Those Tuna guys are back at the Majestic Theater, as Dallas Summer Musicals hosts the touring production of A Tuna Christmas, November 4-9, 2003, starring two of its co-creators, Jaston Williams and Joe Sears. As often as I've seen the Tuna shows, I never miss the opportunity to see them again -- and again.

While you won't find Tuna, Texas on your road atlas, you can find it easily on stages from coast-to-coast. Billed as "Texas' third smallest town, where the Lion's Club is too liberal, and Patsy Cline never dies," you meet all 24 citizens of Tuna in the forms of Sears and Williams. What began as an impromptu party skit in 1981 in Austin, Texas has grown into a cottage industry with a cult following.

In A Tuna Christmas, the second of the "Tuna" Trilogy (preceded by Greater Tuna and followed by Red, White, and Tuna) audiences get an up-close glimpse into the lives of the residents in this bucolic burg on the byways of rural Texas.

In a personal interview with Sears and Williams in November 1998, as they premiered Red, White, and Tuna in Dallas, Williams said: "We had a friend in Austin who gave great parties and always invited lots of theater people. He would ask us to perform; so we went upstairs and created this impromptu skit. It was inspired by a Ben Sargeant political cartoon about Alexander Haig, which appeared in the Austin-American Statesman. We knew from the (audience) reaction it was good enough to go in a cabaret setting. We decided to create the play [Greater Tuna] a few months later."

Williams had met their third co-creator, Ed Howard, when both were doing summer stock in West Virginia. Their first public appearance took place at the Trans Act Theater on Austin's legendary Sixth Street. It ultimately landed at off-Broadway's Circle-in-the-Square, where it played for over a year. A Tuna Christmas opened on Broadway in December 1994 and garnered a 1995 Best Actor Tony nomination for Joe Sears.

It is Christmas Eve, and Didi Snavely is featuring grenades, Uzis, and switchblades at Didi's Used Weapons Shop. Quintessential Baptist, Vera Carp, has her heart set on winning the local Yard Display Contest, but a mysterious Christmas Phanton is defacing many contentants' displays, including Vera's life-size statues of Bing Crosby and Natalie Wood in Vera's living nativity scene (complete with live sheep).
Meanwhile Bertha Bumiller has her hands full trying to manage her surly twins, Stanley and Charlene. And a production of A Christmas Carol by the town's little theater is in jeopardy, due to some unfortunate circumstances.

Sears and Williams are quick-change artists extraordinaire, as they disappear backstage and re-appear seconds later as yet another Tuna denizen. Their characters are nothing short of hilarious, so don't miss A Tuna Christmas when it comes to your city. It is a tasty treat, not just at Christmastime, but all year long.

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Key Subjects: 
Greater Tuna, Tuna Christmas, Jaston Williams, Joe Sears
Writer: 
Rita Faye Smith
Miscellaneous: 
A Tuna Christmas toured to Dallas Summer Musicals November 4-9, 2003.
Date: 
October 2003