Special to The Lake Report
NOTL performing arts group Yellow Door Theatre Project is set to release a film production of “Red Letter Day,” a musical inspired by Oscar-winner “La La Land.”
The short-feature production, premiering on Monday, April 4, was filmed in various locations across Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines over the course of two weeks.
“Red Letter Day” is premiering at the Film House at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines, and will only be available at live screenings. All tickets cost $17.
The highly anticipated project features a cast of 14 teens, all of whom were auditioned, interviewed and specially chosen for their roles. Several Yellow Door alum are among the stars of the show.
About 25 candidates sent in audition tapes and had virtual interviews with the directors, Lezlie Wade and Scott Christian.
The status of Wade and Christian in the performing arts world helped attract youth participants, said Andorlie Hillstrom, producer of “Red Letter Day” and the founder of Yellow Door.
“There was a significant amount of interest in this project. Teen performers were looking for something that was performance-oriented,” she said.
“None of the high school students were attending school at that time. That need for contact and for something that approached normality was very keen,” she said.
The story is centered around a group of girls and their high school graduation, an experience that many teens lost due to the pandemic, including a number of performers featured in the film.
The project allowed for those who missed out on that time to reflect and relive that experience in a unique, collaborative way, Hillstrom said.
“We were actively seeking a project that would bring them back, inspire them, get them involved again, in an immersed theatre type of experience,” she said.
“They came together very quickly as a group, just by the nature of being able to actually share something they all loved again and doing it together.”
Throughout the pandemic, many teens struggled with a lack of motivation to be involved in any sort of activities, which made it difficult for groups like Yellow Door Theatre Project to regain their sense of community, Hillstrom said.
“Red Letter Day” was the perfect chance to bring back those who had lost interest in those opportunities, she said.
Hillstrom noted that as an organization, promoting inclusivity and self-empowerment is important to Yellow Door, which focuses on acknowledging the positive ways the performing arts affect youth and development, and building a sense of community and belonging.
“It’s all about telling stories. Young people who are involved with this have a way to express things that they have been dealing with in a safe environment,” she said.
Overall, she said, youth who are involved in the arts are more intuitive, are better listeners, and are able to develop strong communication skills that they otherwise would not have gained.
Those are just a few of the many reasons why she feels the performing arts are beneficial and important to preserve for younger generations.
“When you’re working in an environment with other human beings in a live setting, all the better layers fall into place, and I see what it does to the young people that I work with,” said Hillstrom.
“This should not be something that is viewed as being extraneous. This is something that is absolutely critical to any child’s education.”
Providing a sense of community as well as an outlet for youth who may be struggling is one of the most special parts of the arts, she said, which is why Yellow Door continued its online and in-person activities, classes and performances during the pandemic.
Hillstrom credited contributions from the Lauren and Vaughn Goettler Foundation, as production sponsors, for helping to make “Red Letter Day” a reality.
Tickets are available on the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre’s website.