PLAISTOW — Nearly 200 friends, family members, teachers and staff packed the Timberlane Regional Performing Arts Center Monday night to see the “Milkmen” improvisational team perform their last show of the season. 

And they got their money’s worth.

Twelve “Milkies,” as they are called, including seven seniors, evoked roaring laughter as they acted out several games while taking on challenges from audience members. Activities such as fortune-telling, “emotional quadrants,” a casserole club, and advice panels sent several viewers into hilarious fits.

According to director, alumni member and teacher Michael Castano, he and two buddies started the team in 2008, having been inspired by fun experiences they had in a class he was taking at the time when he was a student at Timberlane. Castano said he wondered what would happen if students were able to take what they learned in that class, put on shows at low expense, and raise money for school organizations and local charities. The era of the Milkmen was born.

Each show performed by the Milkmen benefits a local charity, cause, or school organization. So far this school year, the team has raised over $12,000. Monday night’s show increased the yearly total by $1,252 to benefit a local charity called “Evan’s Gift,” in memory of a former Timberlane student. The group hosts workshops to increase compassion, empathy, and kindness in the community. 

Improv is fun

Senior Ellie McCormick, 18, joined the team after seeing a show when she was a junior. 

“It’s unlike any other group that I’ve been in before,” McCormick said of the team, adding they are “a big group of people who don’t care how weird they are.”

McCormick said the group owes a lot to Castano’s support.

“He does everything he can to put everything he can into this group,” McCormick said. “You can tell he loves it just as much as the students do. You can tell it comes straight from his heart.”

McCormick’s next stop is the University of Hartford, where she will study local performance and opera. She said she will definitely try out for the improv team there, if the school has one. 

Senior Justin Nimmo, 17, got involved after watching how much fun his brother, who has since graduated, had on stage.

Nimmo tried out as a sophomore and a junior but didn’t get a spot until his senior year. He called the experience on the team for a year “humbling,” and said it’s a feeling he’s never had before.

“It’s 12 people that enjoy each other’s time,” Nimmo said. 

Of Castano, Nimmo said, “he’s probably one of the best people I’ve ever met,” and called him one of the most “selfless and endearing” people he calls not only a teacher, but also a friend. 

Nimmo’s comedic journey will soon continue at the Southern New Hampshire University where he will start his English Education studies for a year before transferring to the University of New Hampshire. Nimmo says he will try out for the improv team at UNH.  

Closing act

Castano introduced nine “moocomers,” or, next year’s team members to pair with the five returning members of this year’s squad. Of the 50 applicants for the team, only 14 made the cut for season 13. 

“To know that the thing we love and that we enjoy is being loved and enjoyed by other people (and) the art that we’re trying to create is impactful is really cool as a coach,” Castano said. “They’re (the kids) being rewarded for all of their hard work.”

The seven leaving seniors took part in the Milkmen ritual of placing a cowbell around their neck and sipping a half gallon of milk through a straw one by one to close out the second act.

Each year the team has a theme which is exemplified through their witty, matching T-shirts. This year’s season 12 had the theme of Toy Story, and the end song “You’ve got a friend in me” evoked tears from McCormick and others. 

Castano made closing remarks, noting the group has brought the team, “as cliche as it is, to infinity, and beyond.”