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Condola Rashad Brings a Timeless Heroine to the Stage in ‘Saint Joan’

April 2, 2018 by Suzy Evans
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(Photographed by Nathan Johnson)

Condola Rashad will be the first to admit that when she started working on George Bernard Shaw’s “Saint Joan,” she had an elementary knowledge of Joan of Arc.

Two months before she began rehearsals for the play, which starts Broadway performances on April 3, she went into research mode, as if she were writing a thesis on the historical figure — reading everything from the documentation of the full famous trial that led to her execution to accounts from friends of her personality.

“Something that’s misrepresented about her is she wasn’t political,” Rashad says of the military leader. “When she was speaking about what she called her inspiration, that’s when she was incredibly fiery, to the point where she was able to move thousands of people. But when she was talking about other things she was quite simple.”

While not everything in the play is completely factual, Rashad wanted to know the true story to embody the most honest version of the character.

“It’s my job as a storyteller to bring you with me,” Rashad says. “There’s no argument that she was not a black American woman. And it’s okay because I am not approaching the work with the understanding of, well, let’s just pretend that she was. That’s just me, and that’s what I carry into everything that I do.”

Director Daniel Sullivan cast Rashad after seeing her in “A Doll’s House, Part 2” last season. “I had been particularly struck by the practicality and strength of her performance,” he says, adding that Rashad has stepped up in “Saint Joan.” “Condola is in charge. It’s not a role you can sneak up on.”

While the tale of Joan of Arc is ripe for the Me Too moment, Rashad says her story is timeless.

“Saint Joan didn’t need permission from any person or institution to have a connection to herself and to have a connection to her God,” says Rashad, noting that she is not a religious person. “For a woman to lead — no matter what decade we could be in — it will always be relevant. It will never not be an important time to tell that story.”

Styled by Julianna Alabado
Hair and makeup by Austin Thornton

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