Stillwater News Press

February 3, 2013

Actors play multiple roles in new production at Town and Gown

By Chase Rheam
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Stillwater’s Town and Gown Theatre is preparing for the third of its five productions this year with “Greater Tuna.”

The show is directed by Patt Ward Curtin, a graduate from Oklahoma State University in Theater who has directed more than 60 shows.

“This is my debut (at Town and Gown),” Curtin said. “I’d say I’m always a little frightened before I tackle a script. I think it’s healthy.”

Curtin said she expects challenges, but is ready to face them. This is her second time directing this show.

Actors Kyle Shifflett and Seth Phillips portray multiple roles in this two-man play.

“The two (actors) actually play 10 characters a piece,” Curtin said. “So, there are 20 characters in the show and each guy plays 10 characters and they play men and women of all ages and children and sometime livestock come in. It’s a satiric comedy.”

Curtin said the play has a cult following and is slightly darker than the three plays that spawned from its success.

“The underlying subtext is this whole theme of what these characters are representing which is racism, bigotry and prejudice,” she said.

However, the situations and stories surrounding the characters make for a good show.

“But it’s also gut-busting funny because they change characters immediately and that’s the hook,” she said.

The characters are depictions of people everyone may know in their own lives, she said. The play, which takes place in Tuna, Texas, begins with two local radio DJs with OKKK radio Arles Struvie and Thurston Wheelis. Other characters include a gun store owner, a book banner and an animal lover.

“It all happens in one day and we see this cast of characters parade through,” Curtin said.

According to a press release, the show premiered in 1981 and by 1985 was the most produced show in North America. It was created by Joe Sears, Jaston Williams and Ed Howard.

Curtin said she and actors Shifflett and Phillips are each from small towns, which helps them understand some of the characters.

“In fact, Kyle grew up in Fay, nine miles down the road from Watonga, so we easily understand and identify with the themes and people of Greater Tuna,” she said. “And many of the themes will be familiar to the audience as well — everybody knowing everybody, everybody knowing your business, the stereotypes, the small-town thinking.

“For all the problems the town citizens may have, all the personality conflicts and attitudes, they all find a way to deal with one another, and I suspect think fondly of one another in the end.”

Curtin said the two actors bring life and energy to their roles.

“I enjoy the intensity,” she said. “So many costume changes. They have to be really quick or you lose the magic.”

Curtin also credits Stage Manager Paul Weber with the set, which includes two air-streamed trailers.

She said Weber took an intimate space and gave her a lot with which to work, calling the set “truly tremendous.”

“Besides working with Seth and Kyle, it’s been wonderful getting to know the people who make up Town and Gown,” she said. “Audiences will enjoy benefiting from all their hard work.”

Tickets are $14 for adults and $12 for students and go on sale Monday.

Seniors can purchase tickets at $12 for both matinees showings. The show runs from Thursday to Feb. 10 and Feb. 14 to Feb. 17 with 7:30 p.m. showings Thursday through Saturday and two Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.

For ticket information, call 372-9122 or visit