The Drama Group has found a way to honor Paul and Maureen Milord of Homewood for their 50 years of dedicated volunteerism. The group renamed its theater space The Milord Studio Theatre.
Charlie Misoyve, president of the Drama Group’s board of directors, said it is a fitting honor because Paul Milord was responsible for the studio being built and Maureen worked in the box office for 50 years.
They both have held various positions on the Drama Group’s board and were directly involved with theater productions.
Misoyve surprised the Milords with the announcement as they sat in the audience at the Chicago Heights-based studio during a February performance.
“We couldn’t think of a better honor than to rename the space,” he said. “I couldn’t even begin to think about how much blood, sweat and tears and the hours that have been attributed to Paul and Maureen.”
Long-time Drama Group member Tony Labriola said, “Paul and Maureen have stuck with the Drama Group beyond anyone else. He’s really one of the originals in terms of the people who were there in the ‘60s and kept this theater going.”
The Drama Group was founded in 1931. In the 1950s it had been moving between Washington School, Bloom High School and other rehearsal locations in Chicago Heights.
In 1956, the Drama Group purchased lots at 330 202nd St. in Chicago Heights. The building project sat dormant until 1971 when Paul Milord said he’d build the Drama Group a building at his expense.
He used crews and supplies from his Milord Company, a general construction firm. He sized the stage as a mirror image of the Bloom stage.
“We paid for it,” Paul said, “and I told them ‘We’ll give it to you free and clear if you’re here in 10 years,’ because I didn’t think they’d make it,” he said jokingly.
The first party at the new studio was a 1972 cast party for “Fiddler on the Roof” which he was directing.
Over the years, Paul has continued to improve the black box theater.
“All of the seating was Paul, and he brought in his (construction) group to help build the risers, put the rugs on,” said Labriola. “All the remodeling that’s in here. This really is the theater that Paul built.”
The Milords were introduced to The Drama Group through a church friend who invited them to see a production in 1961.
“I said, ‘Boy, they’re pretty good,’” remembers Paul. The couple came to a few more productions and then started volunteering.
He approached the board about directing, laying out his drawings of various scenery and costumes for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” for the 1970-71 season.
“I started helping and one thing led to another,” he said.
He directed “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Hello Dolly!” “Cabaret,” “Oliver,” “Sly Fox” and a host of others.
Paul wrote, and he and Maureen directed, the Drama Group’s 50th anniversary revue in 1981 that included scenes from some of the top shows.
Milord brought his skills to the Drama Group not only as a director/writer but also designing and building sets, especially for the yearly musicals staged at Bloom High School.
“He contributed a lot of lumber and expertise. When a Milord set went up, you knew it was going to be stable and well designed. There was a whole artistic and construction sense,” said Labriola.
Over the years, the Milords involved their eight children in Drama Group shows. The couple laughs about how some weeks it felt as though “we lived at the Drama Group” but they say they enjoyed every minute.
“They’re the most fun people you’ll ever meet,” said Maureen. “It’s just been a delight the whole time.”