Kicking off the start of an unprecedented, coronavirus-era Carnival, the Krewe of Joan of Arc will harken back in time while leading the charge through unchartered territory for its 13th year.
Traditionally, the Joan of Arc parade welcomes Carnival in the French Quarter, while celebrating the beloved saint’s birthday on Jan. 6.
This year, instead of its usual French Quarter walking procession, canceled due to COVID-19, the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc will produce a drive-by parade at Behrman Memorial Park in Algiers from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Jan. 6.
The drive-by event, officially dubbed Tableaux de Jeanne d’Arc, will bring many of those major components from the parade to this socially-distanced celebration of the 15th-century heroine and Catholic martyr.
Joan of Arc co-captain Antoinette de Alteriis describes the event as an “open-air theater” where cars will roll by different scenes depicting Joan of Arc’s story modified from the parade. Knights practicing swordplay, a group of bagpipers waiting for the action, an eco-friendly confetti shooting cannon will all be seen along the stretch.
“This is the first time in a long time that we’ve actually been able to bring it more in line with our original vision where we really are presenting a theater performance along a street,” de Alteriis said.
De Alteriis said the modified celebration also gives the krewe an opportunity to take more creative liberties typically restricted by the walking parade. The New Orleans Opera is donating some of their sets to help the krewe put on the show, de Alteriis said.
The krewe fashioned what looks like a burning pyre to reenact Joan of Arc’s burning at the stake surrounded by flaming heretics represented by the Muff-A-Lotta’s dance group. The usual blessing at St. Louis Cathedral will get replaced by a set of a church with an altar and stained-glass windows, and krewe members will replicate the presentation of the sword. Motorists will also drive by Joan and her army at a campsite.
De Alteriis also promises some other surprises for spectators.
“We just are getting to flesh out the story a little bit and bring out some of the things that we haven’t had before,” de Alteriis said.
In order to pull off this year’s celebration, the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc looked for inspiration from both past and present.
Tableau is a historic art form where actors assume poses to portray a static human picture. Early Carnival in New Orleans was also built around this art of tableau when the first Mistick Krewe of Comus parade in 1857 used this idea of rolling tableaux, which became the early prototype of organized Carnival parades.
De Alteriis said she also modeled the parade’s drive-thru-style following a successful run of the Krewe of Krampus’ creepy Christmas drive-thru parade on Dec. 5.
“For the last 13 years, we’ve kicked off carnival season with great crowds and really great interactive fans, and we really wanted a way to bring that back to the city in a way that was safe,” de Alteriis said.
The Krewe of Joan of Arc will also offer attendees a medieval-inspired playlist, an online Joan of Arc interactive quiz bowl trivia to play while waiting. Other extras include a book for sale that chronicles the life of Joan of Arc and the parade’s history.
“We’re all so hungry for something close to normal, and this is as close as we can get,” de Alteriis said. “We think it’s going to be fantastic, and we think it’s going to bring a spark to the beginning of Carnival this year.”
Tickets for the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc tableaux drive-by performance cost $10 and will go on sale Friday, Jan. 1 via Eventbrite. To purchase, search Tableaux de Jeanne d’Arc on Eventbrite or visit the krewe’s Facebook page and website for a link.
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