Kent Theatre Guild revisits Texas town in ‘Red, White and Tuna’

Clockwise from upper left, Mike Polo, Bruce Leister, Paul Janiga and Will McVay make up the entire cast of “Red, White and Tuna.” (Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller)

DOVER — The third installment of a comedic series of plays, “Red, White and Tuna” will take the stage starting next weekend at the Kent County Theatre Guild.

The play focuses on a Fourth of July homecoming in the tiny Texas town of Tuna, which embodies every stereotype of southern country life. While the series does not include any fish, it does include a long list of characters, all played by only four actors.

Each plays a minimum of three characters ranging from redneck men to hippie women.

The Guild began the “Tuna” series more than two decades ago with “Greater Tuna” followed by “A Tuna Christmas” almost 10 years ago.

Due to the actors’ and audience’s reception of the first two, the board had “Red, White and Tuna” on its mind for a while and Patti Gatto was chosen to direct the show.

Following in the previous two plays’ format, more than a dozen roles are distributed among the four actors.

“It’s a real challenge because each character is their own unique person, which means they have their own way of talking, and even moving,” said Bruce Leister of Dover.

One thing that helps the actors keep their characters straight is the costumes.

“They actually have to change costumes for each character so we have to have a pretty big crew because each actor pretty much needs their own dresser,” said Ms. Gatto.

To keep all the characters and costumes straight, she keeps a reference chart of when each actor is which character.

When it comes to having only four actors, that means each actor is responsible for a quarter of show.

Mike Polo, left, as Thurston, and Bruce Leister, as Arles, are radio broadcasters in Kent County Theatre Guild’s production of the comedy “Red, White and Tuna.” Each of the four actors in the play perform as a minimum of three different characters. The show starts July 12 at the Patchwork Playhouse in Dover.

Paul Janiga of Dover is the only one of the four actors to have not performed in a “Tuna” show before, but having seen previous performances, he knew what he was in for.

“I knew what it would be like but after looking at the script, I was tempted to back out because not only is it a lot of lines, it’s a lot of characters!” he said.

For Will McVay, this performance brings his nine years at the Kent County Theatre Guild full circle. His very first performance with the group was “A Tuna Christmas.”

Some of the roles he plays in the show are reprisals of roles in the last “Tuna” production.

Mike Polo of Dover said for the “Tuna” shows, memorizing the script has gotten more and more difficult over time.

But since all the actors have worked together in the past, they’ve been getting through rehearsal just fine.

“They play so well off one another, if someone misses a line, another will improvise to get things back on track. But they are having such a good time, sometimes things go off on a tangent and it’s hard not to laugh along. But since I’m directing, I have to kind of be the mom and keep everyone in line,” Ms. Gatto said.

Will McVay, left, as Amber, and Paul Janiga, as Star, drive back from a high school reunion in a scene from Kent County Theatre Guild’s “Red, White and Tuna.”

A certain trust does exist since she’s acted with all the guys before.

“I think it makes it a lot easier for me to suggest changes and even for them to make suggestions for me because we all know that any ideas we have or decisions we make are for the good of the show,” she said.

“We’re all out here working hard and want to put on the best show we can.”

“Red, White and Tuna” takes the stage at the Patchwork Playhouse at 140 Roosevelt Ave. in Dover on July 12, 13, 19 and 20 at 8 p.m. and July 14 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $10-$20 and available online at kctg.org or at the box office.

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