Twenty Seven Years Later, Williams and Sears Are Still Serving Up Tuna
The Texas stage spoof Greater Tuna opened in Austin 27 years ago and has spawned a handful of spin-offs, with actors Jaston Williams and Joe Sears playing the entire cast of characters, and all, until now, based in small-town West Texas. The latest in the Tuna catalog, Tuna Does Vegas, opens tonight in Fort Worth at the Bass Performance Hall, presented by Casa Mañana and running through October 26. Williams was good enough to sit down with us at Unfair Park HQ to chat about his new show, the first bite of fresh Tuna in 10 years. It's after the jump.
Tuna Does Vegas -- this is the fourth of the Tuna shows?
You know, we said we’d never do another one. You reach a point in your life, you don’t want to be repeating yourself -- but we've created this fictional place so many people want to go. And every time I go back to West Texas, I keep getting taken aback at how much, and in other ways how little, has changed.
What’s been taking you out to West Texas lately?
I’ve been working on a novel, and it’s set out there. I have a real affection for it -- more so from a distance. There’s just an amazing collection of characters out there. I think it’s the water out there -- it’s nature. It’s just as crazy and blood-thirsty as it always was. At the same time, when you go back and recognize a face, it means part of you’s still out there. But we’re satirists by nature, and there’s more material now for a satirist than in any point in history.
What do you think about stopping in Fort Worth this time, not Dallas?
We’ve performed out in Richardson before, but I love Fort Worth. They always say, "Dallas is bigger but Fort Worth is paid for." Here, though, the Nasher Sculpture Garden is one of my favorite spots. It’s just amazing. I love the art world in both of these cities, but the Nasher is such a world-class collection.
In Dallas, when I’m here, I stay at the Adolphus. And that makes it worth going to work in the morning. I’ve stayed in some real dives over the years. The worst time we had was in Detroit, years ago. It was a little nerve-racking. We’d get huge audiences during the day, but we couldn’t get anyone to come at night.
So tell me a little more about the new show.
This one is so much fun. You think you’ve run out -– what else do we have to say? Let’s don’t write a play just for the sake of writing one. But we got to thinking about the Tuna characters -- what is their take on the rest of the world? And then, what if we somehow got them all in Las Vegas?
So, I went there for research. It all started for me with a tattooed bridesmaid. The bouquet was down at her feet, and she’s dragging on a cigarette. I figured, this is a starting point. Bertha and Arliss had already become the core of the show. The fun part was finding out why everybody else would be going.
The other thing it allowed us to do is create characters that are not Tuna characters. Researching the Elvises was just a whole lot of fun. You know, there are the good Elvis agencies and bad Elvis agencies out there. Any Elvis time period you could ask for. It was a pretty rich environment for inspiration.
I lived in New Orleans for 13 years -- I moved just before Katrina. And what amazed me was that the plane ride into New Orleans and the plane ride into Las Vegas are exactly the same. There’s that same energy, everyone’s ready to go, had a few too many drinks. It was fascinating to me that there are cities like that, where you can go there, then go back to Midland and just pretend the whole thing never happened. --Patrick Michels
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.