Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jeanne d'Arc Opens Carnival Season


A new parade honoring Joan of Arc joins the Phunny Phorty Phellows to kick off Carnival

Published: Tuesday, December 30, 2008, 4:34 PM     
Ann Maloney, The Times-Picayune By Ann Maloney, The Times-Picayune 
Since Hurricane Katrina, many New Orleanians have sought inspiration.
For Amy Kirk, a local playwright and event planner, inspiration comes from the idea of the protection and strength of a mystical guardian -- one closer to home than many realize.
Kirk's heroine is Joan of Arc, the sainted martyr who was burned at the stake as a witch in 1431 having been led, as legend has it, into battle alongside the French army by what she claimed were voices from God.
Joan of Arc's role in reversing England's siege of the city of Orleans during the Hundred Years' War earned her the title of the Maid of Orleans, a distinction that led to her unofficial status as a patron saint of New Orleans, Kirk said. (Our Lady of Prompt Succor is the city's official patroness.)
Although Joan of Arc's likeness is in plain view in the French Quarter, the statue on Decatur Street at St. Philip Street is as overlooked as her local legacy, Kirk said. But while St. Joan has not attained the same level of synonymy with New Orleans as, say, Satchmo, her influence has touched the lives of countless residents, Kirk said.
"There have been two types of people who've come forward (to help organize the parade): It's either people who know a lot about her and are like, 'Yeah, it's about time,' or people who say, 'You know, I've passed that statue a hundred times, but I've never known what it was,' " Kirk said. "So many of the e-mails that people have sent me, it's almost been eerie, because they'll start with, 'I have to do this,' or, 'I have to be a part of this,' and then these whole paragraphs about how much Joan has meant to them.
"It's been very encouraging, because it feels like it's a natural for the city," she said. "She represents so many things. She represents defiance, courage, virtue... and, especially since Hurricane Katrina, she represents strength and tenacity. It's a perfect time for a warrior saint to come lead our city."
Kirk decided to organize the parade in October. Since then, she has assembled dozens of krewe members who will enact a living tableau of Joan's life for the procession. A group of girls from Louise McGehee School will portray Joan as a girl, when she first began hearing voices. A trio of puppets will give form to those voices, which Joan identified as saints Michael, Catherine and Margaret. A "soldier Joan" will ride on horseback to represent the Maid's glory days as a part of the French army, and a "prisoner Joan" will recite a short monologue from her trial, as depicted in George Bernard Shaw's play "Saint Joan," with puppets of judges accompanying her. A final component of the tableau will portray the canonized Joan surrounded by a host of angels.
Four of the women who will portray Joan of Arc in Tuesday's parade are, from left, Kelley Faucheux as the saint, Australia James as the prisoner, Caye Mitchell as the soldier and Corinne Bachaud Fauchet as young Joan.
"There's a great quote from Joan: 'I have no fear for lack of men,'" Kirk said.
"I felt like, taken from her, once you make a decision, it's a simple concept: We're going to have a parade for Joan."
"I feel it's more than just a Twelfth Night parade or a religious procession. It's a call to action and a reminder that we have her statue right there in our French Quarter to inspire us daily. New Orleans is not known as a city of change... but (Joan) is a symbol of change and action, and we need more of this."
Molly Reid can be reached at mreid@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3448.
What: A procession to honor Joan of Arc's birthday, which falls on Twelfth Night, the traditional start of Carnival season. Throws will generally be religion- or birthday-themed, including hand-painted St. Joan medallions being created by Rob Clemenz of Saintsforsinners.com.
When: Tuesday, Jan. 6, at 6 p.m. Participants must arrive by 5 p.m. at the John Scott sculpture "Ocean Song" in Woldenberg Park. Bring cake, presents or flowers to share at the statue.
Where: Parade begins on Decatur Street at Conti Street and travels up Decatur to the statue at St. Philip Street.
Phellows on a roll
The new Joan of Arc marching parade will share the opening day of Carnival season with the Phunny Phorty Phellows, who have kicked off the season for the past 27 years.
The krewe, which originally paraded from 1878 through 1898 and was revived in 1981, traditionally tosses the first beads of the season as its masked members party aboard a Regional Transit Authority streetcar.
Revelers are invited to join the Phellows as they gather for the start of the festivities Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Canal Street streetcar station at Canal and North White streets.
At 7 p.m., the krewe and the Storyville Stompers will board the streetcar and begin the ride that they say "heralds the arrival of Carnival." Watch for the decorated streetcar as it rolls along the St. Charles Avenue line, turning at Lee Circle and ending up back where it started.
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