Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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September 9, 2013

Local man showcases star talent in ‘Tuna’ production

BULLARD — East Texans will get a glimpse into the fictional town of Tuna, Texas, as seen through the eyes of memorable characters made famous by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard, who use humor and affection in their running commentary on small-town Southern life and attitudes in “Greater Tuna.”

Staged at the Tyler Civic Theatre through Sept. 15, a special show also is planned for Tuesday, at KE Bushman Event Center in Bullard, said Jan Barton, a co-producer of the show.

“The characters are so recognizable to anyone who grew up in a small town in East Texas,” Barton said.

“We have wanted to do 'Tuna' at Tyler Civic Theatre for several years now (but) as long as the original creators Jaston and Joe were touring with it, you could not produce it at civic theaters,” she explained, adding that because the men no longer tour with 'Tuna,' “we were lucky enough to get it on our calendar for this year.”

The comedic play is the first of four focused on events in Tuna, described by Williams and his co-writers as “the third-smallest town” in the state. Williams and Sears portrayed the cast of more than 20 characters, both male and female, young and old.

“Greater Tuna” first debuted in 1981 in Austin, with an off-Broadway premiere occurring a year later.

Roger Pharr, the director of programs and development for the Crisis Center of Anderson & Cherokee Counties, is one of the show's stars, portraying characters such as Aunt Pearl Burras, Bertha Bumiller and Rev. Spikes, among other characters.

Barton said response to the show thus far “has been fantastic – the phones are ringing off the wall” with queries about ticket purchase for the Tyler dates.

“The KE Bushman’s event is also selling briskly, so I would advise anyone wanting to get tickets to call our box office (by) Monday,” she said.

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