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The Eighth Grade Play: Young Joan

The Eighth Grade Play, Young Joan, was presented by the Class of 2022 on May 11th and 12th in the school gymnasium.  This story of the young Joan of Arc was written by Mark Twain, and the script was written by Marc Blake.  In casting the play,  there were enough parts for all 29 students, and some students were even double-cast.  The story is from the perspective of an elderly man, Louis de Conte, who was a childhood friend of Joan of Arc.  With the passage of time in the play, the parts of Joan and Louis were played by different actors.

During preparations for the show, Ms. Cimino learned about a songwriter, Jen Zimberg, who was working on a folk opera of Young Joan.  After visiting Jen in Harlemville to hear some of the songs, they decided to collaborate and include five of Jen’s original songs in the play. Jen visited Garden City in April to teach the students the songs, and with the help of Dale Stuckenbruck and Andy Fallu, the music was orchestrated for violin, cello, bass and guitar,  with students volunteering to perform the music in the show.

The set included a colorful background of a French village, painted panels of castle walls  and intricately cut (paper) stained glass windows. Alumnus Max Cheney’13 and Mr. Martin Somers helped create a magical fairy tree that reached to the top of the stage with large branches overhead.  The costuming work by Ms. Sue Cheney was exceptional.  The play was truly a community project with assistance offered by faculty and friends for costumes, set, orchestration, voice, speech and acting.  Ms. Cimino and Erica Knight were co-directors of Young Joan, a wonderful collaboration that first began with the 2016 Eighth Grade Play, Twelfth Night.

The students lived into their parts and gave a deeply moving and engaging presentation of this mystical story, enlivened by the complex melodies and beautiful songs.  The transitions between the characters playing Joan was signified by the transfer of a sky blue scarf tied around the waist of the new Joan.  With a sweet poignancy at the end of the play, Old Louis de Conte held the blue cloth as Octavia Robinson-Fiorillo sang: Joan of Arc Sings: “If I am to die…Truth it has my heart…and now I am with peace for the task is complete.”