NEW MARKET — In an ode to service members following the recent Veterans Day holiday, the Rouss Theatre and Center for the Arts presents “The Middle of Yesterday,” a show chronicling a World War II veteran’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease.

Of the seven cast members, only three are alive in the present day as protagonist Kilby communicates with his deceased wife and daughter. For many of the cast members, the play has served as a way to cope and better understand family who suffer from the degenerative brain disease.

Gary Hines is a Woodstock resident acting in his 15th production in the Valley. While Hines tends to perform in dramas, he was drawn to the challenge of acting as Kilby, and he looks to his personal connection as inspiration to capture the struggles on stage.

“My mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about two years ago. … In terms of preparing, it’s mainly just observing her,” Hines said. “It’s made me more empathetic toward those who are suffering.”

Set in a Virginian naval hospital in the 1990s with frequent drifts in and out of Kilby’s memory, themes of the play extend beyond his internal conflicts of war and turmoil of the mind. The play also revolves around characters in the present, such as Kilby’s son Stephen, who faces his own private battle with familial struggles that stem from the past but have solidified over time.

Eric Lee Santiful, an Edinburg resident, plays Stephen, who carries the burdensome weight of deeply rooted childhood resentment toward his father for being distant and strict while Kilby was in the military.

Santiful was drawn to the role because his mother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He said playing Stephen is a healing experience that has better equipped him to support his mother.

“For me, it’s helping me deal with it. Like, it’s a learning process for me as well and how I can apply that in my personal life because that’s what made me really go to the character and want to play the character,” Santiful said. “My mom is in the early stages of Alzheimer, and I’ll get mad at her because it is hard to see someone you love that used to be this person and they’re kinda deteriorating in front of your eyes.”

Director Jon Conard said the play first caught his attention with its captivating writing, and he further felt the need to share the story as an homage to those who have dealt with the pain and hardships in the script.

“My mother is a vet and the lead character in this is a former WWII vet. Being able to put the show on, I really wanted to do it either around Memorial Day or Veterans Day as something to offer, to give back a little bit to veterans,” Conard said.

Audience members who have sensory sensitivity or epilepsy should be aware that the play features flashing lights.

The show opens today. Curtain rises today, Saturday and Nov. 22 and 23 at 7 p.m., and Sunday shows this weekend and Nov. 24 start at 3 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at the box office in New Market, online at rousscenter.org or reserved by calling (540) 705-0313 or (888) 341-7313. Adults tickets are $15, seniors and students $13. Rouss is offering $10 tickets for veterans. Discounts are also available for convalescent and retirement home groups by emailing rousscenterinfo@gmail.com.

Contact Kathleen Shaw at 574-6274 or kshaw@dnronline.com. Follow Kathleen on Twitter @shawkareport

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