A Prayer for the French Republic
Joshua Harmon's "Big Boy Pants" Play
I didn’t say Big Boy Pants. An artistic director of a big theater that is a huge Joshua Harmon fan said it. A Prayer for the French Republic is Joshua Harmon’s first big 3-act play.
A Prayer for the French Republic gives voices to three generations of a family doing the emigration dance, “Should we go now?”, “How about now?”, “Is it too dangerous now?”, “Okay, but now it really is too dangerous.”, “We just got here, and we have to leave?”, “We definitely have to leave now…Maybe.” It would have to be a big 3-act, 9-actor, 14-character production to give all of the time, space and perspectives the decision to emigrate requires. Evidently, you need at least 2 hours on stage to give a young American character enough experience to see their own silliness, too.
That American character, Molly, is the reason for the season in educational theater. She will be just enough like most every American student in a school with a drama program, that everyone will be able to read her lines with a heavy dose of authenticity. All of us sitting in the States will see enough of ourselves to laugh at her lovingly and change with her when she gets a few reality slaps from her French friends and family.
On the other hand, the young French female character, Elodie, is another dream for a teenage audience: crushing retorts to some typically American ideas. What teenager doesn’t love a well-researched roast? If there were a teenage chorus in this show, they would have many moments to do a hand-over-the-mouth “ohhhhhhhhh!!!!!! She told you!”
I submit Elodie’s speech to her younger cousin Molly for the top spot in the monologue circuit for schools this year. I very badly wanted to include the whole thing for you here. But she goes on and on, in true 20-something style. So here is one mid-stream point:
When people talk about the benefits of travel they rarely describe getting shouted down by a local about the effect of the US on the rest of the world. By someone who you would not get to meet in the US, because they minor or major disgust and disdain for us and US. If you are hearty enough to hear it; that in-person perspective delivered to you by an impassioned peer is world-changing. This play can give us that righteous rant, ideally in person, and change all of us State-siders a little or a lot. Molly’s responses are pretty good, too.
The characters all get to argue their point in direct addresses, dialogues that are really monologues, and tete-a-tete’s full of well-stated points. If my kids can’t go to France to have a someone give them a piece of their minds; I am very happy for them to get a piece of it in a seat at the theater. I would loooove it if they got to see their classmates speaking these lines on the school stage or in the classroom. My 12-year-old does sometimes snap when he hears a point well-made with which he agrees. I will give you a list of his “oh, snap!” points.
(He is not a child of the ‘90’s, so he never says that. The youth just literally snap, so sophisticated.)
Please let me know in the comments if you want tickets to the Thursday, September 7 or Sunday, September 16 performance of A Prayer for the French Republic at the Huntington in Boston. If you have students who want to see it I can get tickets for any point in the whole run. I will embed myself in those student matinees just so I can hear all of the collective snapping.