WKU theatre debuts student-led show

During a rehearsal for the children’s play “The Yellow Boat” on Tuesday, Oct. 10 in the Gordon Wilson Lab Theatre, cast members Austin Higgins, Conner Keef and Reagan Stovenour act out a scene in which the main character Benjamin, played by Higgins, draws while other cast members act out the drawings for the audience. 

Nicole Ziege

The Theatre and Dance Department will debut “The Yellow Boat” Friday as part of the WKU Children’s Theatre Series.

“The Yellow Boat” is the first of three student-directed children’s shows as part of the WKU’s Children’s Theatre Series. All plays in the series are student-directed, student-designed and sometimes student-written, said Carol Jordan, the faculty coordinator for the Children’s Theatre Series.

“The series provides our majors a wonderful opportunity to do hands-on production work, while also providing the greater community with high quality productions for young audiences,” Jordan said.

“The Yellow Boat,” by David Saar, follows the true story of how Saar lost his young son Benjamin to AIDS in the 1980’s.

“It’s a joyful exploration of life and art and the ways that we use the arts to deal with life’s most painful moments,” Jordan said, regarding the play.

Senior Colin Waters, the student director for the play, has directed shows at WKU since his sophomore year. However, this will be the first children’s show that he has tried.

“My main focus is on corralling the actors and helping them best grasp their characters, the story we are trying to tell and how we will use their performances to tell that story,” Waters said.

As a student director, Waters said that he also focused on creating the “overall vision” for the show and “bridging the gap” between technical and performance aspects.

“I love directing this show,” Waters said. “Each actor brings such a different level of vulnerability and creativity, which with this show is wildly important.”

Waters said the greatest challenge was finding the balance between “having fun” with the cast and “holding a level of authority and respect.”

“This cast, however, has been extremely respectful and has done a great job with taking my direction, making my job so easy,” Waters said.

Jordan said one of the biggest challenges for the production team was “finding a way to bring the visual elements to life.”

“Colin [Waters] and his designers have found really creative ways to use the acting ensemble during the fantasy sequences,” Jordan said.

About 30 students worked on the production, including designers, board operators, medical liaisons and eight cast members.

“I am so proud of all the work they have put in, and I am ready for audiences to see this beautiful work they have created,” Waters said.

WKU junior and theatre major Conner Keef plays Benjamin’s father in the show. Keef said he wanted to perform in the play because it was “a great opportunity.”

“Children’s shows help you become a more versatile actor,” Keef said.

Keef said his biggest challenge as an actor in the show was learning different ways to communicate emotions in his role. He said he was able to overcome that challenge because of help from Waters. Keef said this is the second time that he has worked with Waters as a student director.

“The director must have great decision-making skills to make the show exactly as they want,” Keef said. “He knows the steps it takes to get to the end result, which is really important.”

Keef said he also wanted to emphasize how “amazed” he has been by the work of the design teams, including lighting, sound, props and costumes.

“We’re a solid group that is willing to work together,” Keef said. “They all have done a really amazing job. They really added a lot to the show.”

Keef said that “The Yellow Boat” is a “heart-breaking and heart-wrenching story.”

“Audiences will have an understanding of what it means to die and what it means to lose a child,” Keef said. “They will also have an understand the sacrifices that parents make for their children.”

Reporter Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].