Niagara Families is very pleased to introduce you to a brand new musical theatre program poised to take the Niagara Region by storm! The Yellow Door Theatre Project is holding auditions on September 27th for their first production: A thrilling new take on the classic story of Peter Pan. Canadian writer and composer Robert Ursin has updated the favourite tale and “replaced outdated stereotypes with powerful characters”. No more 'Indian princesses’; Ursin has replaced them with dramatic Pictou warrioresses.
Founded by Artistic Director Andorlie Hillstrom, The Yellow Door Theatre Project is unlike any performing arts program the region has to offer. Young actors between the ages of 10 and 18 will learn hands-on while rehearsing a full-scale musical alongside a team of seasoned professionals both on stage and behind-the-scenes. The recently transplanted Hillstrom is a celebrated veteran of the Regina theatre scene, and left behind a legacy of over 23 years of working with young performers as the owner and operator of Class Act Performing Arts Studio and the Artistic Director of Do It With Class Young People’s Theatre. Her own career on the stage flourished as both a musical theatre performer and opera singer; and behind the scenes as producer and director of countless productions. Hillstrom still continues to support her beloved arts community as Co-Artistic Director of The Golden Apple Theatre in Regina, but she’s ready to dig in her artistic roots in her new Niagara-on-the-Lake home.
We were lucky enough to grab a few moments of this dazzling lady’s time (see interview below) and I was struck by her quiet confidence. My past dealings with artsy types have typically been one-sided—I listen while they talk about their passions. Andorlie was warm and inquisitive, sharing her energy and exuding the kind of calm and poise that only come from someone who is truly tapped into the creative force. I can hardly wait for my twelve-year-old daughter to meet her too!
Auditions for The Yellow Door Theatre Project’s production of Peter Pan will be held on September 27th. Visit the Yellow Door Website for details and to register. There are nearly thirty roles up for grabs for young performers, and any level of experience is welcome. You can find an overview of the hands-on learning program here.
NF: Why do you feel like the Niagara Region needs a musical theatre training program like The Yellow Door Theatre Project?
A musical theatre training program/school like ours doesn’t exist in Niagara, and there is clearly a niche to be filled by a wealth of talented child young performers (ages 10 to 18) in the region. Although there are musical theatre productions offered by schools and other organizations, none of them provides an organized mentorship component that combined with a high calibre performance opportunity, where the students are actually working in rehearsals and onstage with the guidance and mentorship of professional and emerging professional performers.
NF: What is unique about your approach to working with young actors?
The mentorship aspect of Yellow Door’s approach is what makes separates this musical theatre program from any other. The students will have the opportunity to learn staging, stage fighting, choreography, speech and voice from working professionals in a professional environment. The technical and design crew are also pros, and so the production will be of top-notch quality.
NF: You've worked with many performers who have gone on to have very successful acting careers; care to name a few?
Our brightest star in terms of fame and recognition is of course Tatiana Maslany, well-known for her role(s) as the star of the television series Orphan Black. She's still quite young, and has already had great success in TV (The Nativity; Being Erica; Heartland; Parks and Recreation) as well as film (Picture Day; Cas and Dylan (co-starring with Richard Dreyfus); Grown Up Movie Star; Woman in Gold). We are fiercely proud of her!
I'm also so proud to have taught and mentored these bright lights:
Paul Nolan (star of the Stratford Festival: Jesus Christ Superstar, As You Like It and Cabaret; and Broadway: Jesus Christ Superstar, Dr. Zhivago, Once, Daddy Long Legs).
Kyle Golemba (star of the Stratford Festival: Music Man, Kiss Me Kate, Jesus Christ Superstar; and Shaw Festival: Cabaret) and creator of the touring Canadian musical review, Making Love in a Canoe.
Jacqueline Burtney (Sheridan College Musical Theatre program; Mirvish Productions: A Funny Thing; star of the Stratford Festival: Camelot, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pericles and Carousel; Broadway: Jesus Christ Superstar, and the first national American touring cast of Anything Goes).
Sabryn Rock (Graduate of the National Theatre School; Member of the Stratford Birmingham Conservatory and Company; Acting Up Stage Company: Caroline or Change, Once on this Island).
Jeff Irving (Graduate of CCPA; Shaw Festival: Light in the Piazza; Canstage: Romeo and Juliet; Mirvish: The Sound of Music; Drayton: White Christmas; Golden Apple: Jacques Brel, Mary’s Wedding; Buddies in Bad Times: Tom at the Farm; Blyth Festival: Fury; Seeds).
There are really so many success stories! We've been fortunate enough to train and guide a number of great talents.
NF: Theatre training is a valuable way to build skills that are useful to anyone regardless of whether or not they pursue a career in the arts. What have some of your students gone on to do in terms of careers that are not related to performing? What are some other skills that theatrical training can help to build?
Although I have had the privilege of working with many talented students who have gone on to pursue theatre and/or film careers, the majority of my former students have chosen to successfully pursue careers in education, medicine, law, engineering, economics, marketing, advocacy, to name a few.
Theatrical training builds confidence, self-awareness, emotional depth, and discipline. It also develops empathy and a clearer understanding of others, teaches history, develops the ability to collaborate and work in group situations, speech and listening, negotiating skills. That’s why we say our training at The Yellow Door Theatre Project is ‘Experience for Life’.
NF: Can you describe the kind of community you hope to create with Yellow Door?
We’re building a community tightly-knit group that is inclusive and welcoming, where strong life-long friendships and loyalties can and will develop. I've had the privilege of seeing this time and again, and am excited about watching it happen—and build—here in Niagara.
NF: Are there ways parents can be involved with this program?
Of course! The Yellow Door will need volunteers to work backstage in the dressing room areas during the performances, and help monitor hallways during rehearsals, among other essential duties. Parents and family will also be more than welcome to assist with things like organizing show merchandise, and set-up and take-down in the theatre; and are welcome to join the Board of The Yellow Door Theatre Project as we move forward. Eventually, there will be an active committee structure as well which parents and family will be welcome to help shape.
Auditions for performers of all level of experience, ages 10-18 for the Yellow Door Theatre Project's production of Peter Pan will be held on September 27th. The auditions are by appointment only. Details and application forms can be found here.