Monday, January 4, 2010


To all who made the first annual Joan of Arts Fete happen, I bow down to you! I hope this is a sign of more good things to come with all things Joan and New Orleans. The event was more than I expected and all I hoped for (with plenty of lessons learned for next year!) We had an awesome first-year turnout (a packed room for Power French, which began at the crack of dawn in New Orleans' time, 10 a.m.!), excellent panelists who came prepared and energized, and Erin at the Bienville House was her usual organizational goddess self, being calm cool and collected. Add to that completely generous individuals from the krewe, like Roberta who from A to Z organized our silent auction, to Linda who provided the decorations and expertise to transform the Vieux Carre Room into a Medieval-style conference room complete with swords, shield, red drapery, and a 14 foot fairy tree that she and Molly, one of the krewe's guardian angels, made!!

Thanks to Jane for homemade fleur de lis cookies. Thanks to Sister Rita for coming in full habit just for the panel (since she and other Poor Clares no longer wear them) and for our pleasure of being able to visualize, as she put it, what nuns and some women in secular society as well (who knew?) would have been wearing in Joan's time.

Thanks to the open-hearted and well-spoken NOCCA students who gave of their ideas and acting for a panel and the Cabaret.

Thanks to local musician and native Frenchman Raphael Bas for wearing a totally different hat and sitting at the table to talk about perceptions of Joan in France.

Thanks to Kathy Randels for opening up the Cabaret with a mind-blowingly beautiful haunting song from her 2004 piece "The Maid of Orleans". I keep getting images of her rocking back and forth in her all-white outfit singing her heart out in pain and passion. Lovely and eerie stuff.

Thanks to my husband who meticulously made large batches of medieval punch (a version of wassail) and mulled wine and served as our bartender...(though he didn't wear the jester outfit I brought for him!)...yummy stuff that we'll also serve to the krewe before the parade to warm us up!

I am leaving out dozens of others but that's a sliver of my gratitude to everyone who came to share their interest, questions, and knowledge. That's what this is all about--sharing the experience of Joan and the many layers of her story, from medieval history (thank you Dr. John T. Sebastian, head of Medieval Studies at Loyola University) to her continuous pop culture influences, to her religious and artistic inspirations. We all aspire, ultimately, I think, to be more like Joan and that's what draws us together. It's a mad, mad, world, and she may have been a bit mad (speculation abounds) but at least she did good. At least she led a purposeful life. At least she listened to her Voices...which we cannot always access within ourselves...

This krewe and the people who are drawn to it continue to interest and inspire me on deeply personal levels...I am enjoying watching this fleur de lis grow and never tire of tending to it (like the Little Prince and his rose?). It just goes to show you that Joan has a following of all sorts of people...or at least she has enough intrigue of various types of people of both genders and all ages to sustain more and other activities investigating and celebrating her.

Joan said, "I have no fear for lack of men." I always hear this in my head when conceiving Joan of Arc Project events. We're not putting together an army, but we are bringing together a force...and it always draws an eclectic bunch of smart, fun, talented people. It may not be extraordinarily large in quantity, but the genuine quality of interest and reference points and sincerity is what's important. And we have that in spades.

For example, one of my favorite moments yesterday came when a woman who said that Joan can remind us all to listen to the wisdom of teenagers and respect them for being more than just consumers or just annoyances or just almost-adults. She has a 17 year old daughter (who dressed up as Joan of Arc in third grade, when, as she put it "everyone else dressed like Britney Spears") who she said has changed her mind about the power of youth and the possibilities we squander by ignoring them. When she left she said to me, casually, "My grandmother did research and claims we are related to Joan of Arc." She shrugged. "I don't know if that's true, but...she did go to France to do our tree...this was before the Internet..."

The day was filled with moments like that. Quite a few folks stayed for 3-4 panels in a row, clearly engaged by all the angles covered. Several people travelled in from nearby cities in Louisiana and Alabama. Two panelists came in from Texas, one from Manhattan, and a large group from Madison, Wisconsin who's marching in our parade came to the cabaret and filled the air with that kind of excitement and joviality that tourists bring to town.

As far as we know, we're the only group in the country who puts on a festival for Joan of Arc. This confirmation in one of the panels made us all feel a little more NOLA proud, as we always do knowing we're unlike the rest of the States. As one woman who came in from Mobile said, "We don't do it like the rest of the country in New makes sense we'd be the only ones doing this!"

After an exciting day of discussions, dinner, and artistic presentations about Joan at the cabaret, I got up early and spent the first few hours of the morning with our student Joan of Arc, Blair Davis, her mother Jane, and their friend Ty, who will play her page in the parade to assist her with giving out our coveted, glittery gemmed wooden swords as she rides her horse in armor and cape. (We donned our parade costumes for a WWL-TV Morning Show interview, a good albeit nervewracking experience in that I was in full-blown marketing mode and the students I had hoped would shine couldn't get a word in...) This and other media opportunities, combined with the Fete experience, (where, although I got to enjoy plenty of it as an "audience member", I was still in event-planner mode) makes me look forward to the parade, where, once the event is underway, I'll be among the marchers, letting our Joans on horseback lead while I walk behind them, glad to be part of something so much bigger than me...