The world of Tuna is about to undergo a major change, in that the two men who created and played the characters of Tuna, Texas, for three decades, are retiring from that gig.
To get the scoop, TheaterJones caught up one of them at the opening of Casa Mañana's current production of Greater Tuna, which stars David Coffee and Jonathan Beck Reed.
Here, let him introduce himelf:
Jaston Williams and Joe Sears have played the Tuna residents, including Vera Carp, Didi Snavely, Petey Fisk, Bertha Bumiller, Aunt Pearl Burras and Thurston Wheelis (the women are typically folks' favorites) for 30 years. They wrote the show with Ed Howard, who directed Sears and Williams in the original productions of each of the Tuna plays: Greater Tuna; A Tuna Christmas; Red, White & Tuna; and Tuna Does Vegas.
The Tuna journey began in Austin in the early 1980s, as a satire of the moral majority, set in a town where the Lion's Club is too liberal. Sears and Williams had a successful off-Broadway run with Greater Tuna. Then A Tuna Christmas had a three-week Broadway run in 1994 (Sears was nominated for a Tony), and they had an HBO special. Later, they opened the Tuna Little Theatre in Dallas and did the shows for several years here. That's where they began work on Red, White & Tuna in the mid-'90s.
When Greater Tuna was first released, it was one of the most produced shows in the country. But in Texas, it has been rare to see it without the original stars. With Casa doing the first professional Texas production of Greater Tuna after the rumors of Sears and Williams' retirement, it was time to get the scoop directly from the horse's mouth.
Below is the video interview, in which Williams talks about reasons for retiring, future projects (including a one-man show playing at Casa in November) and living with the Tuna characters. None of these answers is longer than 45 seconds.
TheaterJones: Jaston Williams, are you and Joe Sears officially retiring from Tuna?
TJ: Did age and/or health play a role the decision?
TJ: Actors often bring parts of themsevles into roles they play. After doing it for so long, have any of the Tuna characters crept into your own life?
TJ: What are you working on now?
(That show will play at Casa on Nov. 3. Here's more info.)
TJ: Are there plans to act in shows that you didn't write?
(More info on that is here.)
TJ: And one more time, just to be clear. It's abolutely true that you will no longer be performing in Tuna?
Folks, you heard it here. Would Didi Snavely [insert long cigarette puff] lie to you?
◊ Casa Manana's production of Greater Tuna is the first professional production in Texas since Sears and Williams have retired from it. With rights to all of the Tuna shows released, lots of local theaters have Tuna titles on their seasons. Here's what's coming up in the next season:
- Greater Tuna, presented by Casa Mañana. Through Aug. 26, 2012.
- Red, White & Tuna, presented by Theatre off the Square, Weatherford, Sept. 7-23, 2012.
- Greater Tuna, presented by Mesquite Community Theatre, Oct. 19-Nov. 3, 2012.
- A Tuna Christmas, presented by Onstage in Bedford, Dec. 7-23, 2012.
- Greater Tuna, presented by One Thirty Productions at the Bath House Cultural Center, March 6-23, 2013.
- Greater Tuna, presented by Denton Community Theatre, June 21-30, 2013.