As part of the Guthrie New Play Program funded by the Bush Foundation, Julie Marie Myatt was presented with the opportunity to conduct research anywhere in the world - in the hopes that her research would then fuel the inspiration for a new play - and she chose to investigate an issue that took her 8200 miles from her home in Los Angeles to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. "I had seen a news story about the brothels in Phnom Penh that traffic and enslave children, and about the individuals and organizations that were going in to rescue them," says Myatt, whose play The Sex Habits of American Women was staged at the Guthrie Lab during the 2004 - 2005 season. "I became very interested in the shelters where they were housing and rehabilitating these girls, the aftercare centers. So I went to Cambodia with the question: Can you be a child again after you've been living in an adult sexual world?"
Boats on a River is set in an aftercare center in Phnom Penh, where Western aid workers attempt to help a trio of recently-freed young girls adjust to a new life. It's not an easy journey for the girls, for whom sexual abuse has meant losing their value in the culture; nor is it a simple task for the well-meaning Westerners who must navigate a land that to them seems riddled with chaos. ("Things function differently here," as one seasoned character points out.) Myatt's play depicts both of these interwoven struggles with remarkable insight, demystifying a disturbing subject through the humanity of her vivid, conflicted characters.