There’s a lot of youthfulness in WROL (Without Rule of Law), the Guild Hall’s current production that is playing until April 16. The cast is made up of 14- to 17-year-olds; there are no adult characters and even the production team has youth representation. Not surprising, the play, written by Canadian playwright Michaela Jeffery, has some powerful messages about the realities for young people in today’s world.
“It’s so timely. It’s really a play for our times [and] how we think of this generation coming up—their noses are in their phones, they’re detached from reality and they’re just living a life online,” the Guild’s artistic director, Brian Fidler said. “Whereas, you know, this is the world that they’re inheriting. They’re walking into this world and I think that that’s one of the themes of this play … they’re being told they’re disconnected, but that’s what they’re being given.”
WROL was recommended to Fidler by Gwaandak Theatre’s artistic director, Colin Wolf. Fidler, in turn, shared the script with Meredith Pritchard, who Fidler has been interested in recruiting as a director for some time.
“I’m always enjoying her energy—she’s such a spark,” Fidler said of Pritchard. “She’s so smart and good with people. Mary Sloan [WROL stage manager] had worked with Meredith … and she just raved about how wonderful Meredith is to work with.”
Fidler shared a few scripts with Pritchard that didn’t wow her. But then WROL caught her attention.
“I think it’s really important that theatre has a purpose, and when I read this script I thought that this is a story that so resonates with me and I think it can resonate with the community and the world and what’s going on right now,” Pritchard said. “And I loved that it was from the perspective of a group of 12- and 13-year-olds who I think, a lot of time, we don’t listen to. So it just felt extra, extra important to tell this story.
“And it’s a little spooky and a little creepy and a little weird. It’s really good.”
WROL actor Casey Delaurier told me that the play is about seven girls making preparations for the apocalypse.
“It’s dark,” Delaurier said, comparing the play to Rob Reiner’s coming-of-age film, Stand By Me. “It’s not super uplifting, like it has a darker message. And the ending is quite suspenseful.”
Delaurier’s character, Maureen, is independent and very serious about the task at hand.
“She doesn’t believe that she’s understood properly, especially from older people, and she just wants to be heard … respected almost.” Delaurier said.
“Kids and teenagers—it’s hard for us to be understood by adults. Just because we’re perceived as so young, our opinions don’t matter in the eyes of some older people,” she observed. “So I’m hoping that this can, hopefully, make some people realize that.”
Delaurier was in the MAD (Music Arts and Drama) program when Fidler and Pritchard invited members of her class to audition for WROL. Fidler said there were some strong performers in Delaurier’s MAD cohort and he wanted to offer them a challenge. For Delaurier, she was drawn to the script and to the director.
“I kind of originally auditioned, just for the sake of doing an audition, because it’s a good experience,” Delaurier said. “But after reading the script and meeting Meredith—and it’s a really cool play and Meredith is a really cool person to work with—I became really interested in it. So when I was offered a role, I took the opportunity.”
Other cast members include Alexis Smith, Autumn Chandler, Clementine Burgess, Kieran Cowie, Menna Zanger, and Sydney Sinclair. Pritchard is also working with two assistant directors, Keona Sheardown and Pyper Smith.
“Working with this group of youth, and these youth assistant directors, has totally shifted how I see theatre and what I think is important for theatre,” Pritchard said. “I really can’t wait to work with youth again.”
Other young people involved in the production include 18-year-old Chris Gwynne-Thompson, who is doing light design with guidance from Katherine Kellner; and Annie Johnsgaard, who is being mentored by Donald Watt on set design.
There are still a few pandemic-related aspects to the production. Capacity is at around 50 percent, and the audience members are required to wear masks and show proof of vaccination. The actors themselves will not be wearing masks.
“We want to really make sure that this young cast is safe up there—we feel a really great responsibility for them,” Fidler said.
For the young people involved in the production, it’s a chance to play to a wide audience, which the pandemic prevented them from doing before, and to challenge themselves.
“I’ve never done a play like this, so just reading the script, it was kind of like, This is cool. The set is amazing, and just like the vibes and energy of the show … it’s pretty cool,” Delaurier said.
“It’s mostly just a lot of fun,” she added. “We have a lot of fun at rehearsals—it’s a fun experience. Getting this experience overall has been great. It’s like … opened up even more opportunities for me.”
Learn more about the cast and crew of WROL on the Guild Hall’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/theguildhallyukon.