Milford Area Players find success

MILFORD – For a dozen years, Dave Agans has helped lead the Milford Area Players, a troupe that has been amazingly successful when judged by its peers and its audiences, but not as successful as it would like to be in terms of audience numbers.

But given the level of competition for time and the entertainment dollar, any local theater troupe that can survive is one worthy of respect and certainly, at least, a look.

According to Agans, MAP, which mounts its productions at the Amato Center for the Performing Arts at the Boys and Girls Club of Souhegan Valley here, draws from two distinct groups: people who are seriously into theater and friends of the cast.

“This goes to my theory of what community theater is all about,” he said in a recent interview. “You’re watching your friends and your neighbors go out there and try to deliver this theatrical experience and you’re rooting for them. You want them to succeed and you take joy in that.”

Audience size can vary quite a bit depending on the show.

“When we do a mystery or a farce, we get big audiences,” Agans said. “The serious plays draw from a smaller pool.”

Knowing that, and because the troupe does no fundraising outside the theater (the income is ticket sales, concessions and a 50-50 raffle), Agans and board members try to ensure that a serious play is offset by one that draws laughs.

An example was MAP’s most recent production, the highly acclaimed “Wit.”

“Doing something like ‘Wit,’ a serious play dealing with dying, you get smaller audiences,” he said.

But while audiences vary, MAP can certainly measure success in terms of recognition.

The troupe has won New Hampshire Theatre awards for best production, best director and several best actor or best actress awards for two productions: “All My Sons” in 2009 and “August Osage County” in 2011.

It was also honored by the New Hampshire Community Theatre Association in its state festival as a “top two” selection, with advancement to a regional competition, for three short productions: “I Hate Hamlet” in 2006, “Animal Farm” in 2010, and “Cabin 12” in 2012.

While that’s certainly something of which Agans, president of the theater’s board of directors as well as an actor, is proud of, what he enjoys most is the people.

“We’ve been getting really good casts and part of that is our directors,” he said. “The actors know who they like to work with so if we have a director that everybody loves, those people come out and audition. It’s gratifying to see these really good people come out and want to do shows with us.”

MAP was formed in 2002 and its first productions mounted in the Milford Town Hall. Then the group got involved in the restoration of the old American Stage Festival theater, which Nancy and Paul Amato purchased and donated to the Boys and Girls Club, and MAP is now the resident theater company there.

For many reasons, including the actors and directors and, certainly, the venue, Agans sees MAP’s future as bright.

“We’ve committed to attracting the best actors and creative staff in the area,” he said, “and while there’s a lot of competition for those people,we’ve done pretty well.”

Next up for MAP is Christopher Durang’s “Beyond Therapy,” which opens March 21. For information, go to www.milford
areaplayers.org.