Youth passion drives theatre project

Artistic director David Beisel with members of the cast of Another Openin', the fourth production for the Owen Sound Youth Theatre Coaltion, with performances at the Roxy Theatre Jan. 5 to Jan. 8. JAMES MASTERS/The Sun Times.

BILL HENRY
Sun Times staff
The singers and dancers sweep across the floor.
Powerful young voices mix and swirl, filling a small church gymnasium with the sounds of Broadway.
At the piano, David Beisel keeps the music going with one hand and the action flowing with another. The artistic director for the newest Owen Sound Youth Theatre Coalition show is quick to congratulate singers during this day-long rehearsal for Another Openin’.
“Lovely. Thank you ladies. That’s perfect,” Beisel praised. He’s equally comfortable telling his peers what needs work.
Beisel is 17, soon 18.
Some in the surprisingly experienced cast of 22 teenagers building this music theatre production together for performances early next month at The Roxy are younger, and no one is older than 20.
Most have long years of vocal, instrumental or dance training behind them. The principal players have a resume of stage credits with local high school productions and Owen Sound Little Theatre, or with the three previous YTC productions since the group formed 18 months ago.
They all share an obvious passion, dedication and facility with their craft.
“The idea of the group is that everything is totally youth driven,” Beisel said. “It’s amazing because it gives you the chance to create you own opportunities and your own experiences.”
Beisel has behind him singing experience with the Georgian Bay Children’s Choir, and both vocal and instrumental training at West Hill and privately learning saxophone and piano. For Another Openin’ Beisel is artistic director, choosing the music and deciding which singer best suits each number.
“That’s also what this show is about. As much as it’s about entertaining the audience, it’s also about us being able to perform all of the big Broadway numbers that we don’t have the chance to do otherwise,” Beisel said.

He’s also the rehearsal pianist, handles some of the choreography and wrote the script for Another Openin’.
It ties together close to two dozen song and dance numbers from a long list of Broadway musicals.
“The idea of the show is that even though it’s from all sorts of musicals, it all flows together and everyone has their chance to shine,” Beisel said. “I tied it all together with a kind of loose script to keep everything flowing and moving nicely. It’s not a concert, it’s a performance.”
Daytime shows for school audiences Jan. 5, 6 and 7 are completely sold out, 1,200 tickets, while seats are still available for evening performances Friday and Saturday night, Jan. 7 and 8 at The Roxy Theatre in Owen Sound.
With on stage and backstage scenes, Another Openin’ is about a theatre group pulling a Broadway performance together at the last minute.
Beisel is also vice-president now of this unique, entirely youth-driven theatre group. Relying on adult mentors only when needed, YTC members prefer to do everything themselves.
Despite his youth, Beisel’s clear, enthusiastic direction commands the respect of his peers, cast members said.
“It works beautifully,” said Vita Cooper, one of YTC’s newer members. “We’ve got a 17-year-old directing us and even though half of us are older than him, we have respect for him and we know he’s right and it’s just really cool.”
Producer and stage manager Jantien Sneyd said the group appreciates Beisel’s leadership.
“He’s doing really well. People seem to respect him, his opinion is always really valued,” Sneyd said.
Her meticulous notes during rehearsals will help smooth and guide the production.
“My role doesn’t really start until we move into the theate,” she said. “I’ll be taking over the stage and we’ll be pulling it all together at the end. Because that is what this show’s about, and ironically, it’s exactly what’s happening.”
Hanna Dyck, one of the group’s strongest singers, was among the three founding members with former president Tyler Livingstone and Lacey Mooney. Dyck directed the first YTC production, Cinderella the musical, in October of 2009.
“Our original vision was, I would say, precisely what we’re doing right now,” She said. “A bunch of us having been doing this since we’re very small, so the experience builds up and the passion for it builds. I find it incredibly refreshing to have a group that is based on passion and drive of teenagers. David is hugely driven, and like me, has a huge passion for this. He has had a lot of experience.”
Mooney, the group’s president now, said over three performances she’s seen “tremendous growth in people.”
That comes from self reliance, and adult mentors who stand back and let the group set its own agenda.
“We have people who are there when we need them for support, but they’re very good for letting us learn from our mistakes and try things,” said, who is finishing high school this semester and plans to study for a career in music theatre.
“We all have that music theatre drive. For me, it’s just so much fun. Getting to perform in front of an audience and have them respond to you is just something I’ve loved even from when I was little.”
From her vantage point as adult production mentor, Fiona McConachie-Anderson said she sees an unusually talented, focussed group of young performers forging powerful friendships while discovering how much they can accomplish together.
“This is such a passion for them. It’s like they have to do it. And they love being together,” said McConachie-Anderson, who’s daughter Emma is part of the cast. She’s helped with banking and some sponsorship and promotion, but stands back and lets the young cast work through their own artist vision.
“They’re constantly striving for excellence, and David, and many of them are perfectionists by nature,” she said. “They work themselves to the absolute bone to be their best. It’s their life. Music Theatre for most of these kids is almost like a religion.”
bhenry@thesuntimes.ca

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