Greater Tuna coming to Glenwood
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs CO Colorado
By Stina Sieg
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” It was intermission at the Tuesday night rehearsal, and backstage was a gleeful madhouse. The costume and stage managers were hurrying around, and everywhere there were half-clothed men, bumping into things and reciting lines.
Bob Willey was standing in his underwear, waiting for his dress. His “breasts,” two rubber balls hanging in pantyhose, swung around his stomach. He was quoting John Steinbeck.
“When you enter Texas,” he said, “it’s like going to another country.”
Continuing tonight, local theater lovers will get a comedic taste of the foreign, endearing “Lone Star” state. In Defiance Community Players’ version of “Greater Tuna,” a day in the life of Tuna, Texas, will be explored. With only five men playing 19 roles, many of whom are women, the production is as messy and loud and lovely as you can imagine.
After Willey finally wrangled himself into the gown, director and producer Jacquie Meitler walked past, squeezing his fake mammaries as she went. She saw how low they hung and announced they needed some work. Everyone laughed. Sitting nearby was Jack Green, a true vision as Vera Carp, the tall church lady. His fuzzy ankles were crossed, his posture straight. He was wearing a printed dress, pearls and a frumpy wig.
“I feel transformed,” he said, in his character’s slow, Southern, female twang. “It just warms the cockles of your heart.”
A few more scrambling minutes went by, and then everyone dove right back into the story.
“Tuna” is a difficult one to explain. The piece has the dramatic elements of any other play, but it doesn’t feel like the focus is character development or foreshadowing. It’s a collection of short, loose-cannon scenes, each highlighting a different local. Most of the vignettes are punctuated by an announcement from OKKK, the local radio station. Nearly every black-out leaves you laughing, or at least smiling, and usually wondering what just happened.
With so few actors and so many characters, no one steals the entire show. Instead, the guys take turns with it. As the conservative, put-upon mama, Bertha Bumiller, Peter Martin is so convincing that it takes a while to realize he’s also Hank, her husband. Playing all three Bumiller children, Dave Gardner nabs a laugh every time he runs off stage as Charlene, the sad, busty teen. When Willey appears as Pearl, the dog killing granny, you’d swear it was Harry Dean Stanton in a dress. And it goes on and on from there.
“We just love live theater,” said Meitler, finding a second away from her duties. “There’s just nothing like it.”
She spoke about living in the moment, about “being in character 10 feet before you walk out on stage.” A Defiance veteran for more than 20 years, Meitler has a hunger for drama that seems to mirror her actors’. It’s an escape, she said, a place to go crazy and still feel at home.
“It’s a good rush, and you get a lot of attention,” added Mike Banks, half-joking. With more characters to his name than anyone, he transitions from the whiny Didi Snavely to the cliche-spouting Rev. Spikes. Banks has been an actor for 15 or so years, and for him, theater used to be therapy. These days, it feels like another another way to give back.
Changed out of his womanly garb, Green called community theater “the glue that holds the community together.” With his real-world Southern lilt, he dubbed drama only “filler space between comedy.”
“There’s no greater gift than to get the audience laughing,” he said.
“It’s just fun,” explained Willey. “You never get that kind of freedom.”
He described his decades in theater, of directing high school and middle school plays and how that drew him closer to his daughter, Cassidy. While he was all about the “vision” and “euphoria” of the stage, he also said that it just gives him something to be a part of.
At that moment, he seemed to be speaking for everyone in the theater. Even after the rehearsal had finished, few people in the production could talk. They were still running about, doing last-minutes tweaks to lighting and costumes and set design. Though they didn’t have time to say it, it was clear how much they cared about what they had created.
“It becomes a community, within the show itself,” said Meitler, in the midst of the craziness. “Defiance is the village concept. It takes a village to put on a play.”
And while you might not want to live in this village of “Tuna,” you can visit. Tonight.
Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111
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Colorado Parks and Wildlife is urging anglers to stay off the Roaring Fork River between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs during afternoons beginning Saturday.