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A Tuna Christmas On Stage At The Ice House

IN THE November 28 ISSUE

FROM THE 2012 Articles,
andTheatre
SECTIONS

by Nancy Holley

Special KRL coupon at the end of this article.

Are you and your family ready for a great time that puts you in the holiday spirit? We have the perfect answer – A Tuna Christmas presented by the Visalia Players. The eccentric residents of Tuna, Texas will have you rolling in the aisles with their hilarious antics.

Just imagine what can happen when residents of a small town compete in the annual Christmas Yard Display Contest. How might Vera Carp change her decorations to ensure she wins the contest for the 15th consecutive year? Could the Christmas Phantom be attempting to influence the judges? And then there is the long waited what? A UFO? Are you kidding?

Tuna, Texas is a hypothetical rural setting for the Tuna series of plays beginning with Greater Tuna, enjoyed by Ice House audiences in the 2010-2011 season. All the zany characters, male and female, are played by two male actors. In the original versions and many reprises of the Tuna shows, two of the playwrights, Jaston Williams and Joe Sears, were the actors, directed by Ed Howard, the third playwright.

The current production uses the same philosophy. Twenty-two residents of Tuna, Texas, male and female, are portrayed by two male actors: Chris Shepard of Strathmore and David Payne of Visalia. Shepard and Payne discussed with enthusiasm the opportunity to do a two-man show and emphasized the intensity, challenge, and delight of changing from character to character in a matter of seconds. Payne believes that for the audience, “part of the fun is to see what comes next with two guys playing multiple women.”

David Payne as Helen Bedd and Chris Shepard as Leonard Childers

A Tuna Christmas is Shepard’s 124th show in an acting career that began at age four as Michael in Peter Pan. Shepard has studied acting in a number of venues including the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Most recently, he has been involved with the theatre in Lindsay, directing Tweeny Todd. “This is my first show in Visalia, and I’m very excited about being at the Ice House. I love doing two-person shows, and David is very easy to work with.”

Payne is also a new comer to the Ice House, but is no stranger to the stage in Visalia. Payne is working on an AA degree in theatre at COS, appearing most recently in Boeing-Boeing. Payne sees the Tuna Christmas characters as stereo-typical. “Everyone has relatives like these people.” Payne is enjoying working with a new director. “You get accustomed to the directors at COS because you have classes with them.”

A Tuna Christmas is a series of vignettes, more like a vaudeville review, than a play with a plot. With each scene, the characters and circumstances change. The transitions between characters are aided by quick costume changes and different voice inflections. The actors, who flow from situation to situation, facilitated by dressers under the direction of stage manager Allison Enos, appreciate the dedication of their voice coach Jack Patino.

David Payne as Arles Struvie and Chris Shepard as Thurston Wheelis

Director Janice Talbert is enjoying the process of working with the actors and crew to bring A Tuna Christmas to life. “My main goal is for everyone to have a good time doing the show, and I think that’s happening.” Talbert has been involved in other Christmas shows and has found them lots of fun. She wants the audience to sit back, relax, and enjoy the surprises in the play. “For those who may be sensitive, there is a section with strobe lighting.”

A Tuna Christmas opens at the Ice House Theater at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 30, 2012 and runs for three weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 11/30, 12/1, 12/7, 12/8, 12/14, and 12/15 and matinees at 2 p.m. on 12/2, 12/9, and 12/16.

For more information about the Visalia Community Players, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.

Print this page and take to the show to get discount:

Visalia Community Players Two-For-One Coupon
A Tuna Christmas
Written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, & Ed Howard
Admit 2 Adults for $14.00
Coupon good for any performance of the play.
One Coupon Per Family
Reservations Suggested – 559-734-3900

Watch for a new Local Live every Wednesday evening at 7!

Nancy Holley has been involved in the Visalia Community Players off and on since the 1970s, both as a director and actor. In 2010, she retired from 25 years as a software consultant and has since expanded her role at the Players. She is now President of the Board and responsible for Box Office/Hosting volunteers.

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