It’s a milestone event. Milton Players Theatre Group (MPTG) is celebrating its 40th year in the community. Throughout those 4 decades the group has prevailed in bringing their love of theatre to Milton citizens. Margaret Hamilton was one of the 14 founding members who back in 1979 assembled in another member’s living room to share their theatrical passion after responding to a small advert in the Milton Champion about starting up a theatre group.
“The interesting thing is that we were all British,” says Margaret. “All of the people had participated to varying degrees in theatre groups in their home country and wanted to start something here. Theatre was very popular in Britain, so we were looking to bring some of it to Milton.” Margaret remembers small-town Milton vividly. “When we moved here in 1972, there were only 7500 people living here. So when we started the group in 1979, it probably wasn’t all that much bigger in population; I’m guessing maybe 20,000.” “It was our passion for theatre that spurred us forward, bringing something to Milton that wasn’t there in terms of an art form. The first play we put on, we only did it for one night.” With a very low budget, the group was resourceful in finding ways to pull together their production tasks. “Our sets back then were just white sheets stretched over wooden frames and then they were sized so that they could take paint on them. We begged and we borrowed back then. But it brought out the creativity in our group to figure out ways of getting what we needed. Back then, there were furniture stores in town and we would borrow furniture from them for our set or if they didn’t have what we wanted, people brought things from their own homes. We all pitched in,” says Margaret. Margaret marvels at the hi-tech quality that is incorporated into present day performances that include video clips, sound effects and strategic lighting that all enhance the entertainment value of the plays.
By Margaret Anne Fehr
“It’s so great to just sit back and view how they use high-tech in the productions and to realize that it all started back in 1979 with just 14 people.” Sandra Curran is the current president of MPTG which is a 100 percent volunteerrun organization. “There are nine of us on the Executive committee and all of our shows are run by volunteers that include actors, stage managers, directors, producers and everyone behind the scenes.” says Sandra. “Everyone has day jobs. There are some theatre and film school grads, but not necessarily all. This is their hobby and what they like to do. Some people knit, some people colour, some people do theatre.” Sandra shares that MPTG is thriving because people need a theatrical outlet close to home. “You have Mirvish and all those, but instead of making the trek downtown after a busy day at work, you have access to great theatre close to home. We put on comedies and it lets people have a night out and not have to leave their kids at home for so long and to enjoy a nice evening out in town.”
Over the years, MPTG has garnered their share of recognition at the ACT-CO THEA awards which is an organization that honours the work of local community theatre organizations in Ontario at their annual Gala. Sandra has been the stage manager for all the shows in the last 3 seasons including the current show that is her 11th consecutive production. “I’m happy to say that I’ve been nominated for an ACTO-THEA award and won for “Noises Off” as stage manager two years ago. That was our most nominated show in our history.” Other MPTG members including Michael Chew, Steve Prevost and Kim Evans have achieved multiple THEA nominations and awards throughout the years. MPTG has been honored with 30 nominations and 9 wins for their shows, as well as multiple Milton Canadian Champion Platinum Readers Choice Awards for Best Live Theatre. As a faithful play subscriber, Margaret Hamilton likes to go to every show that she can nowadays and meet the people because, “ there is a fantastic fellowship and I have a great sense of pride in knowing that our little group has grown to celebrate 40 years!”