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Cast brings real life experience to stage

World War II veteran Wilbur Emery won't be sitting in the audience watching "Strictly G.I."

He'll be up on the Sheldon Theatre stage, one of nearly two dozen local actors paying tribute to a past era with humor, music and nostalgia.

"I've never acted before," said the U.S. Army veteran. "It's quite an experience."

Emery got a phone call from the Red Wing Area Seniors, the group putting on the show Nov. 11-12.

"They wanted characters," he said. "I told them, 'If I can help out ... .'" Not long afterward, he got instructions to report to the Senior Center for rehearsals.

Like others in the ensemble cast, Emery will be appearing in more than one sketch. Audiences will spot him in the role of a captain on a medical board and in another as a Marine.

He'll also get to wear the khaki Army hat he wore when serving as a sergeant in the Fiji Islands and in India during the 1940s.

"It's great," Emery said.

And though some of the jokes are old, he believes they're as funny as ever. "They bring back memories," he said.

Many of the performers appearing in "Strictly G.I." are members of the seniors group -- people who are not actors, but can act, director Julie Martin said. The cast also includes several locals with stage experience and some vocalists.

Martin's husband, Jeff Chalmers, and his father, Bill Chalmers, who is visiting from Alaska, were recruited to perform the classic "Who's on First?"

The rest of the cast list follows:

John Anderson, Ray Bahmer, Dewey Barringer, Judie Bowes, Georgia Camp, Sean Dowse, Elizabeth Fitcha, Judy Kupfer, Donn Leaf, Bert Madtson, Don Olson, Dane Peterson, Kathy Saunders, Larry Sonnek, Joe Lommel, Dorothy Westphal, Lois Barry, Paul Curry, Harlan Schultz and Bill Foot.

Costumes are by Becky Kirtz, assisted by Avis Lind and Lanna Horn. Crew members are Jake Chalmers, Jessica Lindstrom, Bill Naseth and Mike Bennett.