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Killing it on stage: Volunteer’s love of theatre a family affair

'It’s like you’re a member of a really fun club that’s sole purpose is to put on plays,' explains Maggie Killing, a volunteer set designer, painter and decorator with almost 25 years’ experience with Huronia Players

What makes the theatre so magical is equal parts what happens behind the scenes, what you see when the curtain rises, and everything the company does in between.

“In theatre, you call it the company,” explains Maggie Killing. “Everybody feels like we’re working together, with each other. We are the organization.”

Killing doesn’t consider herself a volunteer despite spending much of her free time with the Huronia Players for so long she had to be reminded that she started contributing to Midland’s community theatre in 1998.

“It’s like you’re a member of a really fun club that’s sole purpose is to put on plays,” explains the set designer, painter and decorator with almost 25 years’ experience with Huronia Players.

In all that time, her family have become members of the company as well. Killing’s husband helps design sets, and their son Jonathan became so involved that he not only met his future wife on stage, but he proposed to her at the studio theatre.

“Everybody feels like we’re working together with each other. We are the organization,” she says, making the theatre and all its cast of characters sound more like family than a group of entertainers.

Killing is from Midland, and was involved in drama in high school, and wanted to return to the stage after she moved back to Midland and started her family.

After joining the Huronia Players in a few productions, Killing says she quickly realized the local thespians were talented far beyond her own high school acting skills.

She transitioned to lending her graphic design talents to the creation of sets and props.

The thing she most values about her time with the company is the creativity.

“I’ve really enjoyed creating faux looks — props that look like they’re real. It’s a creative outlet and it keeps me going,” says Killing.

Because the studio theatre is an intimate setting with 121 seats, the sets have to be highly detailed to be realistic. Illusions are created with special painting techniques that Killing has learned over the years.

Although the set design is completed before the curtains are raised, set people answer to the director to ensure their vision is realized.

“We are given an awful lot of latitude for creativity,” says Killing.

In community theatre, Killing explains, there is no head designer who sees the big picture then sits back and hands it off to a team.

“You’re designing, decorating, painting, creating,” says Killing, proud of the many facets of her work with the Huronia Players.

The most challenging set Killing has helped design was for a play called Noises Off  — a comedy that is a play within a play. The set had two stories, seven doors, a staircase and it had to rotate. See the feat of theatre magic here.

If you’re interested in volunteering there are opportunities to come and see a production and speak with the cast and crew and even shadow a member of the company.

“You don’t have to have experience,” says Killing.

“No matter your interest, there’s probably a place we could find for you,” says Killing. “We need people who can sew, sell advertising, build things, do the books — it goes on and on.”

Most people have no concept of how many people are involved in the average theatrical production.

There may be eight actors listed in the playbill, but there are likely 40-50 people in the production team that are involved.

“It’s an eclectic and democratic group of people,” says Killing.

“And, it’s so much fun!”

See the list of productions in the Huronia Players upcoming season.