Over the past couple of months, I have been practicing for a one-act festival at my university. The past week, my cast performed a shortened version of The Yellow Boat by David Saar. Five other casts presented other one-acts on the same nights as us or alternating evenings.
The Yellow Boat is originally a childrens’ show but one of the most powerful scripts I have ever read. David Saar wrote it about his son, Benjamin. In the 1980s, this little boy with an artistic streak was born. Because of his hemophilia, Benjamin received multiple blood transfusions. One of these gave him blood tainted with the aids virus.
Suddenly, this creative and exciting show with us running around being happy children morphs into a heart-wrenching tale about this young artists last days. Just thinking about it now still brings me to tears. At the end, Benjamin dies and “sails away on the yellow boat” up to the sun.
When I was cast as Mother in this show, I thought that it was typecasting. After all, my aspergers is a bit of a struggle when I perform. Either my facial expressions are too vivid or my connection with other actors fails. Many people told me that I was sweet but could not do theater for a living.
Thus, I figured I received a easy role where I would just smile and be nice. However, this character stretched me so far, leaving me drained and on the verge of sobbing many nights. Coming off of those emotions is still hard for me to process.
I learned to love deeply and then lose that all in a tragic event. I grew to care for a child and then sit by his deathbed. I trusted a man as we welcomed a baby into the world and then leaned on him for support through my agony.
Doing The Yellow Boat was one of the most hard, beautiful, and emotional things that I have ever done. Bonding with the amazing cast and our fantastic director made this show even more amazing. Best of all, the audience was deeply touched by our performances. Just about everyone teared up as they thought about their loved ones and the carefree innocence of childhood.
Depression tries to rid me of emotions to leave me in a numb state. Aspergers brings struggles of relating to other people. That is part of why this play was so draining but wonderful for me: I overcame my mental illness and lacking social skills. When onstage, I transformed. That process brings agonizing pain but full emotions.
I will never forget The Yellow Boat. Actors do not become the character that they play. However, the characters that you act certainly change you if you let them. As frightening as it is, I am allowing Mother to impact part of who I am and how I see the world.