It’s Christmas (in July …) in Cardiff
Post Independent Intern
Camp Chair Productions will debut its sixth play this Friday, bringing to life “A Tuna Christmas” in the historic Cardiff Schoolhouse.
The comedy features 28 characters, male and female, ranging from 12 to 85 years old. The catch? All 28 personas are played by four actors, all of whom are men.
“A lot of people seem to get a kick out of men dressing as women,” said Mike Banks, 50, who plays five different characters in the production. “I’ve had four or five shows where I’ve had to put on a dress.”
In addition to Banks, the play features Bob Willey, Jack Green and Dave Gardner. The production is directed by Jacquie Meitler, who sits on the board of Defiance Community Players and boasts more than 30 years of acting experience.
“Our goal and vision is to give a quality experience to our community, and they’ll certainly get it with these four actors,” Meitler said. “We love the art of live performance.”
Written in the 1980s by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard, “A Tuna Christmas” debuted in 1989 and has since been performed everywhere from Broadway to the White House.
It is the second comedy in the Tuna series, which also includes “Greater Tuna,” “Red, White and Blue Tuna” and “Tuna does Vegas.” Willey, Green, Banks and Gardner have already performed “Greater Tuna” and “Red, White and Blue Tuna” and plan on adding “Tuna does Vegas” to their repertoire in the near future.
The play is set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas, where tensions run high leading up to the annual Christmas yard display contest. The mysterious Christmas Phantom wreaks havoc on the townspeople, while various subplots introduce additional characters throughout.
“It’s about a small town in Texas where everyone knows everyone else’s business,” Willey explained. “Everybody has some idiosyncrasies and quirks, to put it mildly. The show is having fun with the dysfunction that can run rampant in little towns across the country.”
Willey, who also plays five characters, said his favorite is Aunt Pearl Burras, an 85-year-old chicken farmer. He described the show as “chaotic and fun with good camaraderie.”
Both Willey and Green, who combine for roughly 70 years of acting experience, promised a night of laughter.
“You go back and change and come back on stage as a totally different character,” said Green, 65. “It’s a little bit on the strange side, but it’s the funniest play I’ve ever seen. I’ve had a lot of people say it’s the hardest they’ve ever laughed in their lives.”
Camp Chair Productions was launched in 2009, when the Red Mountain Friends of Historic Preservation reached out to Green in the hopes of increasing usage of the newly renovated Cardiff Schoolhouse.
The schoolhouse was originally built in Cardiff, south of Glenwood Springs, in 1889. It was relocated in 1936 to make way for the Glenwood Springs airport, but it closed down in 1947 and began to fall into disrepair.
In 2002, Red Mountain Friends of Historic Preservation stepped in to prevent the historic monument from being demolished, relocating it to within 200 yards of its original location and spending four years restoring the building. The schoolhouse now sits in the Park East subdivision at 4018 Sky Ranch Drive.
“The thrust of Camp Chair is really to breathe life into that schoolhouse,” said Green, who founded the organization with Willey. “It was the center of town and the community gathering place. It’s got a feeling of the Old West, and it really lends to creative endeavors.”
In addition to community plays, Camp Chair Productions has organized everything from musical performances and country dances to poetry nights and art classes in the schoolhouse.
According to Green, the organization’s name stems from its early days, when community members were required to bring their own chairs to performances and events.
“My vision is to use it as a community gathering place, to try to get people to identify with the schoolhouse,” Green said. “It’s been an interesting and fulfilling undertaking on my part.”
“A Tuna Christmas” will run every Friday and Saturday for the next three weeks, with performances on July 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the shows begin at 7:30 p.m.
Meitler encouraged attendees to call ahead for tickets, which are $15 each, since the Cardiff Schoolhouse seats only 50 to 60 people. She can be reached at 970-379-6256 to reserve tickets. Because of some adult language, Meitler recommended high-school age and above.
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