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Tuna embraces, satirizes small-town South

Story by Chris Graham

Thurston Wheelis and Arles Struvie want to welcome you to Tuna, Texas, the third smallest town in the Lone Star State.
What the fictional Tuna lacks in size, it needs to be said, it more than makes up for in its characters. You learn that from Thurston and Arles, disc jockeys for the town radio station, OKKK, right off.
Bringing them to life in the upcoming production of Greater Tuna being put on by the Wayne Theatre Alliance and the Waynesboro Players are local actors Duane Hahn and Bob Wright, who will have the fun of presenting 20 of Tuna’s more interesting characters to life at Fairfax Hall Friday night and Saturday night.

“When else do you get the chance to be 10 different people within the span of an hour and a half? This is it. And such distinctive people, too. People that have got a lot of problems, and unfortunately we recognize them,” Wright said.
Wright and Hahn are not at all strangers to the Tuna story – which began in Austin, Texas, in 1981 as a skit based on a political cartoon that had appeared in a local newspaper. The characters have since appeared worldwide and even had their own HBO television special.

Tuna is at times a sympathetic portrayal of the small-town South and at other times a scathing satire of the same. OK, so actually it’s usually both at the same time.
And for the actors, it’s a challenge to play 20 characters with only quick costume changes and a second or two to morph from one to the next.

“What we do is we turn around, we come off stage, and there’s two women for each of us who are dressers. And they rip the clothes off of you and put something on, and all you do is stand there and say, Who am I now? And they tell you, and you go back, and you do it again,” Wright said.
Wright is back for his third turn at acting in a Greater Tuna performance. Hahn, for his part, is up to number four.

“It’s just fun. That’s the main reason,” Hahn said. “And just the challenge of trying to be 10 people in one night. And then the challenge of trying to figure out how to make them different when you only have two seconds or so to become another character.”

Greater Tuna
WHERE: Fairfax Hall, 1101 Reservoir St., Waynesboro
WHEN: Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. each night
TICKETS: $20 reserved (at 540.943.9999)

Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.

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