Youth theatre troupe has strong showing but needs more help to keep going
They only played for three evenings, but Aladdin lit up those evenings as the West Nipissing Dreamcatchers cast and crew entertained a full house with each performance. The talents of 35 children and teens delighted their audience at the Northern Secondary School/ESPNO auditorium with singing and theatrics on November 23, 24, and 25. Katherine Clark, the whirlwind behind the theatre group, called it “the best performance so far”, lauding her performers and volunteers for their dedication both on stage and backstage. They included about 50 people, ranging in age from 6 to 40, who spent months on costumes, set design, vocal and theatre practice and the million details it takes to mount the ambitious production that is Disney’s Junior Aladdin. They were rewarded with the audience’s enthusiastic response of smiles, laughter, clapping, cheering and flowers.
Clark has been the producer of Dreamcatchers since pre-COVID days, when she determined to bring youth theatre to West Nipissing. The mother of five has three previous productions under her belt – Annie, The Little Mermaid, and a Christmas Parody. She explains her passion, “Our family didn’t have much in the way of money or connections… [The kids were] also very interested in the arts. They wanted dance, singing and acting classes. None of this was offered in West Nipissing so I signed my daughter up [in North Bay].” Clark says her daughter loved it, but it became too onerous financially, and in gas and travel time, for her husband Paul and herself.
She decided to open her own theatre group, cut the fees in half, and provided opportunities for local children. The result has been incredible; the 35 children practice 3 nights a week, 3 hours at a time, and while having all the fun in the world they learn a load of skills. It’s an exhausting endeavour, absolutely non-profit, and fuelled by the love of a group of volunteers – and Clark needs more of those.
“We are tired. We have been working with a skeleton crew, very little money and short on resources sometimes,” she admits. “We buy tickets and print programs so the kids get the full theatre experience… We work almost around the clock to make this work because we believe in what this means and the good that it’s doing.” From beginning to end, the young actors are learning a lot more than getting up on stage and performing. “We’re really big on teamwork. A lot of kids have said ‘I can memorize my lines, I don’t need to come in three times a week.’ But the other kids learn with you and this is about being a team. The other kids don’t learn the same, they need to learn about your body language, how you’re standing – it needs to be teamwork. If you mess up a line, you need that other team member to save you. You need to come in and support each other no matter if they are your friends outside or not. When we come into theatre, we are a family and we act like it.” She adds, “We teach love and acceptance.”