Artistic director Andorlie Hillstrom says it was devastating to close the Yellow Door Theatre Project, cancelling classes that mean so much to her students.
Since then, she’s offered private musical theatre and dance classes on Zoom, and they’ve been very successful, she says.
Beginning June 2, Yellow Door Theatre Project will offer four consecutive virtual group classes, from June 2 to 25, in musical theatre and dance, giving students an opportunity to connect with old friends and meet new friends.
“Our kids are starved for getting back to their lives before COVID. And we believe it’s going to take a long time to get back to what we consider normal,” says Hillstrom. Her students have been missing their classes, teachers, and most of all, their friends, and “although they’re not the same as being side by side in the studio space, virtual classes will provide a return to some normality.”
It will give students a chance to get dressed in their work-out clothes, find a spot in their home and get moving, she says. “It’s not a perfect solution as being in the same space as their instructors, but it can give them a sense of accomplishment while having fun.”
The theatre school is considered non-essential, and by nature involves activities with kids that include physical integration, so Zoom classes will be very different, “but our instructors are ready to give it a go,” says Hillstrom. “We are trying to be creative about how to pursue the idea of virtual classes and see if students are interested.”
Moving forward, she says, when the theatre school is able to reopen, it could be with a permanent hybrid of virtual classes combined with small classes, “in what we consider a safe environment.”
The Zoom classes will explore singing, dancing and acting to excerpts from age-appropriate musicals, says Hillstrom. “Our professional and experienced instructors will support the participants through the creative process and develop their confidence and connection to one another.”
It will give them a 30-minute social experience, which they are so badly missing out on.
“We’ve been working on virtual materials, getting kids together a few at a time, and they’re so thrilled to see each other’s faces. They’re missing out on so much — their graduation, their prom, their school musicals and the social interaction that’s so important to them. Theatre kids love each other so much, they love being together in the same space, and removing that from them has been so hard. These are some of the things I’ve been worrying about. It’s important to get them together safely.”
Yellow Door student Shakeela Vahdat, 12 years old and in Grade 7, has had some first-hand experience with Zoom. After two auditions, she was chosen to play one of the children in Gypsy, which was part of the Shaw Festival 2020 season.
Once the theatre had to close, she joined other actors in Zoom rehearsals. “I was very sad we had to stop,” she says, but she is hoping it will be produced as part of next season.
“I’m happy I got the chance to rehearse with the fellow actors, even if it was virtual. And I’m looking forward to taking some lessons (with Yellow Door) online.”
She loved Yellow Door classes, she says. “Everyone is so inclusive, not judgy at all. I learned a lot at Yellow Door. And the time I was at the Shaw was a great experience. That was so amazing.”
There will also be an adult tap class offered for ages 18 and up, a fun class for people who always wanted to try tap — and now they can try it in the comfort of their own homes.
The virtual classes are “a start to see if we can connect with folks,” she says, after dealing with the possibility of having to empty out the studio and close its doors for good, not knowing whether there would be a future for it.
Fortunately, thanks to landlord Lloyd Redekop, that didn’t happen.
“He’s been great. We wouldn’t have been able to continue without his support and cooperation,” she says.
Online registration began May 15. Contact Hillstrom at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details. Registration and info are also available at www.yellowdoortheatre.com.
Yellow Door Theatre Project is a charitable organization and musical theatre school and production company for youth, led by a team of theatre professionals, including music directors, designers and technicians devoted to providing skill training and live theatre performance opportunities to young people from across the Niagara Region.