By JW McNay/managing editor

Play to bring family’s true story to stage, examine life, death, loss 

Movement, color and large children’s toys will accompany actors on stage to celebrate life and childhood imagination as they take on David Saar’s The Yellow Boat.

The play is based on the true story of the playwright’s life and the life of his son Benjamin, who deals with health complications due to hemophilia.

Though Benjamin’s health eventually failed due to a bad blood transfusion that ultimately caused his death, the play is a celebration of his life, said guest director Brigette Marquardt. 

“It’s about just the beauty of and celebration of children and their imagination,” she said.

Marquardt is a NW alumnus who has been involved in the campus’ theater off and on over the years, including acting in and choreographing other NW productions. She chose the play because she likes its message of finding “hope” in the face of “darkness.”

The play is written with children in mind but is intended for an audience of all ages, she said.

“Because some young people deal with really hard things, probably a lot them, and so, it doesn’t make sense to not have shows to kind of help them work through those things,” she said.

NW student Lane Norris plays David Saar, Benjamin’s father, and said the role has been a challenge because of some of the more serious aspects of the play.

“It’s definitely one of the more emotionally draining characters I’ve played,” Norris said.

The performance will take place in Theatre Northwest, but seating will be more limited because the seats will be on stage, he said, adding that this will create a more intimate setting for audiences.

“If one of us starts getting emotional and we starting tearing up, you’re going to be able to see that, every detail,” he said.

Westlake Academy student Megan Flight, who is in 7th grade, plays the role of Benjamin.

Flight said playing the role of a boy presents some challenges to her though she has had previous experience playing a boy having portrayed James in a production of James and the Giant Peach.

“It’s hard to not act like a girl when you grew up like one,” she said.

Years younger than the rest of the cast, Flight said the play creates the feeling of going back into childhood.

The props are oversized toys such as a boat, Rubik’s Cube and Play-Doh containers. The ensemble is also made up of college-aged cast members who have to act well below their age at times.

“We have all these teenagers playing little kids,” she said. “It’s really fun to watch how they interpret [the role].”

NW student Danielle Nafziger plays Benjamin’s mother, Sonja Saar, and said one of the biggest challenges in her role is trying to find the strength a mother has to have to keep her child from being scared and to comfort them.

“I’m sure the actual Sonja spent many nights behind closed doors crying for Benjamin,” she said. “But I wonder how often he actually saw her cry.”

The theme of loss resonates with Nafziger’s personally because her father passed away three years ago from cancer.

“Now that I’m playing this role, I’ve kind of been able to find some healing through my own grief and understanding why a parent has to be strong for their child,” she said. “That’s some personal growth I’ve found from it. It’s just a really beautiful show.”

The ensemble also adds to much of the movement that’s on stage by performing movement pieces with silks. For example, the ensemble twirls red silks during Benjamin’s hospital visits in place of having set pieces such as medical equipment.

“There are a lot plays you can go see that might be inspired by true events, but a lot of them aren’t a true story,” Nazfiger said. “And this play is as true as a story can get.”

The Yellow Boat

7:30 p.m. Nov. 14-17 and 2 p.m. Nov. 18

Theatre Northwest (WTLO 1108) on NW Campus.

Tickets are free for TCC students, faculty and staff; $3 for non-TCC students and general admission; and $6 for general admission.

Contact the box office for tickets at 817-515-7724.