Tuna Christmas makes her Texas Community Theater debut in Beaumont

Players in the Beaumont community have been cautious when casting COVID for the 2021-22 season, focusing on parts with few parts. But their latest show has wide distribution – well, sort of.

The 22-character population of Tuna, Texas – “the third smallest town in the state” – is played by just two actors in BCP’s comedy “A Tuna Christmas,” which opens Dec. 3. Paul Bloyd and Trini Gonzalez each play 11 different components.

“They both play boys and girls, young and old,” said director Sean McBride. “Part of the fun is that they’ll literally leave the stage as a man and come back three lines later as a woman.”

The plot revolves around the eccentric citizens of Tuna preparing for the annual Christmas garden exhibit competition, but when a “ghost” roams the city to vandalize the exhibits, things turn upside down.

“A Tuna Christmas” is one of four pieces in a series, written by Jason Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard, which began with “Greater Tuna” in 1981. Williams and Sears played all of the roles. McBride said he saw “Greater Tuna” in Seattle and again in Salt Lake City.

“As a person who lives in Texas, I was like, ‘Yeah, these people have no idea what’s going on. They are just acting, ”he said.

McBride wanted to do it in Texas, but it was not available until now because Williams and Sears constantly shot the plays until Sears retired in 2012. It is the first community theater in Texas, did he declare.

Playing so many different characters is a challenge, Bloyd said, especially finding a way to differentiate five female parts.

“Since all of these characters have a relatively similar scope, it’s not our normal scope, it’s to tell them apart that is so difficult,” he said. “You pick it up in your upper register, but don’t make them all sound like they’re all in the same place in the upper register.”

This is Gonzalez’s first play, so he not only gets to know the varied characters, but also takes a crash course in theater in general.

“It’s been an incredible challenge, and it’s an eye opener to see what happens in a production,” he said. “You can’t take it for granted, just sitting in the audience, what the performers, the director, the stage crew, what they really have to do.”

While the on-stage action keeps audiences engaged, McBride said the behind-the-scenes action was almost as exciting. Both actors have two dressers to help with quick costume changes, as well as a team of four making scene changes.

“There are four times as many people backstage as there are guys on stage,” McBride said. “What the audience doesn’t see is that there is real choreography going on.”

The actors treat all characters the same, although Bloyd has said he has a soft spot for Stanley, who is more low-key than some of the others.

“He’s just a kid and he’s been in trouble over the years, sort of grew up in a town where his dad was in trouble too,” Bloyd said. “(It’s) a self-fulfilling prophecy that he’s following in his father’s footsteps, even though deep down he’s actually a very good kid.”

Gonzalez has stated that his favorite character is Joe Bob Lipsy, the director of Tuna’s community production of “A Christmas Carol”.

“He’s a bit of a stretch and everything revolves around him – he’s a stage thief,” Gonzalez said.

Although the characters are predominantly Texan, the play is still a family Christmas spectacle with all the heart that comes with it, McBride said.

“In order to have the feeling, we have to give (the audience) real characters that we can care about,” he said. “A lot of it is just big, bold, straightforward comedy. Then, towards the end, you get all the warm family stuff.

“A Tuna Christmas” will be presented on December 3, 4, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18 at 7:30 p.m., with a morning at 2:00 p.m. on December 11. Tickets cost $ 26 and $ 24 for seniors and students.

Beaumont Community Players is located at the Betty Greenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 4155 Laurel Avenue, Beaumont, TX 77707.

Andy Coughlan is a freelance writer.

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