This news release describes past events and should be used for historical purposes only. Please note date of release.
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield Hall 218
Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004
UW-Eau Claire to Present 'The Yellow Boat'
phone (715) 836-4741
fax (715) 836-2900

MAILED: March 17, 1998

EAU CLAIRE -- Dr. Cheryl Starr knew she wanted to direct "The Yellow Boat" after she saw a production done in Milwaukee four years ago.
"The audience response was accepting and really positive," Starr said. "Parents talked to their kids, and everyone was clearly touched by the story."
But when she came back to Eau Claire with the idea in mind to perform "The Yellow Boat," the reactions were more cautionary. Starr said she knew she'd produce it when the time was right.
She thinks now is the right time.
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire music and theatre arts department will present "The Yellow Boat" at 9 and 11 a.m. March 31, April 2, 7, 9, 14 and 16; at 7:30 p.m. April 3, 4, 17 and 18; and at 1:30 p.m. April 4 and 18. All performances are in Riverside Theatre of the Fine Arts Center.
"The Yellow Boat," written by David Saar in 1993, is based on the true story of David and Sonja Saars' son, Benjamin, who was born with hemophilia. He died at age 8 of AIDS-related complications.
Starr said the Saar family, who lives in Arizona, went through the same types of ordeals as Ryan White's family when Benjamin was diagnosed with AIDS.
When Benjamin was in the hospital, he started to withdraw. But a child specialist who connected with him encouraged Benjamin to draw so he could cope with his pain, Starr said.
In the production, Benjamin's artistry literally turns the theater into a blaze of color and images.
The cast includes three family members and a chorus, which has numerous roles, Starr said.
For example, early in the play Benjamin starts to color on the wall, and his parents are surprised how good he is. The chorus members become those scribbles, Starr said.
The chorus members will become everything from children to doctors to scribbles on the wall. That's what makes the play so physical, Starr said.
Starr said while the play is recommended for children in third grade and up, adults can enjoy it as well.
"It's a play anyone can find value in," she said.
Freshman Molly Berg, who plays Benjamin's mother, said it's difficult portraying a mother whose son has AIDS.
"It can be related to people of any age," said Berg, of Coon Rapids, Minn. "It relates to adults on the fact that it's so honest and sincere."
Because the play was written so recently, the costumes and scenes are contemporary, Starr said.
While directing "The Yellow Boat" is rewarding and the cast enjoys it, Starr said it has its risks.
"It's a risk to do a play like this where the main child dies," Starr said. "It's a really challenging and thought-provoking play. I'm hoping people will give it a chance."
Berg agrees people will enjoy the play.
"It has a positive message and a good message," Berg said. "It's not all depressing."
But the play itself deals with more than just facing challenges and the power of creativity.
"It's an affirmation of a child's life," Starr said. "I want people to go away with how precious life is."
Completing the production team is Joe Nicikowski, a sophomore from Racine, as the assistant director.
William F. Mellien, professor of music and theatre arts, is the scenic and lighting designer and makeup designer for the show. Ann Behrens is the costume designer.
Art Gulig, of the department of music and theater arts, is the sound designer.
Tickets for the play are $4 for the general public or $3 for senior citizens, youths, students, and faculty and staff with a university ID. Tickets are available at the University Service Center, (715) 836-3727.

UWEC [Administrative Offices] [News Bureau]

Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 218
(715) 836-4741

Updated: March 16, 1998