Note: I received a copy of this play from Playwrights Canada Press for review. This does not impact the content of my review.
Book: I Am For You
Author: Mieko Ouchi
Published: October 2016
Publisher: Playwrights Canada Press
Genre: Drama and Plays
A new drama teacher teaches two aggressive girls the art of stage combat, hoping to get them to understand the costs of violence. The girls battle out their issues in rehearsals, and as the their interest in stage combat grows, so does their interest in playing the parts of Mercutio and Tybalt in their school production of Romeo and Juliet.
My rating: 5 stars!
First off, how gorgeous is this cover!? It’s so simple. And yet, it is absolutely stunning.
Have you ever read a play and seen in your mind’s eye? That’s what happened when I read this play. I could see it taking place in my high school’s drama room – with black walls and floor, some black cubes scattered around the space ready for blocking, some dark velvet curtains strung up along the walls to help create whatever kind of space is needed.
A unique way of examining the experiences of high school, growing up, fitting in, finding yourself, and learning something new.
The two girls in this story do not get along. Lainie and Mariam may go to the same school and be in the same drama club, but they are from two completely different worlds. The great part is, they actually have a lot more in common than they may think. And Mr. Morris, their new student teacher, is determined to help them figure out how to get along, and gain some self-confidence on the way. Unlike me, he loves Romeo and Juliet (I really don’t like the story), and he is trained in stage combat – much to the benefit of Lainie and Mariam.
The story is pretty straightforward, and really works. It’s not a sudden fix, but goes through the weeks of rehearsals as the girls learn stage combat and rehearse for the play. The timeline works well. It’s believable. And so is the journey and change that the characters go through.
Fun and fast, I Am For You is filled with exciting action, clever dialogue, and amazing examples of consent.
As exciting as all the stage fights (and not so staged fights) between Lainie and Mariam, my favourite part of this play is the great dialogue and the fabulous examples of what consent looks like. Each character has their own distinct voice. Their background, their values, their goals, all come through in the language Ouchi has given them.
Best of all, are Mr. Morris’s requests for consent to touch the girls. Now, don’t go getting your hackles up. There is nothing about this play that is sexual in any way. Mr. Morris is the girls’ stage combat teacher. And, while teaching them how to sword fight and fist fight in a way that both looks real to the audience but is safe for the performers, he has to sometimes adjust the girls’ positions or demonstrate a technique with one of them. (As a former ballet dancer and dance teacher, I know what this is like). And each time, before he touches either of the girls to adjust their shoulder angle, or lift their wrist a little higher, or practice a throw and fall, he asks for permission to touch them. He asks in ways such as “Is it cool if I hold on to your forearms?” I love this so much. It is so natural and normal. He treats his students with such respect. It makes me so happy.
I Am For You is a lovely play for a small three person cast. It wouldn’t need a lot to stage it – but if done well, would be wonderful to see staged. I’d love to see it one day. Heck, I’d love to be in it. En guard!