Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi A Child's Journey

By Kelle Schillaci

MARCH 1, 1999:  In 1979, Benjamin Saar was born to parents David and Sonya. A high-spirited child, he discovered at an early age a fondness and talent for visual art. His visions of magic castles and gardens--common children's fantasies--became extraordinary works of art. But his days of creativity and life were cut short when, a mere eight years, four months and 29 days after his birth, Benjamin, who was a hemophiliac, died of AIDS-related complications in 1987.

As a celebration of his son's shortened life, David Saar wrote The Yellow Boat, which has been acclaimed as a "glorious affirmation of one child's life, and of the strength and courage of all children." It traces Benjamin's journey, not in an attempt to realistically depict the disease, but as a deliberately artistic production using abstract theatrical design in an effort to honor a life.

Benjamin's birth is represented by "an explosion of colored fabric"; his drawings are a "three dimensional dance of fabric and movement"; and his HIV infection is depicted as a "strip of dark color into the ribbon of red fabric."

Directed by Laurie Magovern, The Yellow Boat has become a traveling production, making its way through Albuquerque Public Schools, not as a teaching tool, but as a means of opening dialogue about "serious illness, human compassion, personal choice and the cycle of life and death." The play itself, however, is aimed at children and adults alike and has recently been awarded the Distinguished Play Award by the American Alliance for Theatre and Education.

The cast includes 14-year-old Aaron Moore in the lead role, J.J. Sifre as Benjamin's best friend and Tracy Goetz and Josh Narcisso as David and Sonya Saar. In addition to the production, Theatre X will also play host to a collection of Benjamin's original works, and the NAMES Project, which manages the AIDS quilt, will be benefited at the Feb. 25 performance. This benefit/reception will include a post-performance panel discussion by a medical doctor, HIV positive individuals, members of the NAMES Project and the play's cast and the director, who, as part of her UNM Master's Thesis Project, transformed this vision into a successful reality.

The AIDS quilt memorial will be hung in the lobby, including the panel by Benjamin as well as many other New Mexicans and countless Americans who have lost their own courageous battles. Benjamin's artistically expressed brave journey inspired the play. It's the hope of the writer, director and cast that the play, in turn, will inspire audiences with "color, humor and hope."

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