By Bernie Petit
The cast and director of the Three Bone Theatre production of “The Yellow Boat.”
A wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.
Reba McEntire fans—and who isn’t?—will realize those are the three things the country singer and actress said you need to succeed in life.
They’re also the three things you need to make it as a theater company, said Robin Tynes, who co-founded the aptly named Three Bone Theatre.
“The idea is that we use kind of the core values of each of those bones to influence our work,” Tynes said of the Charlotte-based company.
“So the backbone is about strengthening our community and also having strong artistic work. The wishbone is making sure we’re doing inspirational work and work that inspires other artists. And the final funny bone is that theater, no matter how dark or political or twisted that you can make it, still has to be entertaining and still have some value because if it doesn’t then no one will watch.”
The theater’s upcoming production, “The Yellow Boat” by David Saar, exemplifies those values. Based on the real life story of a child born with congenital hemophilia and who died at the age of 8 of AIDS-related complications, the story affirms the strength and courage of children and celebrates the role caregivers play in helping children with terminal or chronic illnesses cope.
“The story lends itself to celebrating those people that we don’t celebrate that much and to bringing awareness to what the journey is for childhood illnesses is like for the whole family,” Tynes said.
A community-focused company, Three Bone Theatre partners with local organizations throughout its season. It does so by matching the themes of its productions to the causes of area nonprofits. During the run of its production “2 Across,” for example, it held a book drive and collected donations for an organization that collects books for children.
“It’s just a way that theater allows people to walk through stories they wouldn’t necessarily walk through in real life and connect with other people,” Tynes said. “Charlotte has such a rich vibrant community and we wanted to make sure we were telling all of those stories and connecting them back to a local organization.”
For this production, Three Bone is partnering with Team Odin Baer, a support and community group for a young boy in Salisbury with an inoperable brain stem tumor.
To further connect the local community to the theme of the show, the theater applied for and received a $2,622 Cultural Project Grant from the Arts & Science Council (ASC) to present a special performance of the play for families and care providers of chronically or terminally ill children at Duke Energy Theater at Spirit Square.
The company typically hosts its productions at the NoDa venue UpStage, a haven for independent theaters in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. But the theater needed a bigger space so it could invite families and caregivers from Ronald McDonald House and Hemby Children’s Hospital in Charlotte.
“We can’t on a regular basis afford to do a show in the Duke, but we thought this was something special and maybe we can get some help with it,” said executive director Becky Schultz. “We are so excited that this was our first grant application and it was approved and it’s something that we’re going to be able to bring to fruition.
“It’s a bit of a wish-dream.”
The production itself is huge step for the three-year-old theater, said Tynes, who is directing the play.
“It’s a more technical show from what we usually do, it’s a bigger budget from what we usually have and it’s a pretty big cast compared to what we usually have,” she said. “It’s pretty groundbreaking for us in a lot of ways.”
After the special performance for families and caregivers at Duke Energy Theater on May 1, the show will run May 8–9 and 15–17 at Upstage.
“It’s a story about a child living and it’s as hopeful and uplifting a story about a child passing away can be,” Schultz said. “There will be sad tears but there will also be happy tears hopefully and you go home and hug your family and take a little bit more joy in every day of your life.”