“Greater Tuna” showcases two students in 22 roles

By: Mary Kate Dorr – Asst. A&E Editor

Beginning Thursday, Oct. 23, two University of Dayton students will take on the role of 22 characters in the UD Theatre Program’s production of the comedy “Greater Tuna.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Two UD students will be performing 11 different roles and personalities each, all in a single show.

Luckily, director Linda Dunlevy has some experience with this production. She first directed “Greater Tuna” with professional actors in the 1980s when she was advised that only men should play the roles because female actors could not portray men with the sense of humor needed for the show.

“Generations of female comedians have demonstrated women can be funny, should be funny and will be funny playing male or female characters,” Dunlevy said in her director’s note.

This time around, Dunlevy has a total cast of four actors, two male and two female, performing two at a time for each production. The cast includes Norb Wessels, Jenna Gomes, Kevin Cavallaro and Lauren Roos. For each performance, the actors will perform in different combinations including two male actors, two female actors and a male and a female actor. There are a total of 22 personas, including two dogs.

“Kevin and I play the same line of characters, and Lauren and Norb play the same line of characters. It’s cool because as a result, there are four different casts,” Gomes said.

The show takes place in the small town of Tuna, Texas where the local radio shows aids in introducing the audience to the community of Tuna.

“It’s very goofy at times, and I think it’s the charming chaos that people should come to see,” Wessels said.

Wessels, Roos and Gomes agreed that assuming the roles of 11 personalities is the greatest challenge of this performance. Roos explained that between the amount of lines to learn and the quick costume changes, this is extremely different from a standard role.

“The most challenging part of being in a show like ‘Greater Tuna’ is to remember the different personalities of each character,” Roos said.

Gomes agreed, adding that developing a distinctive personality and voice for each character has added to her challenges as an actor.

Together, the four actors who are each playing the same characters have collaborated to create the persona and explore the character together. Throughout rehearsal, the cast practices in a variety of combinations. When one pair is performing, the pair not performing is behind the scenes ready to help with costume changes. Dunlevy said that the quick costume changes and the sound cues are the most difficult part of performing a play like “Greater Tuna.”

The cast is most looking forward to seeing the audience’s reaction throughout the duration of the play.

They agreed that it’s both charming and downright funny, making it an easy show to enjoy and encourage UD students to come have a laugh.

UD’s production of “Greater Tuna” runs Friday through Sunday, Oct. 24-26, Oct. 30, 31 and Nov. 1, with a preview Thursday at Kennedy Union Boll Theater. General reserved seating is $12. Students, faculty and staff tickets are priced at $7. For more information, visit udayton.edu/arts.