Shaw's personal reputation following the Great War was at a low ebb, and it is thought that he wanted to first test the play away from Britain. The play received its premiere on 28 December 1923 at the Garrick Theatre on Broadway by the Theatre Guild with Winifred Lenihan in the title role. The London première, which opened on 26 March 1924 at the New Theatre, was produced by Lewis Casson and starred Shaw's friend Sybil Thorndike, the actress for whom he had written the part. Costumes and sets were designed by Charles Ricketts, and the play had an extensive musical score, specially composed and conducted by John Foulds.
Caught between the forces of the Church and the Law, Joan is the personification of the tragic heroine and the part is considered by actresses to be one of the most challenging of roles to interpret(see below). Because of the challenges of the role, it is often played by very experienced actresses who are much older than the age of the character, who was a teenager. For a film version, Joan was played by Jean Seberg, who was 19 at the time of filming.
- Notable St. Joans
- Winifred Lenihan – Garrick Theatre, December 1923 - April 1924 (Initial production)
- Sybil Thorndike – London, March 1924 (Shaw wrote the play with her in mind)
- Katharine Cornell – Martin Beck Theatre, New York, March 1936 - May 1936 (Tyrone Power made a pre-Hollywood appearance)
- Wendy Hiller – Malvern Theatre Festival, Malvern, England, July 1936 (honoring Shaw's 80th birthday)
- Uta Hagen – Cort Theatre, New York, October 1951 - February 1952
- Siobhán McKenna – APA-Phoenix Theatre, New York, December 1956 - January 1957 (Peter Falk appeared in a small part)
- Joan Plowright – London, 1963
- Geneviève Bujold – television production, 1967
- Diana Sands – Vivian Beaumont Theater, Lincoln Center, New York, January 1968 - February 1968
- Lynn Redgrave – Circle in the Square, New York, November 1977 - February 1978
- Imelda Staunton – London, 1979
- Frances de la Tour – London, 1984
- Imogen Stubbs – London 1994
- Anne-Marie Duff – National Theatre, London 2007
- Amy Irving – sound recording, 2010
Other notable Joans include Judi Dench, Zoe Caldwell, Elisabeth Bergner, Constance Cummings, Ann Casson, Roberta Maxwell, Barbara Jefford, Pat Galloway, Sarah Miles, Ellen Geer, Jane Alexander, Lee Grant, Janet Suzman, and Eileen Atkins.