The names should be familiar to longtime Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre patrons.
Gene Howard, Steve and Betty Walpert, Kay Gross, Avery Villines, Ted Newton and Richard Justice have all been in numerous award-winning shows at Fort Gordon over the past few decades, and they will take the stage together under the direction of Justice in the upcoming production of Social Security.
“This started out as a reunion show, a summer project to bring a lot of experience to the stage,” said Steve Walpert, who is in charge of Fort Gordon’s theater program and will be on stage with his wife, Betty, for this show.
Walpert said there are no degrees of separation in this cast as all members have performed together at some point.
Social Security is a play Walpert produced 20 or 25 years ago, but it has a timeless story that his audience can relate to.
“I have a more mature audience,” he said. “This is about parents and children and children entering adulthood. This is a play with a universal message. It has a nice message as well.”
Gross had seen the show before and said she couldn’t pass up the chance to be in it even though it has meant a hefty commitment on her behalf.
“It feels like a reunion. That’s why I’m traipsing all the way down from Boston. The people are just wonderful,” said Gross, who has appeared in more than 30 shows at Fort Gordon. She moved to Boston about two years ago and regularly returns to the area to visit her mother.
“As soon as I heard what the play was, it sounded like a great idea.”
In her many shows on post, she’s not been afraid to jump into any role regardless of age or the character’s background, and this one is no different. She ages about 30 years to take on the role of the “cantankerous and spirited” 80-year-old, Sophie.
Gross has been experimenting with her portrayal of the character because despite the woman’s tough exterior, there is something good underneath.
“There is a change with her in the play,” said Gross who didn’t want to give the plot twist away.
Villines is another actor looking forward to taking on a role that requires some effort. Villines plays Trudy, whose daughter is running wild while away at college.
“She’s passive-aggressive and an absolute prude,” said Villines. “It’s priceless. I can really stretch because she’s so opposite of me. It’s a really good script.”
Villines said she’s also enjoying the reunion.
“I see it as an all-star cast,” she said. “Without calling us all old, I see us as veterans.”
Social Security will be performed July 19-20, 26-27 and Aug. 1-3. Dinner will begin at 7 p.m. followed by the show at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $43 for civilians; $40 for senior citizens 65 years old and older, retirees, Department of the Army civilians and active-duty military E7 and above; $35 for active-duty military E6 and below; and $25 for the show only. For reservations, call (706) 793-8552.