Intl Edition 63

RAISINGAN EXCEPTIONAL CHILD is a uniquely challenging experience, one that’s as problematic as it is rewarding. Parents must contend with issues of safety while ensuring that their children are receiving the appropriate support for their abilities. In the new Off-Broadway play Mother of the Maid , playwright Jane Anderson juxtaposes current questions surrounding this subject by placing it in the context of the story of Joan of Arc’s mother. Though Joan’s story has been told in countless variations, this play focuses on the perspective of matriarch Isabelle, a practical, hard-working,

afraid for her daughter, but also thrilled that she has a gifted daughter who can go out in the larger world and do the things she wishes she herself could do.” Anderson chose to set the play at the height of the Hundred Years’ War to heighten the circumstances. “Isabelle is an illiterate, poor woman who has never gone beyond ten miles from her home because there was this constant, horrible danger of raids coming in. Isabelle talks about her very dear best friend and her friend’s family who were hideously slaughtered by soldiers, so not only has she lost the one person she could have companionship with,

God-fearing peasant woman whose faith is tested as she deals with the mystifying, tragic journey of her odd and extraordinary daughter. “When I was a young girl I was always a fan of Joan of Arc and the romance and strength of her,” says Anderson. “I wanted to be Joan of Arc. I wanted to wear boys clothing and run away. I think many young women have this fascination with her because she symbolizes getting out of the house

but it was done in such a horrible way. Placing this play at a time of extreme danger also raises the stakes.” Maid reflects the difficulties of raising an exceptional teenager in 2018 in the fact that it explores how parents worry for their children when they are surrounded by people telling them that their children are gifts to the world. Anderson says that she “riffs a bit” on the celebrity that surrounds gifted teenagers who become athletic stars or

BY IRIS WIENER Raising Joan of Arc Glenn Close stars in “Mother of the Maid” by Jane Anderson at The Public Theater

and doing wildly important things and being famous and powerful.” At the age of 19 the actor and writer dropped out of college and left home in California to pursue her dream of being an artist in New York. However, it wasn’t until Anderson became a mother that she realized how difficult her choices must have been for her own mother, in turn compelling her to write Mother of the

film stars and what it does to parents who worry for their children. “When Joan tells Isabelle that Saint Catherine and God have told her she’s going to save France, Isabelle’s initial reaction is to slap it out of her because it’s a terrifying thing. Jacques Arc, her father, was so horrified by this notion that his girl would run off with soldiers that he told her brothers and his sons, ‘We’re going to drown her in the pond.’” Anderson points to Jacques as

Maid . “I found it so heartbreaking because I am a mother. I have a son, which is a little different than your view of a daughter because culturally you feel less protected. You want to push your boy out into the world and you don’t quite worry that your son could be physically hurt the way your daughter could be. In a way, this is a peon of appreciation to my parents for releasing me to the greater world.” Though Anderson (who is known for penning projects such as the Emmy Award-winning Olive Kitteredge and this year’s The Wife ) was not officially classified as being gifted, she recalls being seen as a gifted artist in her mother’s eyes. “Everyone wants to think their child is special, and they exaggerate it; my mother certainly exaggerated it,” she says of how she came to Isabelle Arc’s story. “[In Maid ] Isabelle is

being an important balance to Isabelle because she is deeply religious and realizes that “everyone at court thinks Joan is special, so Joan must not be able to help it.” At the same time, Isabelle is astounded that her daughter is being admired by the elite, and the play mirrors what this does to families in the present. “There’s a certain innocence that Isabelle has that then gets knocked out of her. Jacques sees that the church manipulates people like them, and Joan’s brother follows on her coattails and uses her fame to further himself.” One might argue that today’s parents are more excited at the prospect of their children being gifted or famous, thus garnering attention. Anderson agrees that this is the case because there is



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