DANVILLE — Theater-goers will get a double treat next weekend.
They’ll have a chance to watch two seasoned actors in “The Gin Game,” and a chance to help Red Mask Players raise funds for its children’s program. Plus, two of the three performances will offer actual treats.
The two roles in “The Gin Game” are played by Nancy Henderson and Jim Gilmour.
“These are two veterans of the local stage — back together for the first time in over 10 years — just knocking it out of the park,” director Paul Strain said. “They’re just doing exceptional work.”
Besides watching quality work, people will be helping Red Mask raise money for operating expenses for its spring and fall children’s shows.
The special fundraising event will be next weekend, Friday through Sunday. Walk-ins are welcomed on Friday and Sunday, but reservations are due by Monday, June 24, for the Saturday dinner.
The schedule is:
• Friday’s event will offer dessert and wine, along with the performance, at 6:30 p.m. at Kathryn Randolph Theatre, 601 N. Vermilion St.
• On Saturday, people will meet at 6 p.m. at VIPS restaurant, 515 N. Vermilion, and then walk across the street to the theater for the play. Beef, chicken and vegetarian dishes will be served family-style. Dessert and wine will follow at the theater.
• Sunday is a performance only at 2 p.m. at the theater.
“The Gin Game” by D.L. Coburn was winner of the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; it originally starred Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn, and was nominated for four Tony awards, with Tandy winning best actress. Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore also did a version of it.
A synopsis: Weller Martin is playing solitaire on the porch of a seedy nursing home. Enter Fonsia Dorsey, a prim, self-righteous lady. They discover they both dislike the home and enjoy playing gin rummy, so they begin to play and to reveal intimate details of their lives.
The play contains some adult language.
Strain saw the original version in 1978.
“Once I started directing, this was on my short list,” he said. However, it was difficult to find actors who were willing to take on such big roles or who had other reasons for declining at that time.
Finally, Gilmour and Henderson agreed to tackle the roles.
“It’s been a challenge, but we’re enjoying it very much,” Henderson said, adding that they’re on stage all the time.
She and Gilmour also had played husband and wife in “On Golden Pond” several years ago.
The drama-comedy has been around 40 years, Strain said, and has just been revived on Broadway.
“It’s a modern classic and it deserves attention,” he said. “It’s truly worth the time and effort beyond the fund-raising effort.”
While Red Mask has held fundraisers in the past, Henderson said this is the first time they’ve tried something like this.
“We don’t normally do a show in the summer,” she said.
It’s important to maintain the children’s program, she said, because the arts are vital to young people’s well-rounded development. Being on a stage helps them develop confidence, for example.
All county schools are invited to the fall show, and for some students, that’s their only chance to see live theater.
Strain noted that Red Mask has touched many people over the years — whether on stage or in the audience.
“Even if it’s just a kids’ show, I hope people remember what that meant to them at that time,” he said.
Red Mask is still impacting dozens of children every year, but that takes money, he said, added that things are getting more and more expensive.
Henderson said Red Mask just finished its 82nd season. It’s one of the oldest — or perhaps, the oldest — continuously operating community theater in the state.
It’s done all of that with a volunteer board.
Maintaining the old theater is an ongoing effort, she said, noting that things are stable right now. Work on the ceiling and roof is done, but they’re still trying to raise funds to finish putting in new lighting.
“The Gin Game” is produced by special arrangement with Samuel French Publishing.
Walk-ins are welcome on Friday and Sunday, June 28 and 30, provided there are seats available.
However, for the Saturday dinner on June 29, reservations must be made by Monday.
Tickets are $40 for Friday’s dessert and wine performance at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are $60 for the dinner at 6 p.m. Saturday, followed by the show.
Tickets are $30 for Sunday’s performance-only at 2 p.m.