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‘Tuna’ takes over Las Vegas

Don't expect everything that happens in "Tuna Does Vegas," to stay in Vegas.

Those strange, yet lovable folks who reside in Tuna, Texas, the third smallest town in the Lone Star State, return to the stage tonight in the fourth Tuna play. The comedy begins a run at the Springer Opera House.

Bertha and Arles, who got married in "Red, White and Tuna," are once again the central characters.

The two lovebirds decide to renew their vows for their 10th anniversary in Las Vegas. Arles, Tuna's early morning disc jockey, blabs about the plans on the air and before he knows it, all of Tuna decides to go to Vegas for the ceremony. Well, all but Thurston, who has to keep doing the morning radio show.

In Las Vegas, the Tuna residents meet Elvis impersonators, a mentalist/clairvoyant, showgirls and a minor gangster.

Paul Pierce, the Springer's producing artistic director, and Ron Anderson, the Springer's associate artistic director, play all of the characters.

Ed Howard, one of the writers of the Tuna series, directs.

The collaboration between the Springer and the Tuna creators is strong. The Springer was the first theater in the nation to produce "Red, White and Tuna." And now the Springer is the first to get the rights to do "Tuna Does Vegas."

About 50,000 people have seen "Greater Tuna," "A Tuna Christmas" and "Red, White and Tuna" over the years, Pierce said. A large part of that number are fans of "A Tuna Christmas."

Pierce and Anderson worked together in Athens when they attended the University of Georgia. Pierce met Joe Sears, Jaston Williams and Howard around the same time. The Tuna trio moved to Atlanta to work in theater and then started writing the Tuna series.

The inspiration for the Tuna plays came from Howard's childhood.

"I grew up in a small town," Tuscumbia, Ala., Howard said.

Pierce said he and Anderson have so much fun in rehearsals that they can't wait for the shows to start.

"It's interesting to be on stage with Ron," Pierce said. "We know each other's histories and the characters' histories."

The audience is an important element of each show, he said.

"The audience adds a completely new layer," Pierce said. "The audiences have been living with these characters for a long time. They're bringing their knowledge and love."

He added that it's the reaction from the audience that makes the characters funny.

Anderson said, "it's not our job to be funny. Ed often tells us not to play them funny."

Howard said of the four Tuna plays, "Tuna Does Vegas" has the strongest plot and the strongest message -- "to stop being afraid and enjoy life."

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