ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. – While most people go home after their day’s work is done, Arnold’s Engineering Development Complex team members JD Dill and Frank Wonder leave Air Force Base instead. Arnold and take the stage to work on their latest roles, playing fictional characters in a local theater production.
Both have roles in the Millennium Repertory Company’s adaptation of the musical “Oliver!” by Lionel Bart. at the Manchester Arts Center showing the last two weekends of January. The musical is based on the classic novel “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens.
Dill, chief of emergency management for AEDC, grew up in Florida and began participating in school theater in sixth grade.
“My first role was as the prince in ‘Cindy,’ a modern take on ‘Cinderella,’ and then I played Charlie in ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,'” he said.
Although he doesn’t recall it, Dill said his mother claims he started singing when he was 3 years old.
“I’m still passionate about singing in the church choir, always have been,” he said.
Dill has appeared in more than 48 theater productions in the United States and Europe, and he toured the world with Air Force Entertainment’s “Tops in Blue” in 2000 as a singer. He’s even won awards for his acting skills, receiving the “Best Actor in a Play” award at the 2017 European Play Tournament in Wiesbaden, Germany.
Dill’s final role is as Fagin in “Oliver!” He can’t wait to tackle the character.
“Fagin is the leader of a gang of young misfits that includes the Artful Dodger,” Dill said. “He is mean but can be nice. He has two faces in him. He doesn’t really like violence but doesn’t oppose it as long as it doesn’t touch him.
Dill mentioned that Fagin has a lot of interaction with the musical’s main antagonist, Bill Sikes, who is played by Wonder.
Wonder, flight manager of Arnold’s arc heating facilities, said that as a child in Chicago he auditioned for and was part of a choir that performed in the area.
“So I could sing, but I had never acted,” he said.
He became active in the Coffee County acting community 11 years ago when his daughter returned to the area.
“My daughter is a music teacher at Coffee County Central High School and the first play I ever performed in was actually ‘Oliver!’ when she realized it 11 years ago,” Wonder said. “Since then, I’ve performed at many shows at the South Jackson Civic Center in Tullahoma. I was Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” and I played Oliver Warbucks in “Annie”.
Acting isn’t Wonder’s only outside activity, as he’s also the state chairman of The Gideons International. When asked how he balances work and hobbies, he mentioned that it helps him to take place in the evenings and on weekends.
“I say the Lord will give you enough time to do what He calls you to do,” Wonder said. “Acting is also a good way to fight stress at work. It’s a different type of stress, more like playing sports.
“I can meet a lot of people of all ages that I wouldn’t otherwise meet, like JD, I may never have met on base. Plus, playing characters is fun, and you can put your own personality into the different characters you play as.
Wonder added that whether or not people have acting and singing abilities, they could still find a role to play in local theater.
“The great thing about community theater is that it involves all ages and all skills, because you can build sets, make costumes or manage the technical booth and manage lighting and sound,” he said. -he declares. “Even in a musical, there are always characters who don’t have to sing. It’s a good way to be active in the community.
“Although we’re not professionals, people pay to see the shows and we’re able to create a fantasy world for them and it’s a place where they can forget about their problems for a while.”
Dill also encourages anyone looking for a hobby to try to be part of the local theatre, especially young people.
“It’s a huge confidence factor to be able to stand up, talk and perform in front of people,” he said.
For those wishing to see the musical, it is still possible to see “Oliver!” at the MAC located at 128 E. Main Street. It will be presented on Friday and Saturday, January 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, January 29 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at or by calling 931-570-4489.

Date taken: 24.01.2023
Date posted: 24.01.2023 10:51
Story ID: 437145

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