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Park High School Chamber Theatre to stage 'Greater Tuna'

Student-actors rehearse a scene in “Greater Tuna,” Park High School Chamber Theatre’s fall production, which runs Oct. 10-12 at the school. Pictured (from far left) are Krissy Palmer, Lauren Miller, Alyssa Volmer-Johnson, Kaitlyn Tufenk, Grant Lindsey and Emma Harvang. (Bulletin photo by Scott Wente)1 / 2
More than 50 Park High School students were cast in the chamber theater’s performance, and for many students it’s their first experience with high school theater. (Bulletin photo by Scott Wente)2 / 2

The Park High School Chamber Theatre looked to the South for laughs in its new production.

The theater, with a cast of more than 50 students, this weekend is staging “Greater Tuna,” a satirical comedy that pokes fun at oddball residents and silly occurrences in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas.

The original play was staged in 1982 off Broadway in New York by just two male actors, who portrayed 20 characters.

Steve Estenson, who is co-directing Park’s performance with Denise Atkinson, said the play works well for the chamber theater because nearly all students who auditioned ended up with a role. They added characters and took out some that were in the original production.

“We chose this show because we saw the ability to do that,” Estenson said.

There is no real plot, but two characters who play DJs at the local radio station serve as de-facto narrators, announcing events in town that play out on stage.

Student actors said the play is a comedy that had some of them laughing out loud when they first read the script.

“I think it has a lot of potential,” said Justin Hiemstra, who portrays Petey Fisk of the local humane society.

The original script read a bit too risque for a light-hearted high school production, Estenson said, so the directors made changes and took out about 40 minutes of material, including some racial references.

That was an effort to remove some potentially controversial material that wasn’t integral to the play but also to bring the play down to the desired length. With intermission it will be about 1 hour 15 minutes.

“It’s just a show about what life is like in small-town Texas,” Estenson said, adding there are some warm, down-home themes Minnesotans can relate to.

Unlike tighter-cast productions later in the year, Park’s Chamber Theatre is intended to be an opportunity for any interested student. Most of the 50-plus students participating will be on stage.

“It gives everybody a chance to experience what theater is,” Hiemstra said.

If you go

Park High School Chamber Theatre will stage “Greater Tuna,” a comedy, in three shows this week.

Shows will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 10-12, in the Park High School auditorium.

Tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and students.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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