BWW Interview: Will Ragland of A TUNA CHRISTMAS at Mill Town Players
We could all use an escape this holiday season, so why not take a trip back to the small town of Tuna, Texas, for some good old-fashioned hilarity.
Will Ragland and Shane Willimon return to Pelzer's Mill Town Players for A Tuna Christmas, running December 1-17. A sequel to the classic comedy Greater Tuna, this show once again gives us two talented actors who play all 24 citizens of the town. BroadwayWorld recently spoke to actor - and Mill Town Players Artistic Director - Will Ragland about what we can expect from the show and how he handles those lightning-fast costume changes.
BWW: Tell us a little bit about A Tuna Christmas.
Ragland: It takes place on Christmas eve in a tiny town full of very memorable ridiculous characters who all know each other. It's small town southern humor, full of great one-liners. The main storyline is that there's a display contest and a Christmas phantom is wreaking havoc and they're trying to figure out who it is, and it just follows the story of all these funny, hilarious, crazy characters throughout the day.
BWW: Each of you play 11 or 12 characters. How many costume changes are there?
Ragland: Too many. (Laughs) You don't change into these characters just one time. And honestly I don't know what's coming next until I go back stage and see what costume my dresser's holding up. There's so much going on with all of these wigs and accessories and shoes, and for some reason we play more female characters than male characters, so I'm having to wear heels twice and a variety of wigs. And it's tough because they're all from Tuna, but they all have to sound different. So I have to keep track of the walk and the voice and the lines. It's two hours of material and only two actors, and it's just so much to remember - but fortunately it's a comedy so if something goes wrong we'll just make it work. (laughs) It's just a ridiculous southern comedy and it's so much fun. It's a great way to escape the anxiety and stress of the holiday season with characters that remind you of your family - or yourself!
BWW; Your dressers are obviously the unsung heroes of the piece.
Ragland: They're not only dressers, but they're stage crew as well. It's Donna Norman, John King, and Robert Jordan. They keep everything going. They have to preset everything and when I run off, well, we have a system for every moment. Who puts on the shoes, which shoe goes on first, who buttons me up the back, what accessories go with this character, what glasses do I have to put on. I have three mustaches prepped with wig tape ready to go for Arliss, all three times I have to put on a mustache for him. Some of the costume changes are so quick, they don't give you much help with the writing. They give you a couple of lines and then you just have to get out there. It's funny, I remember when we did Greater Tuna, we came out and bowed and some people said, well, where are the other actors? (laughs)
BWW: What do you think is the continuing appeal of these Tuna shows?
Ragland: I think that the appeal, for me, is the hilarious characters. It is the type of characters that I have always wanted to play - southern, sometimes redneck, characters that you rarely get to play. These caricature buffoon types that we've grown up with or are related to. And they have such funny sayings and comebacks that people from the south relate to. It's just funny. It's fun. And the quick change is so much fun to see. That's part of the show, walking off as one character and coming back on as something completely different. That's part of the fun. And for any actor who enjoys morphing from one thing to another, it's a treat.
BWW: How does the process compare to when you did Greater Tuna?
Ragland: It's a lot easier than last time, because it's not all new for us and we have the same team together - Ryan Bradburn is doing the set and the costumes, and Jay Briggs is directing, we have the same actors, and Donna was a dresser for us last time, too. So the characters have already been created and established, and we've used some of the same costumes. So we were way ahead of the game. But it's a harder show, there's more to it. It's a longer show with more characters and more changes, like they tried to really outdo themselves. But it's really fun and I think everyone will love it.
A TUNA CHRISTMAS
Thurs - Sat 7:30pm, Sun 3pm
Mill Town Players
Historic Pelzer Auditorium
214 Lebby Street
Pelzer, SC 29669
Get ready for some hilarious holiday fun in this sequel to Greater Tuna, starring Will Ragland and Shane Willimon, who return to portray all 24 citizens of Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas, where the Lion's Club is too liberal and Patsy Cline never dies! This time, it's 24 hours before Christmas and the delightfully eccentric characters are attempting to cope with seasonal traumas such as a disaster prone little theatre production of A Christmas Carol, and a yard-decorating contest being sabotaged by a mysterious Christmas phantom. Don't miss your favorite Tuna denizens this holiday season!
Director - Jay Briggs
Scenic and Costume Design - Ryan Bradburn
Lighting Design - Tony Penna
Tickets to A Tuna Christmas are only $10, with discounts for seniors, military, and students, and can be purchased online at www.milltownplayers.org, by calling (864)947-8000, or at the door.