TWIN FALLS • As a little boy deals with physical and emotional pain, he uses his artistic talents and imagination as a way to escape.
“The Yellow Boat,” a play based on the true story of Benjamin Saar, tells the story of a boy and the struggles he faces.
He was born with congenital hemophilia, a blood disorder, and contracted HIV after receiving a tainted blood transfusion.
The eight-year-old boy died in the late 1980s.
Magic Valley High’s drama club, the Main Street Players, will present their production of “The Yellow Boat” tonight and Saturday, May 18 at First Baptist Church in Twin Falls.
The play, which was written by Benjamin’s father David Saar, runs for less than one hour.
Proceeds from the show will go toward Magic Valley High’s drama scholarship, presented to seniors who have participated in the theater program.
The show will be dedicated to principal Jack Altemose, who is retiring at the end of the school year.
Director Jennifer Miller — an English, theater and speech teacher at Magic Valley High — said “The Yellow Boat” is a sad story, but also one that’s beautiful and life affirming.
She heard about the play from a teacher in Detroit when she was working on her master’s degree.
Miller calls it the production a “process drama” where the journey is what counts, not “this is our fancy production.”
The end product, in this case, isn’t as important as what students learn along the way.
Sage Short, 18, who plays Benjamin’s mother, said the biggest things that stand out about the play are the challenges the family goes through.
It’s not her first time performing at Magic Valley High. In the fall, the high school senior prepared a pantomime solo and was an alternate for the state drama competition.
Matthew Garren, 18, a senior, plays Benjamin’s father. The play, he said, is the storyline of what the boy goes through.
“It just revolves around him getting worse and worse,” he said.
Garren said he has only been working on the role for one month and admitted he’s “somewhat nervous” and gets stage fright.
After starting out as a “techie” for the show and helping with behind-the-scenes work, he ended up acting.
He said he got involved with the production as a way to pass time because “there was nothing to do at home.”
After graduating in June, Garren plans to go to the College of Southern Idaho. He hopes to then either join the U.S. Air Force or National Guard, or study engineering at Boise State University.
Magic Valley High puts on one play each spring. Students started rehearsing in February, rehearsing one hour after school four days a week.
Miller said the production of “The Yellow Boat” is a more feasible project than a full-length play.
During a rehearsal May 14, backpacks were scattered around Miller’s classroom and tables were pushed to the back of the room.
Students were doing a run through of the play. At one point, Benjamin’s parents are figuring out a way to tell their son that he has contracted HIV.
In another scene, the family asks their friends for help. The friends repeat the same lines over and over again about wanting to help in any way they can, but eventually leave.
Benjamin is upset when his friends’ parents don’t let them come to his seventh birthday party.
“No one’s coming to my party? Not even Eddie?” he exclaims. He withdraws to a corner, sits down and crosses his arms.
Benjamin deals with people making assumptions and being ostracized. Miller said that’s something Magic Valley High students can relate to.
During the play, a character named Joy, a “child life specialist” at the hospital who’s played by Alexis Simpson, encourages Benjamin and helps him deal with his surroundings at the hospital.
She encourages him to express where he feels pain by drawing. Then, Benjamin tries telling his doctors about pain using color descriptions.
“Hurt doesn’t have words,” he says.