Letters 11-30-2015

“Snapshots” of Islam Offensive  In his latest effort (Northern Express Nov. 23 - Nov. 29, 2015,) David Kachadurian provides a jumble of FYI disclosures pertaining to Islam and Muslim societies, and posing as if providing a public service announcement, he advises the readers to ponder their import and to “make of them what you will.”

Not Another War To these people who believe we need to be at war in the Middle East all the time: try thinking about getting the countries that are in the area to take care of these bad guys instead of us. We are almost in constant war and have been as long as most can remember...

The Unvaccinated Are Punished Pulling healthy children from school due to a so called “outbreak” of a mild childhood illness isn’t for the safety of the community, as we’re being led to believe. It’s to prove a point that the health department will follow through on their threats to exclude the unvaccinated from all school related events, whenever they see fit...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Greater Tuna
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Greater Tuna

Erin Cowell - July 26th, 2010
Get Yer Taste of Greater Tuna
By Erin Crowell
“Greater Tuna,” the most-produced play around the country in 1985 about “the third smallest town in Texas,” boasts 20 character roles portrayed by just two actors – and it’s coming to Northern Michigan July 30-Aug. 1 at the Historic Elk Rapids Town Hall.
No, the play is not under budget.
Playing 10 roles apiece in a 90-minute span is all part of the fun for actors Joe Kilpatrick and Patrick Feak of Traverse City. With characters ranging from a dog-poisoning woman to a 10-year-old kid, the play about a town called Tuna and its colorful citizens keeps these two actors—as well as the audience—on their toes.

Presented by Theatre North TC, under the direction of Denni Don Hunting, the play starts out with radio hosts Arles Struvie (played by Feak) and Thurston Wheelis (played by Kilpatrick) of Radio Station OKKK, rambling out the day’s morning report. With just a table and two chairs as props—and some well-executed West Texas accents—the newscast includes all the important tidbits such as the winner of the Tuna Junior High American Heritage Essay Contest – the winner? Connie Carp with her essay “Human Riots, Why Bother?” with second place going to Jimbo Beaumont and his essay, “Living with Radiation.”
The most important piece of news comes in about the announcement of the death of Tuna’s former county judge, Rosco Buckner. From there, and throughout the play, we discover small-town rivalry, gossip, bigotry and xenophobia – and, of course, some pretty oddball characters.

So, what is it like to play 10 very eccentric roles in one play?
“It’s an actor’s dream to do 10 different characters; and these are such great, typical bo-hunk characters,” says Kilpatrick. “If not for the dressers backstage, this play couldn’t be done. We’ve got less than one minute to get backstage where they literally grab us, change our costume and remind us which character we’re going back out there as.”
Kilpatrick got into theater while attending high school in Traverse City before moving on to New York University, where he studied it at the Tish School of the Arts, Experimental Theatre Wing. He currently serves on the artistic committee at the Old Town Playhouse in Traverse City.
‘The most challenging part about this play is you never have any downtime,” says Feak. “You’re putting on another face and changing into a whole new person every time.”
The two actors have previous experience performing together, which include time on Old Town and Theatre North productions.
Out of all his characters, Feak says his favorite is Didi Snavely.
“She’s the washed up, knarly hair, raspy voiced, old woman who everybody just loves. She’s just a mean-old crotchety lady.’
Kilpatrick also prefers one of his female roles – Aunt Pearl Burras, who “has a proclivity for poisoning the neighbor’s dogs…making things out of strychnine,” as he explains.
“It’s a blast to play these whacked-out characters, especially the women,” he adds. “Can you imagine a 6-foot-4-inch man playing a woman?”
While two actors playing multiple roles sounds challenging, “Greater Tuna” has simpler elements to its production, including a minimal set.
“It’s mostly pantomime,” says Kilpatrick. “We have no paper when we’re reading the news. We’re looking down at a table as if it’s the judge’s coffin.”
The only major set pieces and props include a table, a couple chairs, a radio, meat cleaver and flask for the town drunk.
“The audience has a well-enough understanding of what the (invisible) objects are,” he adds.

“Greater Tuna” has drawn audiences from a wide range of ages and demographics.
The play—written in 1981 by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard—was born from a political cartoon, and soon gained momentum, with performances across the coasts and at the White House in 1990 and 1991.
“I’ve known kids in their 20s and folks in their 60s who love this play,” says Kilpatrick.
“There’s always something going on,” adds Feak.
The success of “Greater Tuna” led to sequels “A Tuna Christmas,” “Red, White and Tuna” and “Tuna Does Vegas.”
Theatre North plans on performing “A Tuna Christmas” sometime this December.
For this weekend’s performance, audiences can expect plenty of non-stop laughs, says the two actors.
“It’s fun watching the audience laugh at a chracter and then seem to stop and think, like, ‘I would have done something like that.’ Then they start laughing at themselves,” says Kilpatrick.

“Greater Tuna” is presented by Theatre North TC, at the Historic Elk Rapids Town Hall, July 30 & 31; and August 1, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 and are available at TREATickets.com or by calling 800-836-0717.

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