In one room, the constant sounds of pages being flipped and actors reciting their parts, sometimes restarting if they don’t sound convincing enough. In another room just next door, the hum of drills piercing wooden planks, the fresh smell of paint, a senior showing a new freshman how the magic happens. These two rooms hold two groups that are responsible for completely different jobs. However, East’s tech crew and cast combine during the preparations of each play in order to make a perfect finished product. Their latest work in progress: The Yellow Boat.
Blue carried hope
The Yellow Boat is a reenactment of the book by David Saar whose young son Benjamin is diagnosed with AIDS. The audience follows Benjamin’s vivid and colorful imagination which he utilizes in his drawing and paintings while in the hospital.
He has a bedtime ritual in which he recites a Scandinavian folk song that tells of three little boats: “One was blue, one was red, and one was yellow as the sun. They sailed far out to sea. The blue one returned to the harbor. The red one sailed home too. But the yellow boat sailed up to the sun.” Each color has its own meaning that is explained throughout the play as Benjamin continues to battle with his illness.
He is played by sophomore Cameron Andrea who was enthralled by this character as soon as he first read the script.
“I fell in love with Benjamin because of the way he tells his stories. Benjamin wants to go on an adventure with his life and I felt like that was something I’d want to be able to show to the audience, and I want to make sure I do this justice because it is a real story and I want to make sure I can tell it,” Andrea said.
This sentimental story provides a symbol of strength and courage for all children. It is a topic that has never been done before at East Theatre, but such topics are what high schools students need to be exposed to, says senior Maddie Fox who played one of the doctors in the show.
“We usually focus more on comedies. I think this is a really important story to tell and we’ve been doing a lot of research to make sure that it’s told accurately and making sure that the message comes across to the audience,” Fox said.
Junior tech crew member Parker Valek said that he didn’t know much about the show until he read the script and discovered how significant the subject matter could be.
“It contributes to an issue in society that not a lot of people are aware about,” Valek added.
Being such a sensitive piece, directors Nicole Chandler and Kathleen Belovsky wanted to have the students step out of their comfort zone and convey the message to their peers.
“This production is more abstract than others I have worked on. It’s always been on my list of shows I wanted to direct. This one is more difficult because of the topic that the piece focuses on. It’s always a goal of mine, as a director, to present actors with challenging material,” Belovsky said.
Switching from laughs to life lessons is something that East Theatre is not accustomed to doing, but they hope that this production will move the audience and spread awareness to HIV/AIDS.
Yellow filled itself with love
Many members of the theatre have different reasons as to why they wanted to participate in this production. Many are returning members looking forward to another exciting show to help create. Others were intrigued by the play itself and wanted to be apart of such a groundbreaking project never done before at East. However, even with their differences, their mutual love for theatre is what drew them in.
“I did plays before and I want to be an actor when I get older and [this play] was appealing to me,” junior Kamari McNeal, who plays David Saar in the play, said.
Freshman tech crew member Ally Cappas also said that her sister is in theatre, so she wanted to experience how it was like since she already had an interest in it.
Actors are not limited to just acting and tech crew is not limited to just tech. There is much freedom for the theatre members to pursue whatever they wish. For Fox, this is her first year being an actor in the play.
“I’ve done tech crew for the other shows and I’ve done two years of senior scenes. Since this is my first full stage show, it’s a lot of fun. It’s cool to see a different side of it. I’m used to filming the props. It’s a good experience for my senior year,” Fox said.
The auditioning process is very nerve wracking no matter if you are a new or returning actor. The pressure to do well is always in the air, no matter how much experience you have.
For Andrea, those nerves will never die down. The thought that you won’t get the part always stays fresh in his mind.
“Once you do a few auditions you get really warmed up to the people and it’s really easy to feel connected to everyone in the room once you’re in. And I feel like that’s what makes it less scary, but it’s always scary for me. I’ve never not been fearful to walk into an audition,” Andrea said.
However, no matter if you are given a part or not, Chandler and Belovsky ensure that everyone has a place in the East Theatre home. All people are welcome to participate and even help out during rehearsals for tech.
“Our East Theatre family is super talented and the kids are ambitious. We want to provide them with as many opportunities as possible. We are a collaborative team and they want to be involved. They accept any challenge and are fearless,” Chandler said.
Red carried faith
Before the show first opens in January, cast and tech meet everyday besides Wednesday to rehearse and build the props. Belovsky and Chandler switch roles in each play, Belovsky was tech director for the last show but is now acting director for The Yellow Boat, and Chandler is vice versa.
“Being part of both sides of a production is not unusual for us, we function as a unit, as one, so it makes sense that we know how all aspects of the program works. It is always helpful to have another person’s perspective and experience when creating a unified piece,” Belovsky and Chandler said.
Though the audience doesn’t interact with the tech crew as much as the actors, their contributions behind the scenes are just as captivating. Every preparation must be top notch and is taken very seriously, even the smallest of errors are not taken lightly.
“If I mess something up, I feel like I’ve been here long and I should know this if it’s something simple,” Valek said.
Tech members are able work on whatever they want as long as it is productive; every member is there to help if necessary, teamwork is a must.
“There’s not just one person. Everyone’s always super helpful and makes sure everyone has what they need,” Freshman tech crew member Emma Walsh said.
“Since we’re freshman, they all taught us what to do and it was really nice,” Cappas agreed.
Both Walsh and Cappas said how grateful they were for the members helping them get accustomed to the atmosphere of such a highly anticipated program.
This atmosphere of having another family at East is what has helped each member become so comfortable with each other. No one wants to have all of the attention nor will they allow for others to struggle if they find themselves having a hard time. Having faith in each other is what makes teamwork such a vital part of each show.
“The crew in constantly collaborating with the directors and the cast and we’re making sure everyone knows their parts and their lines and what they’re supposed to be doing. We’re just all holding each other up and so I think it’s going to be a really good show because of all of that collaboration,” Fox said.
This immense cooperation between both actors and tech crew is all for the goal of exposing East teens to a subject they have not yet seen. Using their large platform and ability to draw in large crowds of all ages, East Theatre will present The Yellow Boat and spread the message that Belovsky and Chandler want.
“In our current society, we need to continue to preach the importance of inclusion and that everyone has a story and that their voice matters. HIV and AIDS is still a concern in our global population and as artists, it is our responsibility to shed light on situations that happen in all communities. [Benjamin’s story] is a story of bravery and strength,” Belovsky said.
The Yellow Boat will be staged in the Performing Arts Center January 24th-26th at 7 p.m.
Keara Shannon is a staff writer for Oswego East’s online news magazine the Howl