Greater Tuna | The Long Center for the Performing Arts

Bailey, Leavon & Mercer — Introducing The New Tuna Trio

With Jaston Williams taking up residence in the Director’s Chair for an “all new reimagined” national tour of the great Texas classic Greater Tuna, that must leave a few of you wondering who will be playing my favorite characters?

It’s true, Jaston himself has said that, “after thirty years on the road with the Greater Tuna plays, Joe Sears and I are hanging up our dresses.” And as hard as it may be for many of us to divorce the looks and voices of Joe and Jaston from Tuna, Texas, Greater Tuna has grown a hell of a lot since its debut on 6th Street in 1981. “One of the things I am proudest of was Greater Tuna being named Play of the Century by Texas Monthly,” says Jaston. “Some people tend to think of the shows as an act for Joe Sears and myself, but the reality is that Greater Tuna is a seriously constructed play produced all over the country with other actors.” This is the part we most often forget.

There is another change with this national tour — the addition of a third actor to the Tuna mix. “I can say,” continues Jaston,” I know these characters when I see them and I see them in this wonderful cast we have decided to work with.” That wonderful cast includes Ryan Bailey, Tim Leavon, and Will Mercer, all veteran actors with decades of experience between them on and off the stage.

Ryan is no stranger to Tuna. In fact, he has also played a variety of the roles originated by Jaston in two separate productions each of Greater Tuna and A Tuna Christmas prior to being handpicked for this national tour. Tim, too, has seen his fair share of the Tuna citizens in productions of Greater Tuna as well as Tuna Does Vegas during his time in Birmingham, Alabama. Will, a native of Wimberley, Texas, met the characters of Greater Tuna in 1985 as a patron at the Paramount Theatre.

As it turns out, Greater Tuna was the first theatrical production Will Mercer ever experienced, and it resonated with him immediately. “First, so many of us grew up with these folks,” Will muses. “We have known the town busy-body, the blow-hard preacher, and the town drunk. For some of us, we were even related to them! Second, the attitudes of these folks and the themes are very much relevant today. Prejudice, religious extremism, and bigotry are very much alive and well. So, I think it is important to bring them back out on stage and give people a moment to laugh.”

And to answer the question on everyone’s minds, what does Will think of Jaston as a director? “Jaston has such a wonderful way of guiding me as an actor. . . He constantly presents information and ideas that I hadn’t considered, which leads to such a deeper realization of the character. And let’s be honest, he is THE Jaston Williams. Everyone knows what he can do on the stage.”

Revisit Didi & R.R., Petey, Elmer, Thurston, and all your other favorite Tuna citizens April 14 – 15. Get your tickets before the “third-smallest” town in Texas sells out!

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