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Oct. 15, 2021 | Friday
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Yellow Door Theatre Project to present Crack of Doom
The cast of Crack of Doom: Or How I Learned to Love the Meteor, performing March 16 and 17. (Submitted)

The world is ending, and Niagara-on-the-Lake teens are demonstrating how they’re spending the crucial moments leading up to their eventual demise – through musical theatre.

The Yellow Door Theatre Project encourages and trains local kids in theatre, providing guidance in the dramatic arts. The company aims to provide NOTL youth with a valuable space to develop skills, both on and off stage. The group consists of local performers between 14 and 18 years-old, honing their acting, dancing and singing talents.

On March 16 and 17 at 7 p.m. at the Yellow Door’s rehearsal studio in Virgil, the Teen Theatre Company will be performing Crack of Doom: Or How I Learned to Love the Meteor. Admission is $10 at the door.

The play is an original piece written by Canadian playwrights Suzy Wilde and Matt Bernard.

The screenplay, initially geared toward college-aged performers, has been adapted to make it more relatable to teenagers. Originally, the play was set in a University, for Yellow Door’s performance it’s been changed to take place in a high school.

Andorlie Hillstrom, artistic director of Yellow Door, said the screenplay didn’t require a lot of other changes. A few characters have been updated to make them more relatable to the young actors.

She said the kids have been having a lot of fun with the material.

“First and foremost, the musical is a comedy. We have laughed a great deal over the course of rehearsals thus far. And the kids are having a wonderful time.”

It deals with high school relationships, with struggles kids might have regarding dating and friendships.

“There’s this whole thing about what would we do. There’s the premise that the world is going to end in a couple of hours, so what do we do with those last few hours? From a high schooler’s perspective, what would that mean? What would be important to them?”

Thematically, the musical poses the question – what in this life is the most important?

Throughout the play the characters struggle with education and career choices, until the meteor crashes into the mix, adding another dilemma altogether. Suddenly, the characters must deal with the fact that they only have a few hours left to live. She said it becomes make-believe. “It’s not something that could be dealt with realistically.”

She stressed the humour of the musical, “I know it doesn’t sound like much of a comedy, but it’s very funny, it truly is. There is a seriousness, overall, to the premise, but it’s written in such a beautiful way.”

As for the characters portrayed by the teens, she said they’re all unique.

“It’s been a challenge, from an acting perspective, putting together their thoughts and ideas.”

She said they continually workshop the piece, engaging closely with the director and interacting with each other.

“They get to truly work together, as a group, in a collaborative sense, and they’re having a blast.”

Yellow Door works with professionals in the theatre industry to bring authenticity and education to the kids.

“The people we have had work with us not only have a professional pedigree but they also love being in an environment with children. They’re teachers and they’re mentors.”

Class becomes a mentoring environment for everyone, Hillstrom said.

The performance is put on in their rehearsal space, not on a traditional stage. Hillstrom said working in that manner provides a host of benefits for the kids, allowing them to work closely with each other and the audience, as well as fostering a more relaxed atmosphere.

Acting in a small space so close to the audience, the teens learn to remain focused the entire time. She said that’s a learning curve they need to work through.

Yellow Door is a theatre project for local kids, in operation for the last four years. Hillstom said it’s still in its infant stage; there’s so much more they can do. The Teen Theatre Company began two years ago to hone in on budding teen’s talents.

She said there were so many talented teenagers in the program that she wanted to offer them something more.

Through the individual attention the group receives during workshops, she said they develop faster as performers.

“Quite honestly, I’ve got some great kids. I thought, I need to find something else for you guys.

So, that’s how it has kind of happened. They’re spectacular, they really are. I have no doubt that we’re seeing individuals who are going to later go on to professional careers.”

Giving that age group the opportunity to work through a piece that is both mature and challenging, targeted specifically to them. It helps to move them forward technically, she said.

Yellow Door provides the performers with what Hillstrom calls a transferable skill.

“What I’ve observed is they learn how to be comfortable in front of a group, public speaking, to be articulate. They learn to work in small groups, large groups, to collaborate with others.”

She added that skills they learn as young people through the theatre have made them better at everything else they do.

“It’s also a great deal of fun with really wonderful music.”