BCP to present ‘A Tuna Christmas’ beginning Dec. 3
Beaumont Community Players have exercised COVID caution casting for the 2021-22 season, focusing on plays with few parts. But their latest show has a large cast — well, sort of.
The 22-character population of Tuna, Texas — “the third-smallest town in the state” — is played by just two actors in BCP’s comedy “A Tuna Christmas,” which opens Dec. 3. Paul Bloyd and Trini Gonzalez each play 11 different parts.
“They’re both playing boys and girls, young and old,” director Sean McBride said. “Part of the fun of this is that they will literally walk off stage as a man and return three lines later as a female.”
The plot revolves around the eccentric citizens of Tuna gearing up for the annual Christmas Yard Display Contest, but when a “phantom” goes around town vandalizing the displays, things are thrown into turmoil.
“A Tuna Christmas” is one of four plays in a series, written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard, which began with “Greater Tuna” in 1981. Williams and Sears played all the parts. McBride said he saw “Greater Tuna” in Seattle and again in Salt Lake City.
“As someone who lives in Texas, I thought, ‘Yeah, these people have no idea what’s going on. They’re just playing the comedy,” he said.
McBride wanted to do it in Texas, but it hasn’t been available until now because Williams and Sears toured the plays constantly until Sears retired in 2012. This is the Texas community theater debut, he said.
Playing so many different characters is a challenge, Bloyd said, especially finding a way to differentiate five female parts.
“Since all those characters have a relatively similar range, that is not our normal range, it’s differentiating them that’s so hard,” he said. “You’re taking it up in your upper register, but not making them all sound like they’re all in the same place in the upper register.”
This is Gonzalez’s first play, so he is not only figuring out the varied characters, but also getting a crash course on theater in general.
“This has been an amazing challenge, and it’s eye opening to see what goes into a production,” he said. “You can’t take it for granted, just sitting in the audience, of what the performers, the director, the stage crew, what they really have to do.”
While the action on the stage keeps the audience engaged, McBride said the backstage action is almost as exciting. Both actors have two dressers to assist with the rapid costume changes, as well as a team of four doing scene changes.
“There’s four times as many people backstage as there are guys on stage,” McBride said. “What the audience isn’t seeing is there’s a real choreography going on.”
The actors treat all the characters equally, although Bloyd said he is partial to Stanley, who is more low-key than some of the others.
“He’s just a kid and he’s gotten in trouble over the years, kind of grew up in a town where his dad was also trouble,” Bloyd said. “(It’s) a self-fulfilling prophecy of him following his dad’s footsteps, even though deep down, he’s actually a really good kid.”
Gonzalez said his favorite character is Joe Bob Lipsy, the director the Tuna’s community production of “A Christmas Carol.”
“He’s kind of over the top and it’s all about him — he’s a scene stealer,” Gonzalez said.
While the characters are quintessentially Texan, the play is still a family Christmas show with all the heart that entails, McBride said.
“In order to get the feels, we have to give (audiences) some actual characters we can care about,” he said. “A lot of it is just big, bold, in-your-face comedy. Then, towards the end, you get all the warm family stuff.”
“A Tuna Christmas” will be performed Dec. 3, 4, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee at 2 p.m., Dec. 11. Tickets are $26 and $24 for seniors and students.
This story first appeared in the Nov. 19, 2021 Art of Living section of The Beaumont Enterprise.