Central Alberta Theatre is launching its new season with Greater Tuna, opening at the Memorial Centre on Sept. 6. Additional shows run Sept. 7-9 and 13-16, with curtain at 7 p.m. Shows on Sundays run at 6 p.m.
The popular production, penned by Joe Sears, Jaston Williams and Ed Sears, is notable in that two men play the entire cast of more than 20 eccentric characters of both genders and various ages. Greater Tuna made its debut in Austin, Texas, in the fall of 1981.
Directed by CAT veteran Judy Moody, the story is set back in the 1970s in the tiny town of Tuna, Texas and opens with announcers Arles Struvie and Thurston Wheeler on Radio Station OKKK with the Morning Report, complete with an on-air ad for Didi Snavely’s Used Weapons and a report of the weather delivered ‘soto voce’ by Harold Dean.
“It’s so hokey, but within in there are all the usual saints and sinners, joys and woes, and triumphs and tragedies,” explains Moody. “There’s a lot of stuff in there. It also takes a little poke at prejudice.”
Audiences are also taken into the community to visit with Bertha Bumiller and her three teenagers and philandering husband, plus 10 make-believe dogs messing up her kitchen. She is about to be interviewed about her ‘Smut Snatchers’ committee who are going to remove certain books from the school library and certain words from the dictionary. From time to time audiences also pop back into the radio station where citizens are invited to call in to Leonard and ‘let it all out.’
Moody said nearly all the props are mimed and the set is minimal to keep the focus on the actors and the story. Albert Azzara and Curtis Closson, who were recently seen as Chief Joe White Cloud and the U.S. Marine in Booster McCrane, PM are the stars of the show.
“They have 10 roles each,” explains Moody of her talented duo cast. It also flows along seamlessly – when one character is featured onstage, the other is prepping to come out and assume his particular character. At the end of the day, it’s been an absolute hoot to put together, she said. “I asked Albert what was the one thing he liked about this play, and he said ‘Fun!’,” she says with a laugh.
Over the years, the playwrights have created a few other plays in the ‘Tuna’ series as well. And as Wikipedia explains, the plays are “at once an affectionate comment on small-town, southern life and attitudes but also a withering satire of the same.”
Others supporting the production include William Ladic, who Moody said contributes a rousing musical backup and sound effects while Lavila Lang has rustled up all 20 costumes. John Burnham and Stuart Reid have created the set which allows the audience a subtle peek at the quick costume changes.
Moody said the show, aside from being the theatre company’s season opener, will hopefully be a successful fundraiser as well as the troupe embarks into its 44th year.
CAT is facing serious funding problems as the season opens, but has planned full season of productions.
Meanwhile, directing plays continues to bring a special joy to Moody, who is also a fine comic actor in her own right.
“I want to be the best it can be,” she says of the show. “If something really grabs you, you want to share it. To sit in the audience and hear people enjoy something that you’ve helped put together – that is so cool. To bring that kind of joy to people – I love that. It’s probably the biggest kick.”
Meanwhile, tickets for Greater Tuna, which include hors d’oeuvres before the show, are available at the Black Knight Inn ticket office by calling 403-755-6626.