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A BURNING INTEREST IN JOAN OF ARC

The theater has seen a plethora of angry young men -- contrary characters who, for one reason or another, find themselves pitted against the world. But angry young women?

"You just don't find this in patriarchal theater," says Margaret Smith, artistic director of Hag Theater. "The angry young woman is absent."

Smith and Hag Theater, working in conjunction with Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center and Squeaky Wheel, are doing something about this lack of feminine fury in a festival centered around the figure of Joan of Arc. It is called "Une Femme -- Joan of Arc" and will present films, performances, videos and visual art all on the theme of the Maid of Orleans.

Events begin Thursday night and continue on subsequent weekends through Oct. 22. The visual art portion of the festival -- altars inspired by Joan of Arc by area artists -- will begin on Oct. 1 and continue on view through Nov. 6.

Films and videos by area artists will be shown at 8 p.m. Oct. 22 in Squeaky Wheel, 175 Elmwood Ave. As a tag-on to the festival, Squeaky Wheel will show a curated group of experimental shorts on the same theme at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 6. The evening will conclude with a music performance by Bon Fire Madigan.

For further information, call Squeaky Wheel at 884-7172.

Smith says she initially became interested in Joan because of the diversity of people who embraced her.

"I'm fascinated that in France the right-wing can claim her as a big hero, and in America witch cults have attached to Joan and the idea of Joan.

"She is a paradox -- a simple pious young woman who wound up a great warrior saint, a hero and martyr. A shepherd girl who heard voices. A woman made a saint by the same church that burned her at the stake."

Smith cites a long list of artists who have used Joan of Arc as subject matter, from Bernard Shaw to Sarah Bernhardt to Victor Fleming. "I hear that Mira Sorvino and Dustin Hoffman are making a film about Joan," she adds.

The festival will present Joan from various viewpoints. A film by contemporary German filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger, "Joanna d'Arc of Mongolia," for instance, is not your usual Joan story. It features seven women travelers who meet aboard the Trans-Siberian Express and wind up ambushed and abducted by Mongol horsemen. The 1989 film will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Hallwalls, 2495 Main St. (835-7362).

Hag Theatre will have the honor of introducing the really angry Joan. "The Second Coming of Joan of Arc" by Carolyn Gage (directed by Smith) presents a teen-age Joan, running from an alcoholic home and an incestuous father. No longer a victim, this Joan is a lesbian and unmasks her betrayers even as she rallies her female cohorts to arms. The play will be presented in Hallwalls Black 'n' Blue Theater at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday with repeat performances on Sept. 24 and 25 and Oct. 1 and 2.

The other festival events are:

"Ritual for La Pucelle," a performance piece featuring Donata Ahern, to be held at 4 p.m. Oct. 17 in Hallwalls.

"La Passion de Jeanne d'arc," the 1928 silent film by Carl Theodore Dreyer, with the unforgettable Maria Falconetti as Joan, to be screened on Oct. 1 and 2 at Hallwalls.

"Burned!" an evening of short, edited-in-camera 16mm film or hi8/vhs videos by various local and national artists, to be held at 8 p.m. Oct. 22.

"Une Femme -- Joan of Arc" is presented by Hallwalls, Hag Theatre and Squeaky Wheel. Curators for the festival are Ghen Dennis, Margaret Smith and Sara Kellner.

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