Two Keesler members cast in mystery dinner theater

  • Published
  • By Susan Griggs
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Murder is in the air at Keesler, and two Keesler members are key players as the mystery unfolds.

Barry Newman and Airman 1st Class Seth Balla landed two of the lead roles in "Frankly, Scarlett, You're Dead!" a murder mystery dinner theater performance scheduled for Aug. 23-24 in the ballroom at the Bay Breeze Event Center.

Doors open at 6 p.m. with a cash bar available. The dinner and show start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 for members and $35 for nonmembers.

Southern cuisine, including fried chicken and pot roast with a variety of sides and bread pudding for dessert, is on the menu for the event.

"It's a very funny show and, being dinner theater, we'll interact with the audience as much as possible," said Newman, a retired Navy chief petty officer who's worked as a program specialist in the Keesler Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office for nearly eight years.

"Acting is a good stress reliever for me - to step away from the daily grind of work and from the stress that can accumulate from working in the SAPR office," Newman pointed out. "This gives me a productive outlet to put those concerns aside for a few minutes and focus on how to entertain others through live performance art."

This is Newman's 18th show as an actor with several theaters along the Gulf Coast. He's performed before with the show's director, Mike Lacy. Of the many characters he's played, Newman said one of his most memorable roles was Felix Unger in the Gulfport Little Theater production of "The Odd Couple."

The story is set at the beginning of the Civil War. Newman plays a southern plantation owner, Col. Ashford Simpson, who hosts a cotillion in order to find husbands for his two daughtersBalla, who hails from Donnellson, Ill., is cast as Montgomery Pinkney, one of
two brothers invited to the party.

"Montgomery is just a crazy, lovable dummy," explained Balla, who arrived at Keesler in April for radio frequency transmissions training in the 338th Training Squadron. "He requires a lot of energy and obnoxiousness. In a way, he and his brother are controlled chaos."

Balla performed in several musicals throughout high school and college. He graduated from Greenville College, Ill., with a bachelor's degree in speech communication and a minor in theater.

"He's absolutely hilarious in the role," Newman pointed out. "He's a very talented and involved young man."

Balla is also part of the percussion section for the 81st Training Group Drum and Bugle Corps and a "teal rope" student leader specially trained by the base's sexual assault prevention and response office to serve other non-prior students who need information and referral support. He said his college experience taught him to juggle multiple tasks, noting, "The busier I am, the more productive I usually feel."

"I joined the Air Force to serve my God by serving my country and to grow as a leader and an individual," he remarked. "I love people and wanted to be an advocate for those in need."

For tickets or table reservations, call 228-377-1690 or ask a club cashier.