Jolicoeur lands lead role in ‘Saint Joan’ at RISE Playhouse

Jolicoeur lands lead role in ‘Saint Joan’ at RISE Playhouse

Rain Jolicoeur plays the lead role of Joan of Arc at RISE Playhouse on Clinton Street, Woonsocket. For tickets and information, visit www.ristage.org.

WOONSOCKET – Rain Jolicoeur made a New Year’s resolution “to do what I loved again.”

The Woonsocket actress graduated from the Beacon Charter School for the Performing Arts in 2015, where she did a lot of theater. “I loved it,” she said, “but I stopped after high school.”

Literally on Jan. 1, right after making her resolution and discussing it with her friends, Jolicouer saw the audition notice for “Saint Joan” at the Rhode Island Stage Ensemble. “I felt really excited. It had been so long since I’d been at RISE. I got such a rush. It felt like this is what I’m supposed to do.”

She performed a monologue she’d last done in a Shakespeare competition as a junior in high school. Chris O’Neill, the show’s director, asked her to do it again, and then said, “We’ll get back to you.”

That audition earned Jolicouer a callback. “I read Joan’s monologue, the one where she says she’d rather die than go back to prison. I started crying, and Chris asked me if I was OK. I said, she’s supposed to cry.” But when she left, she sat in her car and “bawled my eyes out. I thought I’d done badly.”

It turns out she did very well. On Jan. 12 at 6 a.m., there was a ping on her phone. “RISE announced the whole cast, and there it was, Rain Jolicoeur as Joan. I was at the top of the list.”

O’Neill provides the play’s synopsis: “‘Saint Joan’ follows a headstrong country girl (Joan of Arc) whose fiery religious visions propel her into elite circles. When the nation’s rulers become threatened by her popularity and influence, they unite to bring her down – landing her on trial for her life. George Bernard Shaw’s play powerfully dramatizes the complex relationship between society’s visionaries and the powerful forces they threaten.”

Jolicoeur likes playing Joan. “A teenager going to war. A badass. I always looked up to her. Any powerful woman in history appeals to me. She was burned at the stake at the age of 19. What was I doing when I was 19? I was making movies with my friends.”

Now almost 22, Jolicoeur’s appreciation for Joan has grown. “Joan doesn’t understand when people are joking, she doesn’t understand facial expressions. I get into her head space and I’m not Rain anymore. I react to the present the way she would act. The way I live my life, I probably would have been burned at the stake in the 17th century. We would have been friends, Joan and I.”

O’Neill really enjoys what Jolicouer brings to the show. “In the play, one of the characters keeps saying, ‘There is something about this girl.’ He can’t put his finger on what. He just knows Joan is special. Rain is like that. She’s exquisitely odd and wonderful. She marches to the beat of her own drum. She has a natural youthfulness and quirkiness, but also a strange, quiet intensity.”

When Jolicoeur was cast, her mother found a picture of Joan of Arc, “and we look like sisters. It’s cool to see how similar we look.”

Now, they look even more similar. Just prior to our interview, Jolicoeur had cut her long curly hair very short. “Chris said he wanted a GI Jane look, and I said OK. My hair was like a helmet before. It used to be one of my defining characteristics. I took care of it every day with a 40-minute routine.”

When she cut her hair very short, “it brought out things I didn’t like about myself. My nose, my cheekbones, my acne. But then I realized, my flaws aren’t flaws. If it wasn’t for Joan, I wouldn’t know this.”

Spoiler alert from Jolicoeur: “Unfortunately, Joan does become a kabob. But her heart and message live on. She was declared a saint in 1920, so justice was finally served for her.”

When “Saint Joan” is done, Jolicoeur wants to stay in the theater atmosphere. “Let me know if you see any audition notices for bald ladies.”

The RISE Playhouse presents “Saint Joan,” March 22-31 at the RISE Playhouse on Clinton Street in Woonsocket. For tickets and information, visit www.ristage.org .