Letters

Letters 07-27-2015

Next For Brownfields In regard to your recent piece on brownfield redevelopment in TC, the Randolph Street project appears to be proceeding without receiving its requested $600k in brownfield funding from the county. In response to this, the mayor is quoted as saying that the developer bought the property prior to performing an environmental assessment and had little choice but to now build it...

Defending Our Freedom This is in response to Sally MacFarlane Neal’s recent letter, “War Machines for Family Entertainment.” Wake Up! Make no mistake about it, we are at war! Even though the idiot we have for a president won’t accept the fact because he believes we can negotiate with Iran, etc., ISIS and their like make it very clear they intend to destroy the free world as we know it. If you take notice of the way are constantly destroying their own people, is that living...

What Is Far Left? Columnist Steve Tuttle, who so many lambaste as a liberal, considers Sen. Sanders a far out liberal “nearly invisible from the middle.” Has the middle really shifted that far right? Sanders has opposed endless war and the Patriot Act. Does Mr. Tuttle believe most of our citizens praise our wars and the positive results we have achieved from them? Is supporting endless war or giving up our civil liberties middle of the road...

Parking Corrected Stephen Tuttle commented on parking in the July 13 Northern Express. As Director of the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority, I feel compelled to address a couple key issues. But first, I acknowledge that  there is some consternation about parking downtown. As more people come downtown served by less parking, the pressure on what parking we have increases. Downtown serves a county with a population of 90,000 and plays host to over three million visitors annually...

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

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.

A TOWN CALLED TUNA
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.

10-PART ROLE
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.

TUNA SUCCESS
“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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