Comedy Greater Tuna: 2 Actors Play 20 Townsfolk
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Greater Tuna is the first in a series of four comedic plays (followed by A Tuna Christmas, Red, White and Tuna and Tuna Does Vegas), each set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas, the “third-smallest” town in the state. The series was written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard. The plays are at once an affectionate comment on small-town, Southern life and attitudes but all a withering satire of same. Of the four plays, Greater Tuna is the darkest in tone.
The plays are notable in that two men play the entire cast of over twenty eccentric characters of both genders and various ages. Greater Tuna debuted in Austin, Texas, in the fall of 1981, and had its off-Broadway premiere in 1982. St. Vincent Summer Theatre produced the play in 2000,1 and No Name Players produced it in 2002.2 Charles H. Duggan produced national tours of “Greater Tuna”, “A Tuna Christmas” and “Red, White & Tuna” for 26 years. Williams and Sears regularly tour the country to perform all four plays, with Howard directing.
An HBO Special of Greater Tuna, produced by Embassy Television and Norman Lear, was aired in 1984. Due to modern videography techniques, the various characters portrayed by Sears and Williams were able to be seen en masse for the first time. However, due to copyright conflicts between Embassy Television and the original copyright claimants (Joe Sears, Jaston Williams & Ed Howard) the broadcast was limited to only 3 months in 1984. It has never been broadcast again. Rare VHS taped copies have been sold on eBay in excess of $100.
Sears and Williams did command performances of both Greater Tuna and A Tuna Christmas at the White House for President George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush.
According to the play’s official web site, by 1985, Greater Tuna was the most-produced play in the United States.