Backstage action as fast as onstage plot

Two actors handle 20 characters and their costumes in Playhouse 19's Greater Tuna.

Published May 27, 2005

What's the secret to being able to change clothes rapidly backstage in a community concert production?

Velcro and an assistant, referred to in theater lingo as a "dresser."

Actors Sam Nall and David Easter run through dozens of changes as they bounce from one offbeat character to another during Playhouse 19's production of Greater Tuna.

Costume designer Pam McFauld used Velcro closures and built-in body types. With rapid help from their dressers, McFauld and Sally Baumgarten, the actors make these split second changes.

"Greater Tuna" is the phrase this pair of corny radio newscasters in the tiny town of Tuna, Texas, use to describe the broadcasting area they serve. In this delightful view of small town life, Nall and Easter play 20 characters in a town in which the local dogcatcher is one of the community's most interesting citizens. Many of these characters are familiar Southern stereotypes and all are delightful.

Nall begins as radio announcer Thurston Wheelis. He switches to Bertha Bumiller, Yippy (a dog), the preacher and the sheriff. Easter has some almost rapid changes from Arles Struvie, the radio announcer, to Didi Snavely, Petey Fisk (dogcatcher), three Bumiller kids, and more.

Director Lesa Ehlers, with set designer Julian Weingarten, stayed true to the spare set used off-Broadway. On the same stage, without set changes, audience members will see the radio station, the home of Bertha Bumiller, the local funeral home and more.

Ehlers and Easter developed special sound effects Easter recorded. The play is a series of vignettes of life in the third smallest town in Texas.

Show times are 7 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Reserved seats are $15 for adults, $10 for students. For information and reservations, call the box office at 563-1333. The show runs through June 12. The theater is at 865 U.S. 19 S, Crystal River.

Also playing at area community theaters:

JERRY'S GIRLS, THE MUSIC AND LYRICS OF JERRY HERMAN, continues through June 26 at Show Palace Dinner Theatre, 16128 U.S. 19, Hudson. Shows are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays and 1:30 p.m. some Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Doors open two hours before each show for buffet and cash bar. Dinner and show, $39.50; show only, $28.45; ages 12 and younger, $21.95 and $16.95, all plus tax and tip. Call 863-7949 in west Pasco; toll free elsewhere at 1-888-655-7469.

THE MUSICAL FANTASY HONK!B> continues through Sunday at Richey Suncoast Theatre, 6237 Grand Blvd., New Port Richey. The show is based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale The Ugly Duckling. Shows are at 8 p.m. today and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15 adults, $8 ages 12 and younger. Box office is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and Saturday and one hour before each show. Call (727) 842-6777.