by Christopher Moore

During the final weeks of performance of Pope Joan at Bailiwick Repertory, it became obvious to me as author that I wanted and needed to do a rewrite of my show. While I was "tweaking" lines and moments from week to week, the changes I felt needed to be made were too drastic to execute and rehearse quickly enough for the next week's performances. Moreover, I wanted some "think time" to really go back to the roots of the show, free of the pressure of participating in the ongoing run. In several cases, I felt a vague sense of certain relationships and moments not "arriving," but I was not as yet able to define why these things were not working, from a purely technical point of view.

At the producer's suggestion, I began a working relationship with a script consultant, Marjie Rynearson. Her job was to identify these problems with me, and respond to the rewrites I would produce. When Marjie and I met for the first time, she asked me questions about the play -- what did I want to say, why were various lines and incidents included, etcetera. In this way, she could direct her suggestions to clarifying the play as I intended it to be, rather than imposing her own vision upon it. After this meeting, we met once a week or so to discuss chunks of the script and the problems inherent to it, as she saw them. As with most plays, the beginning and the ending were the biggest areas of discussion. I would then go off, rework the material, bring it back, and move on to the next part. In some cases, I had to double back and adjust previously written new material when I found something interesting later on.

The areas we addressed were:

The redefinition of the characters' objectives was the most important area to address. In the first version, Joan was carried along by events. In the rewrite, Joan has a clear sense of mission and chooses actively to participate in the events that lead her to her fate. Louis also has been rethought. The twists and turns of his relationship with Joan are given greater import, and there is now a real denouement for him at the end of the play. Previously, many people had questions about what had happened to him -- how did he feel about Joan's fate, did he know he had a child, etcetera.

The political characters, Anastasius and Nicholas, have been redrawn in greater contrast to each other. By eliminating the issue of the Donation of Constantine, the characters now have room to speak of other things, like what they want. Nicholas' solo in the last version, "With Fire," was cut, and a new number for him inserted into the first act. We now know early on who he is, and that he will be the opposing force.

The mystical characters were also re-examined. The Holy Ghost was previously a signing actor whose words were sung by Young Joan. This seemed to mostly confuse the audience, so the Holy Ghost now sings Himself, and is visible only to Joan. The seeress Lucretia is now the narrator of the evening, which allowed me to create a new moment at the end of the play for her with Martine and Joan's daughter. Lucretia will be the keeper of the Joan legend, passing it in secret to other women, as women have always done historically when they lacked political power. This visual moment also freed me to cut all the proto-feminist lines from the script, which seemed like yet another extraneous theme.

After two months of work, I am extremely happy with the new version of Pope Joan. My working time with my script consultant was a rewarding experience, and I recommend it to all "stuck" playwrights. I am sure there will be further changes made to the work as it moves along to its next production, but I am more confident than ever that the message and impact I intended will be communicated more clearly to Pope Joan's future audiences.

Mr. Moore may be contacted at

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