Academy students set to sail on challenging ‘Yellow Boat’

So far this season, the Tri-Cities' two high schools have presented plays about thoughtful, creative, misunderstood men whose lives inspired compassion. This week, the West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics enters the stage with its production of "The Yellow Boat.'
Tribune Staff
Nov 16, 2011


The play is the true story of Benjamin Saar, a young boy who was born with hemophilia and contracted AIDS from an unscreened blood transfusion. After Benjamin died in 1987 at age 8, his father, David Saar, wrote “The Yellow Boat.”

It will be staged at Orchard View High School, 16 N. Quarterline Road in Muskegon Township, with 7 p.m. performances on Thursday and Friday.

Thoughtful and highly creative, Benjamin was not misunderstood. But AIDS was, and people’s fear about the new disease for a time isolated Benjamin and his family.

If the story sounds extraordinarily sad and serious, particularly for a group of middle school children to be enacting, the play’s director said it is a celebration of Benjamin’s life.

It also is a celebration of the joy and power of imagination, and how expressing imagination through art can bring “humor, love and hope” to life, said Mandy DeBoer, WMAAA’s drama teacher. DeBoer introduced the school to “The Yellow Boat” when she conducted a workshop on the play two years ago.

“It’s an important work and I wanted to see how kids would handle it,” she said. “They took it with such maturity and seriousness, I’ve been waiting for the right time and the right people to do it as a play.”

In terms of emotional content, this is the toughest play the school has presented, DeBoer said — but her students have been up to the task. 

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

— By Janet Tyson, Tribune correspondent


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