IDENTITY IN I, JOAN.
MICHELLE TERRY, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE, ON IDENTITY IN I, JOAN
Shakespeare’s Globe proudly presents a new play, I, Joan with Joan as a legendary leader, who in this production, uses the pronouns ‘they/them’. The production opens on 25 August in the open-air Globe Theatre. We are not the first to present Joan in this way, and we will not be the last. Regarding the use of pronouns, ‘they’ to refer to a singular person has been traced by the Oxford English Dictionary to as early as 1375, years before Joan was even born. Regardless, theatres do not deal with ‘historical reality’. Theatres produce plays, and in plays, anything can be possible.
Shakespeare did not write historically accurate plays. He took figures of the past to ask questions about the world around him. Our writers of today are doing no different, whether that’s looking at Ann Boleyn, Nell Gwynn, Emilia Bassano, Edward II, or Joan of Arc.
The Globe is a place of imagination. A place where, for a brief amount of time, we can at least consider the possibility of world’s elsewhere. We have had entire storms take place on stage, the sinking of ships, twins who look nothing alike being believable, and even a Queen of the fairies falling in love with a donkey.
Joan’s army will be made of hundreds of ‘Groundlings’ standing in the Yard, all coming to watch a play for £5 – the most accessible ticket price in London theatre. We hope this £5 ticket invites as many people as possible to come and have an opinion of their own, and even if we don’t agree with each other, still show kindness, curiosity, and respect.
It was no accident that Shakespeare moved his playhouse beyond the jurisdiction of the London City Walls. He wanted to play. Play with identity, power, with the idea of pleasure, and with all sides of an argument. Shakespeare was not afraid to ask difficult questions as he imagined the lives of 1,223 characters; he represented an extraordinary range of diverse perspectives and identities, and we are all still enjoying his work over 400 years later. Shakespeare was not afraid of discomfort, and neither is the Globe.
For centuries, Joan has been a cultural icon portrayed in countless plays, books, films, etc. History has provided countless and wonderful examples of Joan portrayed as a woman. This production is simply offering the possibility of another point of view. That is the role of theatre: to simply ask the question ‘imagine if?’.
Shakespeare’s Globe is unequivocally pro-human rights. This includes trans people, non-binary people, black and minority ethnic people, and people with disabilities. Trans men and women and non-binary identities exist and are valid. We stand by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We are committed to becoming an inclusive and diverse organisation, and making necessary change is at the heart of our strategic aims for the organisation. This includes becoming pro-trans, anti-racist, and taking positive, conscious, and intentional action against any form of prejudice present in our culture.
We aim to create a culture and environment in which everyone’s experience at Shakespeare’s Globe is equal, inclusive, and equitable.
WHY WE USE THE WORD QUEER
The word ‘queer’ is widely used to refer to non-heterosexual and non-cisgender identities. We use the word ‘queer’ interchangeably with LGBTQIA+. Regarding the copy for I, Joan, our creative team has been integral to choosing the language used in our copy. We recognise the complex history of the word queer, and its reclamation into a positive or neutral descriptor. We use queer to mean those outside of heterosexual and cisgender identities.