The Yellow Door Theatre Project for kids has continued to move forward with online activities, classes, workshops and performances during the pandemic, says artistic director Andorlie Hillstrom.
She is really looking forward to the return of her popular summer camp program, and to offering performances inside their beautiful space in Virgil.
Zoom classes, although not ideal, have been necessary to keep the school going, says Hillstrom. “We didn’t want to disappear. Our parents have been amazing. None of this would have been possible without some private funding.”
ReCreational Classes will start up in September, with reduced class sizes and the ability to switch to online as required by Ontario’s reopen plan, with musical theatre classes for kids ages five to 14, and monologue and scene study for ages 10 to 14.
This summer, kids recently recorded Disney’s classic The Little Mermaid JR., the story of Princess Ariel, “a curious and free-spirited mermaid who courageously follows her dreams and embarks on life-changing adventures to find what she truly treasures.”
It had been adapted for an outdoor space, and with classes being virtual, Hillstrom said she was looking forward to the outdoor experience.
But the rules changed, and it was performed and filmed indoors, with the space set up similar to a TV studio, she says.
It was a great experience for the kids, both to learn about recording live, with no opportunity for second takes, and also to have the opportunity to learn about the recording process. It was also a benefit not to have to rely on unpredictable weather, she added. The show was livestreamed to the public, and is still available on YouTube
“We have had amazing support from the community, including the Niagara Community Foundation, which has provided bursaries for the kids. We’re so thankful, so grateful for all the organizations and individuals who have kept us afloat. We’re all doing it all for the kids. We’re passionate about the kids, and what they’ve been receiving during the pandemic. It’s been inspiring for me and all the professionals who are helping out.”
The NOTL Rotary Club has also been generous, she says.
Coming up next is a production called Red Letter Day, which will be filmed in various locations across Niagara over about 10 days, beginning this week. About 30 teens from across the region auditioned, she says, for 14 parts.
“These kids are remarkable. I’m truly hoping all these projects will provide hope for the children and teens who are involved.”
This new film project aimed specifically teens is a musical film, written by Lezlie Wade, with music composed by Scott Christian, says Hillstrom.
Originally titled Misfits, it has been changed recently to Red Letter Day, and is been produced with generous funding provided by the Lauren and Vaughn Goettler Family Foundation.
“I am pleased to announce that they will be the production sponsor for this new endeavour,” says Hillstrom, who says the show wouldn’t go on without their support.
“I’m excited to be able to offer this new arts project to our remarkable teen performers. Our teens, in particular, have suffered from the effects of COVID-19 and the lack of peer activities and support groups. I believe that this film will motivate, provide a strong education and mentoring component, and be a positive mental wellness arts activity for teen performers.”
Hillstrom mentions her gratitude toward the James A. Burton Foundation. A native of Orillia who now lives in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Burton has been generous toward Yellow Door’s summer program, helping out with the cost of livestreaming equipment and technical support.
“Like the Goettlers, who suddenly appeared with support for this project. They’ve been instrumental in helping us move forward. This is for our teens, many of whom have been lost during the pandemic. We need to do something for them.”
Yellow Door is a local charitable organization dedicated to changing the lives of young students. This musical theatre school and production company is 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. Yellow Door is located in the new Redekopp Creative and Performing Arts Centre on Line 2 in Virgil.
The theatre company has come a long way since Hillstrom arrived in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and presented her first Christmas production, Peter Pan, in 2015. Her goal has been to provide stage experience for budding actors, and an opportunity for youngsters in the audience to identify with the kids performing their favourite stories preformed.
Since then, she has built up a company of professionals to help them though every step of her productions, for kids to witness and learn from.
She came to NOTL from Regina, where she had operated a theatre school, to retire.
Once here, she saw a need in the community for kids’ theatre, and thus the Yellow Door Project was formed.
The theatre company has staged several high-caliber productions, and introduced the world of theatre to many kids since then, from Peter Pan to The Little Prince, Hansel & Gretel and Robin Hood (also by Lezlie Wade and Scott Christian), Wind in the Willows, and others.
Hansel and Gretel, the fall performance company production, will be performed at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre Nov. 17 to 19.
In addition to the Goettler Family Foundation and the James A. Burton and Family Foundation, and the Niagara Community Foundation, which assisted with the purchase of new equipment for online coordination, recording and livestreaming; Hillstrom mentions Floravida Investments, the music sponsor for Hansel & Gretel; the Rotary Club of NOTL, which contributed $3,000 toward the purchase of a new sound system; Call to Action, a club that assisted with fundraising by matching donations; and the Rotary Club of St. Catharines, which was a bursary sponsor for Hansel & Gretel, and many other individuals and organizations which helped to make the work of the theatre project possible.