The Tuna series was written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard. Texas Monthly named Greater Tuna "The Play of the Century." The Tuna plays are an affectionate comment on small-town, Southern life and attitudes as well as a withering satire of same.
Jaston Williams and Joe Sears as two of the most popular characters in Greater Tuna,
Vera Carp and Aunt Pearl.
Williams and Sears were the longest running comedy team in America (1981-2013), with the Tuna series, and Texas Monthly has called the duo "Texas' Most Famous Cross-Dressers."
Greater Tuna was originally produced and performed in 1981, in Austin, Texas by its authors, Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard. The play’s stars, Williams and Sears, played all twenty characters, and Howard directed. One year after its premiere, Greater Tuna opened Off Broadway, ran for over a year, and more than 300 performances. Williams and Sears went on to tour major theaters all over America, and spots overseas for the next thirty-some years.
The production turned into a Cinderella story when two critics from New York who were in town dropped in on that first show in Austin and loved it. "One day you're wondering where the $300-a-month rent is coming from," Williams said. "The next day, Variety gives you a rave and William Morris is on the phone. Within a year we were in the top tax bracket. We'd been in the business for ten years," Williams said. "If I'd known what was going to happen, I'd have put that dress on years ago."
David Richardson of the Washington Post said, "Greater Tuna" is neither a recipe nor a fish story." He describes the quartet of plays as a fictional panorama of the third smallest town in Texas and its environs. And every twitch and twang is right on target. All of Tuna's inhabitants -- male, female, young, old, crazed and half-crazed -- are played by a remarkable pair of actors and quick-change artists named Joe Sears and Jaston Williams. Several of the New York critics have rightly found their gallery of small-town types to be hilarious, although that is a response New York likes to lavish upon anyone living beyond the Hudson. But "Greater Tuna" is also something more -- a folksy slice of life that turns increasingly surrealistic as the sun makes its way across the great open Tuna sky. If Thornton Wilder had collaborated with Diane Arbus on a portrait of rural America, they might well have come up with this evening.
For information and to request licensing for the Tuna Plays, contact Samuel French.