DramaCentre makes right choice with winter production

February 02, 2004|JENNIFER BRUMMETT

There are a number of reasons why "The Yellow Boat," DramaCentre's winter production, was a good choice.

When Centre College changed its calendar three years go, creating a three-week term that replaced the six-week winter term, the professors were asked to develop courses that were innovative. Assistant professor of drama Matthew Hallock's contribution is Drama 315, "The Company," which gives the students a "summerstock experience in January," he says.

With only three weeks to put together a production, David Saar's "The Yellow Boat" was "accomplishable in 16 days" based on its number of actors and design elements, Hallock says.

"It's an intensive three weeks," Hallock explains. "This is the only course they take. They're probably a little crazy right now."


Additionally, wife Jane Dewey and he have wanted to do "The Yellow Boat," he adds. Hallock has been producer and scenic designer for "The Yellow Boat" while Dewey has directed the production. Dewey says she has been able to direct the play through an arrangement with Danville schools, for which she works.

"It's thanks to them I was allowed to come over and work with this."

Dewey says she likes some scripts for the entertainment value while she likes others that speak to her. "The Yellow Boat" both is entertaining and exciting, and left Dewey saying, "Wow," after she read it, she says.

"It's also a script that is, in a lot of ways, open-ended," Dewey notes. "There's a lot of room for exploration for the director and the cast."

"The Yellow Boat" is about the playwright's son, Benjamin, a hemophiliac who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion in the 1980s. Benjamin died when he was 8.

The title of the play refers to a Norwegian folk tale about three boats - one red, one blue and one yellow - that set sail every day. At the end of the day, the red and blue boats sail back to the harbor while the yellow boat sails toward the sun.

"The story of the three boats is a story Benjamin's parents had always told him," Dewey says. "His parents would act it out with him. Benjamin was always the yellow boat."

The play presents Benjamin's story as a triumph in the face of calamity, Dewey notes.

"Benjamin was kind of a gift to the people involved with him. ... He showed people there are ways of dealing with tragedy and adversity in colorful, joyful, exuberant ways.

"Benjamin was a gifted visual artist. His parents introduced him to drawing because they were artists ... Benjamin used art to express himself."

The AIDS-stricken youngster also used art to cope with being ill, as well as to communicate with the doctors and other children.

Benjamin is played by senior Ian Frank, and the rest of the cast is college-age students. Initially, that was a concern to Dewey, who wanted them to "get outside their heads and play." She wanted the students to become believable 7- and 8-year-old children and "be in the moment."

"We try different things, experiment, take risks," Dewey says. "What they've come up with is amazing.

"We played a lot as part of rehearsal. ... We were playing games and allowing the cast to think and react as kids."

Many of the games forced the actors to be in the moment as Dewey wanted. "When you're playing children, you really absolutely must be in the moment."

Portions of the Memorial AIDS Quilt will be on display

In conjunction with performances of "The Yellow Boat," portions of the Memorial AIDS Quilt will be on display in the foyer of the Norton Center for the Arts. The AIDS Quilt is considered to be the largest piece of folk art in the world, and was started in San Francisco in the 1980s.

In 1997, the AIDS Quilt was displayed in its entirety in Washington, D.C., Hallock says. Today, with 44,000 panels, it is too large to be displayed fully.

Each panel is 12- by 12-feet. Twelve will be displayed in the Norton Center foyer. An "opening" ceremony will be held immediately following the first performance of "The Yellow Boat," set for Feb. 8. Hallock says the performance is about 75 minutes long, so the ceremony should begin around 3:30 p.m. Music professor Sarah Stoycos has put together pieces to accompany the ceremony, Hallock adds. Dewey notes that each panel at the Norton Center will be unfolded in a certain way. The quilt will be on display throughout the run of "The Yellow Boat," except for Feb. 12, when "Lord of the Dance" plays in Newlin Hall.

The name of the 44,000 people represented by the quilt will be read throughout the week that "The Yellow Boat" is being performed. Anyone who wants to participate by reading should call Sarah Scott Hall at (859) 238-5471.

Upper elementary-age and middle school-age children will attend performances for schools of "The Yellow Boat." "Theater in Education," or TIE, teams also have been sent throughout the local schools systems as well as into nearby counties. The teams have given hour-long workshops that tie in with the pupils' core content as well as the college student's theater work.

Central Kentucky News Articles