Aisle Seat

Tomorrow for the Young
One of my greatest fears (after Newt Gingrich but before earthquakes) is that someday there will be no theater because the audience is too old to leave the retirement home. I decided that a little quest was in order -- to find some of those companies actively reaching out to the young, and to share their successes.

One of those companies is Berkeley Repertory Theatre, which offers several programs for youths, but perhaps its most ambitious is the School Touring Program. Fifteen thousand children saw this year's show, The Yellow Boat, performed by adult professional actors during the eight-week touring season.

The Yellow Boat is David Saar's true story about his son, Benjamin, who died of AIDS at the age of 8. The play is a life-affirming tale of courage of one small boy. But, I wonder, isn't this pretty heavy duty for the targeted age group, grades three through eight? Karen Racanelli, administrative director of Berkeley Rep's educational programs, relates that, although there was some difficulty booking this show because of the subject matter, the students are "very supportive. They find the show uplifting. The kids are sad that Benjamin died, or that no one would come to his birthday party, but they say how glad they are to learn about AIDS and hemophilia."

Racanelli tells me about one little girl in the fifth grade whose aunt had AIDS. The girl's mother told her that she would get AIDS because she drank from her aunt's water glass. The girl was terrified that she would become ill -- until she saw the show, that is. She told the actors after the show that now she knew she didn't have to be afraid that she had AIDS. "It's feedback like that," Racanelli says, "that makes the tour so worthwhile for all the people involved."

The tour is grueling -- weeks of early curtains and long trips in the van. Because of the nature of this particular show, the actors also spent time with health-care professionals, learning the facts about AIDS and answers to questions likely to come up during the post-show discussions. The result is both entertaining and educational, as the kids experience the power and immediacy of live theater. For more information, contact Berkeley Rep at (510) 204-8901.

Snap, Crackle, Pop
For those who like their New Year's Eve with a theatrical flair, Mona Rogers in Person, Helen Shumaker's over-the-top solo show, offers two special shows Dec. 31 at 8 and 10 p.m., with champagne, party favors, and a raffle. Tickets are $25-30; call 956-8497. Or, you can pump copy with Josh Kornbluth at the Marsh. His 8:30 p.m. show on New Year's Eve will be followed by refreshments, libations, and revelry. Tickets are $25; call 641-0235.

By Deborah Peifer

 
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