published Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Dalton Little Theater hosts 'A Tuna Christmas'


• What: "A Tuna Christmas."

• When: 8 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Dec. 7-9 and 14-16.

• Where: Dalton Little Theatre, 210 N. Pentz St., Dalton, Ga.

• Admission: $15 adults, $12 seniors/members, $10 students ages 13-18 or college, $5 children ages 12-under.

• Phone: 706-226-6618.

• Website:

Audience members will likely leave "A Tuna Christmas" at the Dalton Little Theatre laughing uproariously, but they also could be thinking how much their neighbor is like Joe Bob Lipsey or how closely their aunt resembles Inita Goodwin.

"You will meet people you know," says director Jerry Draper, who along with fellow actor Randy Forester, will play more than 20 characters in the show. "Randy and I have based characters on our mothers, other family members [and] people we've met in theater."

Not that you will have personally met the two actors' family members, but the characters might just resemble people you know.

"A Tuna Christmas," the second in a series of comedic plays set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas -- "Greater Tuna" was the first -- is both a commentary on and a satire of small-town Southern life and attitudes, according to a Dalton Little Theatre news release.

Much of it, says Draper, is "very much your typical Southern humor. You'll see a lot of stereotypes, and there is a lot of over-the-top laughter."

The pair play 10 or more characters apiece -- male and female -- and have about twice as many costume changes.

"We change so much and so often," says Draper. "We are so dependent on our dressers. We'll say to them, 'Who am I [in the next scene]?' It's hard to keep up."

The plot centers on the town's annual Christmas Yard Display Contest, which has been won 14 consecutive times by Vera Carp. Mysteriously, a phantom Christmas vandal has the contestants worried about their yard displays.

Meanwhile, as if in a bad Christmas letter, Stanley Bumiller is hoping to end his probation and leave town, Bertha Bumiller is trying to hold her family together and Joe Bob Lipsey is struggling to successfully mount a production of "A Christmas Carol" in spite of the electric company's threats to turn off the lights.

Draper and Forester previously did "A Tuna Christmas" at the former Backstage Dinner Theater in 1997.

"Considering the amount of material [to be learned]," the director says, "it has come back very quickly."

The actors each are onstage 80 to 90 percent of the time, he says. Where other shows have expected peaks and valleys, "A Tuna Christmas" is "constantly peaking," he says.

"It's a very high-energy show," he says.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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