NOTE: Mary Beidler wrote me short letter about her connection to POPE JOAN. She has been with the show from the first read-through of the Bailiwick Production in David Zak's apartment. I asked her for permission to include her thoughts on the web, because I think they give a strong sense of how an actor's connection to a script can grow from just "playing a part" into a deep spiritual connection with the work. This seems like a most fitting addition at the beginning of women's history month! --Marian Hank (Web Mistress)
I have been thinking alot about what I might write for the web re: acting in POPE JOAN. It is so odd remembering the first reading with people cozily gathered in David Zak's apartment, to the first rehearsals for the first public reading, to the first meeting with the first assembled cast for David's production at Bailiwick, to the growing presence of Michael Butler, the run and evolution of the show, the recasting of the show, the closing, the planning, the auditions, the meetings, and finally the contracts for the current production. It has been a roller coaster ride, sometimes glorious, sometimes painful, and all the while I have had a tremendously powerful feeling of responsibility to this woman JOAN.
I feel the responsibility to tell her story. To, in a sense, play my part in her life-after-death. Here is this voice from the past that channelled its way through Christopher Moore's sensitive ears, into his heart, and out onto the page, and through our actors' eyes and ears, into our hearts and out of our mouths, opened and singing and into the memories of the audience. I get this image of a travelling beam light or energy. This woman's spirit has determined to speak. Why did she assert herself NOW? That's what this play is for, in my mind; to ask "why, and why now?"
I fear there is a spiritual deficit going on in the world. I think religion as ritual practice is a great idea; a great way to focus spiritual energy and intensify it and share it. But first the spirit must be fostered. Children need to learn the language of the spirit just as they need to learn the way home. I think that spiritual hunger is the essence of yearning. The hungry spirit gives rise to the emotional response we call yearning. And yearning is inherently optimistic. I think that POPE JOAN encompasses the ultimate optimism that is at the root of yearning. The desire to reach out mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically is optimistic because it is brave. Faith is optimistic and brave. JOAN is optimistic and brave. Her type of spirit answers the yearning of other spirits that are unexpressed. Like all heros/heroines and martyrs, her faith transcends the limits of the physical world and depends upon the yearning of the multitudes in order to be consumated and fulfilled. I think that's why audiences go away from the play feeling that something has happened to them. Because people yearn for faith experiences, for challenges of the spirit. The physical limitations of the play are transcended by the story and the FEELING that there is TRUTH in the shared experience of the story.
Clearly, my relationship to the play has been a spiritual one. I am devoted to the story. The trappings of the play and its production history are daunting to me and I avoid them. It has been a relief and a privilege to be an actor whose job does not include having to contend with those matters. The joy is in keeping JOAN alive; to travel into the world of the "WHAT IF?" and say "WHY NOT?" The music and the message soar. I am very grateful to have been a part of it. Maybe another time I'll write a little about playing MARTINE. Thanks for asking my opinion!
-- Mary C. Beidler