most importantly, YES! We will be a krewe next year, we will have dues, we will have several more formalities, i.e. we will choose a young Joan to ride w/ us as they do in France...we will have two days of activities leading up to the parade (SAVE THE DATES! JAN 4-6TH!)...we will have more shelter should it rain....we will extend the route through the French Quarter...we will involve more and other groups, from cultural organizations to schools to international groups.

Celebrating Joan of Arc offers us immense possibilities, from the artistic to the historical, from the religious to our local symbolism. We anticipate next year to be another journey of surprise, connection, beauty, and awesome fun to be had by all ages.

In the meantime, I cherish the quote my husband handed me the day after the parade, when I was reviewing and revising and losing sleep...it is the first time I've organized a parade, and despite the great press and enthusiastic response from the public (thank you for the sweet emails from those who came or those who missed it and are sorry!), I know there's lots of room for expansion, improvement, adjustment, and realignment, etcetera!

This quote is now stuck to my bedroom mirror:

"In order to go on living one must try to escape the death involved in perfectionism."

--Hannah Arendt

I know from producing theater, special events, and talk radio (my current job), that productions are never perfect, and the pleasure comes from the magic that occurs quite accidentally. As long as you have a significant amount of your production under control, the show goes on and most things fall into place. A small example: I was frustrated that between the rain drenching the wicks and the wind on the river and Decatur, we could not light the processional candles for Joan...but then we passed them out along the route (thanks to some really nice guy dressed in a medieval/Clockwork Orange kinda costume) and at the statue, they were lit...providing a lovely addition to the happy birthday theme for Joan. So you see, as long as there are enough meaningful components and positive people and an overall message and theme, a kind of perfection arises...

Known as, a parade!!

Thank you to everyone for making this a success on many levels--including the horses, who seemed quite happy to be there, too.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Joan Krewe named as "Sign of Recovery"


The Times-Picayune included us in their first round-up of Signs of Recovery. If you saw the print version, the photo of our four Joans was included, too!

It's wonderful to know that in addition to having fun and celebrating Joan, we are offering another positive experience for New Orleanians--and those traveling to town to give us their love and money!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Joan (Caye) leads the parade post-downpour!

First Annual Parade a Success!

Thank you to everyone who contributed...I have much more to say but just wanted to quickly post this photo sent by Frank Stansbury, who you may have seen dressed as a monk, snapping shots! Next year, he may bring out his drum corps! Thanks, Frank!
If you took photos you'd like to share, please send them to stjoankrewe@yahoo.com so I can put together a portfolio, send to press, and use for promoting next year's event!! Thanks again...it was a miracle the rain stopped after 15 minutes...we were blessed!

White Horse needs a home!

So I went on NOLA.com to look for photos of our parade (great shot in the print version today of Caye Mitchell as Joan with the banner!) and saw this sweet face staring back...made me think of Joan because she rode a white horse into Orleans! See ad below and pass the word...maybe this lovely Arabian mare can join us next year?


Monday, January 5, 2009


Great news! Pierre Pichon and his band will play at the Market Cafe, right behind the Joan of Arc statue at Place de France (St. Phillip and Decatur Streets), after the parade. They will be there to greet us at 6:45 and will play for at least 30 minutes...lively French music complete with a Happy Birthday serenade when we toast Joan!

The Market Cafe will be open with great food and drink and is an ideal way to wind down after our walk! Plus, if it starts to rain, you'll be covered! http://www.marketcafenola.com/

So we can have our (King, birthday) cakes and eat them too!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Beautiful story of a recent Joan of Arc tour

We will only be "touring" about six blocks of the French Quarter on our walk from Conti to St. Phillip Streets (along Decatur Street) but my Google alerts caught this heartwarming story of a father and daughter who just returned from a tour of Joan's hometown (Domremy) and some sites of her battles (Orleans) and her death (Rouen).

What's so great is that the trip was inspired by his daughter, a twelve-year-old girl from New Hampshire!

I look forward to presenters at next year's event who will talk about the tours/pilgrimages they lead to France...just one of the many things that will be discussed when we plan a festival leading up to the parade: film, plays, music, lectures, and contests of all varieties...I hope that representatives from France can join us as well.

(In my early twenties, I went to Rouen to see where Joan's life ended...there's a church built in her honor near the spot she was burnt, meant to resemble flames...image above, info below!)

Monk Costume up for borrowing grabs!

In case you are still looking for something to wear, someone called me to tell me they have a monk's costume that you can borrow...I don't know the size but can put you in touch w/ the lender! Email me at stjoankrewe@yahoo.com if interested!


...maybe Joan is sending rain to put out the fire? But...these are fires (torches, candles, birthday candles) to honor her...to keep her spirit alive! Come on! Clear up the skies, please??!

Just in case the chance of rain increases, we are in the midst of creating a backup plan.

Wednesday morning the rain is supposed to clear and it would be less windy. However, Thursday or Friday might be better for some leading ladies in our krewe.

We will make the final decision early Tuesday! Keep checking back!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Et voila!

The sky's the limit in terms of Joan-of-Arc-inspired art and creativity...I have had people contacting me about St. Joan reliquaries they've made, a woman painting matchbook covers to give out as throws, and parents who are making their daughters farm animal outfits to dress as Joan's animals from when she was a peasant sheperdess in Domremy. What next?

I can't wait to see who shows up for the parade...

If you are still looking for inspiration, here are some ideas about possible costumes that you could put together: (See earlier posts for additional ideas!)

1. Butterfly...because Joan's standard was supposedly surrounded by butterflies when she entered Orleans.

2. Thirteen birthday candles. Do you have thirteen friends looking for something to do on Twelfth Night? Joan was thirteen when she first heard her Voices...

3. Fairies. At her trial, Joan denied believing in fairies and partaking in activities at the well-known "fairy tree" in her hometown. She seemed to find it all ridiculous, even immature. She had bigger fish to fry.


4. Merlin. Allegedly this magician of the Arthurian legend prophesied that France would be saved by a "Maid from Lorraine". Many assume this was Joan, although apparently Joan herself was not aware of this until the time of her trial.

5. Doves. An Englishman who was present at Joan's execution claims to have seen a dove fly from her mouth as she breathed her last sigh.


6. Mark Twain. He is one of her biggest fans of the modern age and wrote Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc. Here are a few quotes from his book:

"Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, and there you will find it."

" It took six thousand years to produce her; her like will not be seen in the earth again in fifty thousand."

"She is easily and by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced."

7. A Joan of Arc tower (yes, you can go as a piece of architecture!). Joan was imprisoned in a tower in Rouen that became known as the Joan of Arc Tower. During one of her escape attempts, she lept from a tower...not this particular one, but...(opportunity to use a Joan of Arc puppet? anyone?)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Bring your tambourines!

We've got two lead drummers walking with us and keeping us in time, and a few people have confirmed they can bring other percussive instruments. Please bring drums, tambourines, and bells to contribute to our march!

Also, I have 50 processional candles and we will have torches...(you are welcome to bring your own votive candles, the glass religious ones you can get for a few dollars at local grocery stores...just be careful w/ em and take them home with you! we may be open container in the Quarter but glass is frowned upon!)