On the Eve wasn’t really a play that I decided to write. I stumbled into it. In 2011 I was nannying on the Upper West Side in New York City, and was slowly feeling that I had lost any semblance of humanity in a flood of runny noses, nap scheduling, and people talking about me as if I wasn’t in the room.
In between several loads of laundry, I had fallen down a Wikipedia wormhole that led me to the original transcripts of the trial of Joan of Arc. I couldn’t read the whole thing while at work, but it kept me busy during my subway ride home.
And then I read them again. And again.
Because the Joan of Arc that I had learned about, the innocent who has a quick coffee break with God and then beats the English, wasn’t the woman who was speaking in the trials. This was no disingenuous, possibly hallucinating little girl. The person in the trial transcripts was razor sharp, manipulative, and had the ability to turn any question the grand inquisitors put to her on its head. She might have believed that God had chosen her, but if so,
God had picked a genius-level tactician.
That got me thinking; Charles VII, the Dauphin of France at the time, essentially threw Joan under the bus. He didn’t even attempt to negotiate her release from prison. If she had the potential to be a brilliant general who was leading his army to victory, why wouldn’t he do everything he could to save her?
And so “The Dauphin,” the last play in the series in On The Eve, got written, during twenty minute lunch breaks and when the laundry was on or the babies were sleeping. It was followed by two more, “The Miller’s Daughter” and “Romeo and Juliet,” each one examining a turning point in a well known story, a choice that I’ve grown up assuming to be a foregone conclusion. It gives the characters the option to go a different way.
I dusted it off this year because it is also a piece about gender, power, and class. Much of what I was seeing, and how I was treated as a female employee in a wealthy New York household, is embedded in the script. It raises questions about the complications between people of different gender and class status that I think, at this point in our history, a lot of people are trying to answer. Sending an intelligent, lower-class woman to trial simply because of her power and ability to lead is a story that’s uncomfortably familiar.
But hey, at least being burned at the stake has gone out of style.
Amy Frey is a pediatric occupational therapist and an alumna of Columbia University, Muhlenberg College, The Moscow Art Theatre (MXAT) and the Accademia Dell’Arte in Arezzo, Italy. She has been previously seen at the Capital Fringe Festival in Ladies in Waiting: The Judgement of Henry the VIII (Anne Boleyn). Other shows include Hamlet (Hamlet), Romeo and Juliet (Juliet) and Midsummer…Dream (Helena), The Seagull (Nina), and Nancy (Nancy) with Punch Drunk Theatre at Sleep No More.