THE SAMURAI IN THE BRIGHT PURPLE DRESS by Sam Shea
This play won second place in the first annual Metro Milwaukee Young Playwrights Competition. The author, Sam Shea, attends Pius XI High School. The play was directed by Todd Denning of First Stage Children’s Theater and Milwaukee Shakespeare, assisted by Jessica Woodburn, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student.
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The original cast is as follows:
HIROTOSHI: Greg Scharine, Pius XI High School
NARRATOR HIROTOSHI: Sam House, Pius XI High School
FATHER: Dominic Inouye
MOTHER: Jan Seybold
SAMU: Nic Cable, Milwaukee High School of the Arts
UMA: Ploen Sopitpongstorn, Pius XI High School
The Samurai in the Bright Purple Dress
By Sam Shea
HIROTOSHI: An adolescent Japanese boy who experiments with cross-dressing. He is having a large identity crisis. Very mature for his age and is burdened by that.
N.HIROTOSHI: HIROTOSHI and N. HIROTOSHI are the same person although N. HIROTOSHI is HIROTOSHIS unconscious. Nobody responds to N. HIROTOSHI because when he speaks it is HIROTOSHI thinking.
MOTHER: Her only wish is for her family to get along and be happy. She is regularly conflicted between being a supportive mother or an enforcing mother.
FATHER: Very conservative, lives on honor and the tradition of the Japanese lifestyle.
SAMU: A local bully.
UMA: She and HIROTOSHI have been friends since they were young. When the entered junior high school they grew apart and she regrets that.
ENSEMBLE: Kids playing the game with SAMU. The ENSEMBLE includes RAY, DOGAN, SANFOD, and ANGELA. Ideal size is ten.
- NOTE: Watashi wa kirei desu translates to ďI am prettyĒ.
- NOTE: The game played in SCENE THREE is Bosan ga Hewo koita: The demon faces away from the other players and then chants: ďDaruma san ga korondaĒ. An American version of this game is red light, green light.
- NOTE : The drumbeat in SCENE SEVEN is to signify HIROTOSHIS heart beat and to add more tension to the scene. As HIROTOSHI prepares to enter the, drumbeat quickens. A Wadaiko drum is ideal for this scene or any other traditional Japanese drum.
(HIROTOSHI and N.HIROTOSHI are both in the bathroom. N. HIROTOSHI dressed in all black. HIROTOSHI is squirming on the floor, trying to fit into the Bright Purple Dress.)
N. HIROTOSHI: It has been thirty two days since Iíve started wearing the bright purple dress. It has been seventeen days since I have been putting on makeup. It has been four days since Iíve tried on undergarments. It was today that I embraced who I am. I had sunk deeper and deeper into something that I am not, yet I was made to be. Prisoner to the kimono, prisoner to codes of honor, prisoner of being Japanese. I am the same as any other person I see. I act the same and we all look the same. But when I dash into the bathroom with my bright purple dress dragging behind, I am not the same kid. (HIROTOSHI finally stands up and looks at his reflection in the mirror)
FATHER: (offstage) Hirotoshi? Are you done yet? Youíve been in there for 30 minutes!
HIROTOSHI: Yes, father. (slightly lowers voice) Uh, one moment. (Hirotoshi scrambles to take off everything and change into a Kimono. He hides all evidence of his doings under some clothes in a laundry basket and quickly exits with the laundry basket under his arm. N.HIROTOSHI watches HIROTOSHI disappointedly but remains in the bathroom)
FATHER: (offstage) Hirotoshi, come back here. Hirotoshi! (FATHER enters bathroom)
FATHER: Whatís gotten into him (notices smear on the floor from makeup but disregards it)
N. HIROTOSHI: Watashi was kirei desu.
(HIROTOSHI is sitting down eating a bowl of rice in the eating room. HIROTOSHI is wearing a traditional kimono, whereas N. HIROTOSHI is stage back, wearing the Bright Purple Dress)
N. HIROTOSHI: I remember the day I found the Bright Purple Dress. One night when they went out for Wadaiko Drumming. Having nothing better to do, I searched their room. Like the other rooms, I found it to be bland. From the teak shelves to the tatami bed. The dim light glared in from the shoji, casting long boring shadows across the room. I moved towards the reed closet doors and slid them open to explore. Naturally, I found kimono after kimono after kimono. I grazed my fingertips against the first silk kimono I saw. Unfortunately, I was accustomed to this sensation. Gradually, I pulled each one back, getting closer to the back of the closet, which was deceptively deep. As I pulled back the last black and white kimono, out beamed the bright purple dress. (Walks over to HIROTOSHI and puts his hand on his shoulder. MOTHER enters, carrying a laundry basket)
MOTHER: Good morning, Hirotoshi. (HIROTOSHI eats in silence and continues to stare into his bowl)
MOTHER: (Sets laundry basket down on the table) I said, good morning, Hirotoshi.
MOTHER: How did you sleep?
MOTHER: Have you had enough to eat?
MOTHER: How has school been?
MOTHER: I spoke with your teacher the other day. She says your marks have been down. (Long pause) Hirotoshi? Is there an explanation for this?
N. HIROTOSHI: Iím not sor-
MOTHER: Hirotoshi, Iím not looking for an apology. I just, I just want to help you. Look, I know starting junior high school can be difficult; it was hard for me too. (HIROTOSHI peaks his head up to look at her) But junior high school is very important to getting into a good senior high school and that is important for when you go to a university. (HIROTOSHI goes back to staring at his bowl)
HIROTOSHI: I know, Mother.
N. HIROTOSHI: Fatherís only been telling me that for the past 5 years.
MOTHER: Well, Hiro, if you knew that, then why arenít your marks exceptional? You know how hard it is to get into a good law university these days. The better the university, the better the lawyer youíll be.
HIROTOSHI: I know, I know. The better the lawyer, the more Iíll get paid. Father and I have had this talk before.
MOTHER: Your Father just wants whatís best for you.
N. HIROTOSHI: Obviously Iím not good enough for-
HIROTOSHI: Myself? (Pause) It really doesnít feel like Father wants what is best for me sometimes.
MOTHER: Nonsense. You know how hard your father works. Heís worked hard his entire life to get the job that he has. He did it all so you could have the opportunity to work hard and get an even better job, just like his father did for him. There is a lot of pride in our family, Hirotoshi.
HIROTOSHI: Iíve noticed.
MOTHER: Your Father, just, gets…frustrated sometimes. You are his only child; he just has a hard time dealing with everything, but he loves you Hirotoshi.
HIROTOSHI: No. Youíre wrong! He doesnít love me. He doesnít know me, and, and, and Iím surprised he knows my name!
MOTHER: Hirotoshi! Stop that this instant. Where is this coming from? Of course he knows your name. He was the one that named you.
HIROTOSHI: He didnít name me Hirotoshi, he labeled me Hirotoshi.
MOTHER: Honestly, Hirotoshi. You are being so rude! You have been so disrespectful lately. (Pause) Look, Hiro, I didnít mean to yell. I know this is such a hard time for you. Itís hard for me too, Iím stressed as well. (Pause) itís just been a long morning and, well, your father couldnít get his car started today and he was late, again. (Pause) Well, you know what happens when heís late and how he is. Iím sorry Hirotoshi. I want you to be able to talk to me, so I shouldnít yell. (Pause) Ah, and this laundry. (Long pause) Say Hiro, does this kimono belong to you or our father? (MOTHER holds up kimono, HIROTOSHI stands up looks up looking very upset again. Immediately when he gets up, N. HIROTOSHI picks up the bowl drops it. They both storm out and his mother is alone. Looking stunned, she goes over to the table and begins to clean up the broken bowl. She begins to weep and covers her face with her hands. N. HIROTOSHI comes out and puts his hands on her shoulders)
N. HIROTOSHI- Watashi wa kirei desu.
(Lights up and they are at school during a recess or free time. The kids are playing Bosan ga Hewo koita. HIROTOSHI sits in isolation looking uncomfortable about being the only one not playing the game. N. HIROTOSHI stands near HIROTOSHI, eagerly watching everybody playing. N. HIROTOSHI is wearing the Bright Purple Dress)
SAMU: (the self appointed ď demonĒ. He turns around, calls out the chant, and the game begins) Dogan, I saw you move.
DOGAN: I wasnít moving (grumbles and walks off to where the ďoutĒ section is, the game continues)
SAMU: Yeah, and uh, I saw you, too, Ray (RAY grumbles and slumps off to the ďoutĒ section. The players draw closer to him and he turns around a second time and chuckles) Angela, youíre out! Sanfodo, way out! (They leave the game and HIROTOSHI turns around to see what the yelling is about.) Hirotoshi, youíre out too. Did you think I was going to miss that?
N. HIROTOSHI: You idiot. I wasnít even playing. (HIROTOSHI continues to stand his ground)
SAMU: Hey, Hiro. Hhhirroottooshii. You are out. Are you deaf?
N. HIROTOSHI: Are YOU blind?
HIROTOSHI: I wasnít playing.
SAMU: (Snickers) Yeah, sure. Of Course you werenít. Get out. Now!
N. HIROTOSHI: Shut Up!
HIROTOSHI: (Under his breath) Shut up.
SAMU: What did you just say? (Walks toward Hirotoshi) Repeat that!
N. HIROTOSHI: SHUT UP!
HIROTOSHI: Nothing, Iím just standing here, okay? I wasnít playing your stup- I wasnít PLAYING your game, OKAY? (SAMU is still walking towards him and isnít slowing down. When he reaches HIROTOSHI he punches him the arm and pushes him towards the box. Immediately after Hirotoshi gets punched, N. HIROTOSHI rubs the area of his arm where HIROTOSHI got hit. N. HIROTOSHI raises his fist and begins to advance upon SAMU but HIROTOSHI blocks him.)
SAMU: If youíre going to stand on my ground youíre going to play my game. Okay? So get over there! Some Hiro you are. (SAMU walks back and continues to play. HIROTOSHI walks over to the ďoutĒ section and sits in the corner followed by N. HIROTOSHI. UMA sees him sulking and leaves the game to go to him.)
UMA: Hiro, Hiro are you all right?
N.HIROTOSHI: I am now. (Shoots Uma a suave look)
HIROTOSHI: Yeah, Iím fine. Thanks.
UMA: Why didnít you just go out, Hirotoshi?
N. HIROTOSHI: Not again…
HIROTOSHI: Because I wasnít OUT, I wasnít even playing!
UMA: Well, why didnít you just play in the first place?
N. HIROTOSHI: Why donít you just mind your own business.
UMA: Hirotoshi, weíre all playing, all of us, and we are all having fun. Come and just play.
HIROTOSHI: Iíd rather be punched than play.
UMA: (Frustrated) I donít GET you Hirotoshi. You do this to yourself.
HIROTOSHI: I do this to myself? Did I do this to myself? (HIROTOSHI and N. HIROTOSHI point to the bruise their arms)
UMA: No. (The game ends, SAMU and ENSEMBLE exit)
HIROTOSHI: Well, I guess I donít know else to do, Uma.
UMA: (Grows sympathetic) Oh Hiro, what’s happening to you? I remember how happy you were last year, at the other school. Do you remember that Hirotoshi? (HIROTOSHI avoids eye contact) Weíd always walk around town together with our class, all of us wearing our little yellow uniforms. You were always the one to hold my hand to make sure I didnít get lost. (HIROTOSHI looks up, grinning)
HIROTOSHI: Somebody needed to watch out for you.
UMA: Oh, is that so! I believe it was me that stopped you from getting hit by that motor, Hirotoshi. (HIROTOSHI laughs)
HIROTOSHI: We always have been there for each other, I guess things change, though.
UMA: Or people change. (Hirotoshi stops grinning)
N. HIROTOSHI: You know me too well, Uma.
HIROTOSHI: What do you mean by that?
UMA: Hiro, itís pretty obvious, youíve changed, and I hardly recognize you anymore. You donít talk to anybody, you donít play games, and I never see you at any of the city events. Plus there is something different about you. The way you move now. (UMA slowly begins to move towards HIROTOSHI) The way you look at things. The way you donít look at things. The way you just wrap your eyes around one thing and stare. Like you have a lot on your mind. (Uma is finally parallel with HIROTOSHI, only a few inches away, long pause) Like youíre carrying a large burden (Uma affectingly strokes HIROTOSHIíS face, then realizes there is something on HIROTOSHIíS face. Uma looks at her hands and realizes she rubbed makeup off HIROTOSHIíS cheek).
UMA: Hirotoshi? (HIROTOSHI walks away from UMA)
HIROTOSHI: Look, you donít understand! Itís just-
N. HIROTOSHI: Iím not confused, Iíll tell you. (UMA stares as Hirotoshi as he looks down ashamed) Iím different Uma, Iím not the old Hirotoshi, Iíve grown out of that, Iíve grown bigger, Iíve grown bigger then conventional, Iíve grown bigger then traditional, Iíve grown bigger then the name Hirotoshi. I used to be afraid because I did not know who I was. Now I realize that itís when you have no clue who you are that youíre closest to yourself. Itís you that’s confused Uma! Itís people who are so content I knowing who they are, that are the farthest away from true peace of mind. Maybe my lifeís chaos, but Iíve found truth in chaos.
UMA: Whatís going on Hirotoshi? I, I donít-
HIROTOSHI: Nothing is going on.
N. HIROTOSHI: DONíT SAY THAT, HIROTOSHI! Tell her the truth! (N. HIROTOSHI walks to UMA) Sheíll understand Hirotoshi.
UMA: Whatever it is Hirotoshi, I wonít judge you for it. You just have to tell me. (N. HIROTOSHI and UMA begin walking toward HIROTOSHI, gradually backing him into a corner).
N. HIROTOSHI: This is your chance. Itís much easier for two people to carry a burden than one.
UMA: Weíve grown up together, Hiro. I donít want us to stop growing. Just tell me what youíre thinking.
N. HIROTOSHI: HIROTOSHI, SHE WANTS TO-
HIROTOSHI: (to UMA) -help me.
UMA: How can I? Just tell me how.
HIROTOSHI: By, by, (looks at N. HIROTOSHI) by just, (looks at ground) by just leaving me alone. (HIROTOSHI walks away from them. N. Hirotoshi looks disgusted and Uma looks dumbfounded)
UMA: (long pause) Yesterday, in class Hiro, we learned a prayer.
HIROTOSHI: The Shinto prayer?
UMA: Yes, the prayer for peace.
HIROTOSHI: What about it?
UMA: You need it. Peace of mind. You need peace of soul. I donít know, you just need peace, Hirotoshi.
HIROTOSHI: The last thing I need is a stupid prayer.
UMA: (Begins reciting the poem) Although the people living across the ocean surrounding us, I believe, are all our brothers and sisters, why are there constant troubles in your world?
HIROTOSHI: (Sighs and continues prayer) Why do winds and waves rise in the ocean surrounding me?
N. HIROTOSHI: (Ends the prayer) I only earnestly wish that the wind will soon puff away all the clouds, which are hanging over the tops of the mountains.
UMA: Goodbye Hirotoshi, (Pause) I just hope you havenít said goodbye to yourself yet. (UMA exits)
N. HIROTOSHI: (Furiously looking away from HIROTOSHI) Watashi wa kirei desu.
(MOTHER and FATHER are in the sacred teahouse; they are bent over praying, in silence. HIROTOSHI enters and is followed by N. HIROTOSHI who is still wearing the Bright Purple Dress)
HIROTOSHI: Father, Mother. Please excuse my behavior before. I acted completely inappropriately.
FATHER: Yes, you did. You threw a tantrum like a baby
MOTHER: But let us not concentrate on the bad, because tonight is the parade. Can you believe itís been a year already?
FATHER: We are all going, Hirotoshi.
FATHER: Arenít you looking forward to the parade, Hirotoshi?
MOTHER: You used to always look forward to it. You used to be so excited this time of the year.
FATHER: But instead you look so gloomy. (HIROTOSHI doesnít respond) I remember when my Father used to take me. Weíd go every single year. Arenít you looking forward to it, Hirotoshi?
N. HIROTOSHI: (to HIROTOSHI) NO!
HIROTOSHI: Itíll be nice. Call for me when youíre ready.
N HIROTOSHI: Youíre WEAK Hirotoshi! Youíre a weak, weak boy! How could you pretend to look forward to it? Itís the same every year. Itís the last thing you could possibly want to see. Itís the same routine every year. (HIROTOSHI exits) No! No! No! You two donít understand me; I would never want you guys to— I donít want you guys to see me! Youíll never understand, you donít care to. The last thing I would like is to go to a parade! Iím sick of everything. Iím tired of kimonos, Iím tired of this house, and IíM just so, so tired of everything. And you! (Shouting out the door that HIROTOSHI exited) Go run and hide, go run and hide in the bathroom the rest of your life, youíre WEAK, youíre PATHETIC! (Pause) Watashi wa kirei desu.
(HIROTOSHI is sitting in the bathroom wearing the Bright Purple Dress. N. HIROTOSHI is sitting as well. They are both sitting on the ground and leaning on each others backs)
HIROTOSHI: Sorry. (pause)
N. HIROTOSHI: Do you want to sit on this cold floor forever?
N. HIROTOSHI: Do you feel how cold it feels against the floor. A dress like this isnít meant to be pressed against a floor this cold.
H HIROTOSHI: Then what do you suggest we DO?
N HIROTOSHI: Leave, get out of here.
HIROTOSHI: I couldnít.
N. HIROTOSHI: Yes, you could. And I could. And we will.
HIROTOSHI: Whatís so good about the outside? I mean, why go out there? I am perfectly fine in here. I am content.
N. HIROTOSHI: Content with what? What do you have that you can be content with? Look at the dress. Look at it! Look how beautiful it is. Do you think a dress that shines like that is meant to be locked in a bathroom? No! You have to leave this bathroom and show everybody how beautiful the dress is. You also have to show everybody who you are. Just because nobody else is wearing a Bright Purple Dress, doesnít mean you shouldnít be! Is this your idea of being Hirotoshi? Is this your idea of being?
HIROTOSHI: You donít get it, I canít just walk up to mother and father let them see how big of a freak Iíve turned into.
N. HIROTOSHI: And why not?
HIROTOSHI: BECAUSE ITíS NOT HONORABLE.
N. HIROTOSHI: Whatís more honorable then being yourself? (N. HIROTOSHI proceeds to go over to door and open it up. HIROTOSHI paces and contemplates and finally walks out the door to the hall way, wearing the dress)
N. Hirotoshi: Watashi wa kirei desu
(Lights up as HIROTOSH: is standing frozen in the hallway in the Bright Purple Dress. N. HIROTOSHI soon walks out of the bathroom, also wearing a Bright Purple Dress)
HIROTOSHI: Where should I go next, huh? Where are my parents? What will they do to me? What will they say to me? Will they love me still? Did they love me before? Should I even continue with this? Why am I standing still in the hallway? Are all pantyhose this uncomfortable? Am I wrong to be doing this? What will Uma think of this? Or am I gay? Does it matter? Do all dresses itch this much? What determines who and what we like? Are there other ways I can be different? Why do I feel so sad? Why do I try so hard to not be what people want me to be? Why did my mom hide the bright purple dress? What was her life before she met my father? Why did she have it? I have honored but why canít I take another step? I have honor but why canít I take another step? (Picks up Kimono laying on the ground and examines it) Why am I a samurai trapped in a bright purple dress? (N. HIROTOSHI rips the dress away from his grasps and throws off stage, then proceeds to lean back against door as HIROTOSHI tries to open and exit but can not because N. HIROTOSHI is blocking the door) And, and, where should I go next? (N. HIROTOSHI pushes him forward down the hall and HIROTOSHI doesnít resist. Eventually HIROTOSHI starts to walk by himself and begins to increase the pace as he exits. Moments after, HIROTOSHI runs in opposite doors, entering the kitchen)
HIROTOSHI: They arenít here.
N. HIROTOSHI: You know where they are
HIROTOSHI: Yes, yes I do.
N. HIROTOSHI: Then why stand there? Go to them.
HIROTOSHI: I came this far, itís far enough.
N. HIROTOSHI: You know what mom always says: Beginning is easy, continuing is hard. Look. We are who we are; there is no turning back for us.
HIROTOSHI: Youíre rightÖ and you know what dad always says: if you want a thing done well, do it yourself.
N. HIROTOSHI: We will. (HIROTOSHI exits towards tea garden and N. HIROTOSHI exits behind and turns around before exiting) Watashi wa kirei desu.
(Lights up and we are back in the teahouse. MOTHER and FATHER are kneeling sipping tea in silence. They are in the middle of performing an elaborate tea ritual. HIROTOSHI peers into the teahouse and drums begin beating. HIROTOSHI hesitates and contemplates returning to the bathroom, but he takes a deep breath and N. HIROTOSHI pushes him to the room. The drumming suddenly ceases)
N. HIROTOSHI & HIROTOSHI: (bows) Mother, Father. Watashi wa kirei desu. I am pretty.
Copyright © Sam Shea. This work may not be reproduced without express, written permission from the author.