Meridian Industrial


3/1/2024 | KEITH O'CONNOR


There is a lot of drama going on at 37 Chestnut St. in Ludlow.

But it is to be expected.

The site is home to the Exit 7 Theater where members of the Exit 7 Players stage their plays and other special events for the enjoyment of their audiences.

Beginning with a production of Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians,” The Exit 7 Players were founded in 1984 by a group of teachers to showcase talent in the community. It found its home in the former Ludlow High School auditorium, then known as The Chestnut Theater, where the group continues its mission today “to produce classical, contemporary, and musical works that entertain, educate, and delight audiences of all ages” in their 226-seat theater.

“This is an exciting time for the Exit 7 Players as we are currently celebrating our 40th season, which began in October with our production of the musical “Footloose”. While most of our current Board of Directors are not old enough to have been involved in the early years after our founding, we are all definitely very proud of where we are today and what we have achieved over the years,” said Board President Adam Malmborg.

“We’ve had a great past year and were able to introduce some new things to bring more people through our doors such as an open mic night organized by one of our Junior Board members, as well as another Board member who worked to bring Latin dance classes to the theater to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month,” he added.

One of their most successful new endeavors was the introduction of a 48 Hour Play Festival.

“This was the first time that we had ever tried a 48-hour play festival. How it worked was that on January 12, the festival was kicked off by the hosts announcing the prompt that the participating playwrights would have to incorporate in their original scripts, in which they were only given 24 hours to write a script. Then on January 13, people who were interested in being cast in these original plays would audition in front of the selected directors. Directors would not only choose their casts, but they also got to select the scripts that were sent in by playwrights. Finally, on January 14, cast and directors quickly rehearsed these plays, which then led up to the 8 p.m. showtime. Directors and casts quickly came up with set ideas and even costumes for the performance.The whole event was a huge success. We hope to continue this into the future,” Malmborg said.

Malmborg noted one of the main goals this year for Exit 7 Players is to increase their membership and audiences attending their plays and other events.

“There are folks who don’t know that we exist, and we need to get our name out to the public and let them know what we bring to the community,” Malmborg said.

At the same time, Malmborg is conscious of the fact that attendance is highly dependent on the play they are presenting.

“We would love for people to come and see every show, but it all depends on the popularity of the production. Our presentation of ‘White Christmas’ in December sold out almost every evening. Musicals are very popular. Who hasn’t heard of ‘Footloose’ or ‘The Prom’ which is next on our schedule? But not as many people may be familiar with ‘Almost Maine’ which just completed its run and was phenomenal. That’s why we need to rely on marketing much more to get the word out,” he said.

Before becoming a member of Exit 7 Players and serving on its board, Malmborg was a patron of the Exit 7 Players, often attending their many productions. Today, he remains bullish on community theater.

“Exit 7 Players provide another avenue for people to explore something different in their lives. It’s a place where friends and family can gather together and enjoy a good show. For others, we’re an opportunity to become part of a cast or crew and to do something they never thought of doing before,” he said.

The Exit 7 Players are currently in rehearsal for their next play, “The Prom,” which begins on April 9.

Winner of the Drama Desk Award for Best Musical,“The Prom” tells the story of a group of down-on-theirluck Broadway stars intent on shaking up a small Indiana town as they rally behind a teen who desires to attend the prom with her girlfriend. It opened on Broadway in 2018 and closed one year later on August 11, 2019, after having played 23 previews and 309 regular performances. A film adaptation, produced and directed by Ryan Murphy, was made for Netflix and appeared on the streaming network on December 11, 2020.

“The Prom” runs April 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, May 3 and 4 at 8 p.m. and on April 21, 28 and May 5 at 2 p.m.

Once the curtain comes down on “The Prom,” next up is “The Last 5 Years,” also a musical which opens on June 7. Written by Jason Robert Brown, the Drama Desk Award winning musical is an emotionally powerful and intimate show about two New Yorkers who fall in and out of love over the course of five years. The two-person play was produced off-Broadway in March 2022 and since has seen various productions around the world.

Reserved ticket prices are $25 Preferred (first four rows), $23 adults, and $20 for seniors age 62 and over, and students with ID and children 12 and under. Day-of-show tickets can be purchased by calling 413-583-4301 or inperson. The box office opens one hour prior to each show.

Additionally, this summer, the Exit 7 Youth Players - dedicated to introducing the theater arts to a younger generation - will present their production of “James and the Giant Peach” on July 26 and August 2 at 7:30 p.m. and on July 27, 28, and August 3 and 4 at 2 p.m.

Plans have already begun for the 2024-2025 season which kicks off in October.

“We put out a call late last year for directors, music directors and choreographers to submit proposals to our Season Selection Committee. They are now in the process of reviewing them and setting up interviews before we meet as a board to vote on the next season,” Malmborg said.

“The fact that we are open to suggestions and people can submit their ideas for a coming season, allows a platform for directors to pitch their own creative visions,” he added.

When it comes time to cast a play, anyone can attend an audition. Once cast, or to work behind the scenes, you will need to become a member of the Exit 7 Players. Memberships, which include a free snack at intermission and other benefits, are $10 individual, $15 duo, and $25 family (household members only) and last for one year.

As a way to give back to the community, especially area youth interested in the theater arts, the Exit 7 Players annually present several $500 scholarships to high school seniors through the Paul D. Browning and Jonathan Herrick Memorial Scholarship Fund and the Patrick J. Moskal Memorial Scholarship Fund.

“We want to celebrate the fact that we have some amazing young people who help us out in so many ways, whether it is being cast in a play, working as a crew member, volunteering, or serving on our Board as Junior Members,” Malmborg said.

Applicants must have been involved in some aspect with the Exit 7 Players in order to be eligible. Visit the Exit 7 Players website for more information and an application.

While at the Exit 7 Theater, hungry theater-goers can also stop by the concession stand during intermission to enjoy a snack such as popcorn, candy, baked goods including decorated sugar cookies, as well as non-alcoholic beverages.

Over the years, the group has continued its renovation efforts on their theater space. They are currently looking for donations to support their planned anniversary projects in 2024, including the major cost of completely replacing all of their seats and updating all areas of the theater. Donations of any size can be made on their website either as a one-time tax deductible gift or a monthly donation.

The Exit 7 Players recently acquired additional space at the Chestnut Street location where their theater is located, and are now renting the basement from the Ludlow Housing Authority, proprietors of the property.

“We are so thankful for the help of the Ludlow Housing Authority in obtaining much-needed additional space for us to work in,” said Malmborg.

The basement has a kitchen where the concession stand is located, and the group hopes to be able to use the newly acquired area to hold events like princess parties, murder mystery dinners, family game nights and so much more. The basement also has additional rehearsal space, costume room, conference room, and space for other ostorage needs.

“We are busy painting and decorating the hallways of the basement with our playbills and photographs of cast pictures from over the the years to help beautify the space,” said Malmborg.


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