Behind the scenes at Orlando Shakespeare Theater

Meet the Guys of Tuna, Texas!

Actors Mark Lainer (ML) and Michael Kevin Baldwin (MKB) sat down with the lovely Marketing ladies to discuss their latest show, A Tuna Christmas, opening Friday at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center.

Keep reading for all the juicy details or check out the YouTube Video here.

Tuna Christmas!

Mark Lainer* and Michael Kevin Baldwin* in A Tuna Christmas

Q – Describe A Tuna Christmas from your perspective and how it relates to the holiday season.

ML – It’s Christmas time in Tuna, Texas and we follow 21 residents of the little town as they deal with Christmas crises, including an unknown Christmas phantom who is sabotaging the Christmas yard displays that are vying to win the town’s radio station sponsored contest. The thing is? Two actors play all 21 characters. There are some sweet, tender moments and a whole lot of funny ones.

Q – What are you most looking forward to for this year’s show? Have you done A Tuna Christmas before?

ML – I’m excited about playing all these different characters and about working with Michael Kevin Baldwin, an actor who is doing his first role with Orlando Shakes, as well as the director, Patrick Flick, and the whole production team to bring these characters and this little town to life.

MKB – I have not done A Tuna Christmas before, nor have I done any of the Tuna shows. But there is nothing like making people laugh and spreading holiday cheer.

Q – Who are the best audiences for A Tuna Christmas?

MKB – I think it really caters and appeals to a vast audience.  It is set in the 70s, so mature audiences will enjoy a lot of the references.  But the show also has a Saturday Night Live flair to it, so younger audiences should find it very funny.  It does have some risque humor, so I believe the theater has cautioned parents about bringing kids.

Q – What sets A Tuna Christmas apart from other shows in the area this holiday season?

ML – It’s setting is unique, as are the number of characters the two actors play. Also it’s not “A Christmas Carol.”

 Q – What major roles do you portray in A Tuna Christmas? (I know you play a number of characters, but is there a favorite of yours to play?)

ML – There are a few characters I only play for a few lines, but I really like Bertha Bumiller, who is just trying to have a good Christmas with an absentee husband and three children who she loves, but who bedevil her. Also, her aunt, Pearl Burras, a tough but sweet old lady, and Inita, one of the sassy waitresses at the Tastee Kreme Diner. And Joe Bob Lipsey, director of the Tuna Little Theatre is a hoot.

MKB – I play 11 different characters, and I believe Mark plays about the same.  My thru-line character is Arles Struvie, the radio announcer.  I see him as the “everyman” in town.  Also fun to play are Didi Snavely, the proprietor of the Used Weapons Shop in town, and Vera Carp, the town’s busy-body and socialite.

Q – What is your favorite thing about A Tuna Christmas?

ML – I like the challenge of it, but most of all I love the heart and humanity that underlie the hilarity.

MKB – Well, right now, my favorite thing about it is how much it is challenging me as an actor.  It’s one thing to just try to be funny, but it’s a whole other deal trying to bring specificity and truth to 11 different characters.  It’s a workout.

Q – What do you think audiences will enjoy the most about this show?

ML – At first, they’ll enjoy watching two actors as they strive to keep up with all the character changes, but then they will forget that, and will enjoy the humor and individuality of the denizens of this tiny Texas town, as they TRY to celebrate Christmas as best as they can.

Q – How long have you been performing with the Orlando Shakespeare Theater?

ML – My first workshop production was in 2003 and my first mainstage production in 2006, though I’ve been coming to see shows there a lot longer (since the days when they did shows out at Lake Eola).

Q – Is there anything else you would like to add?

MKB – Although Mark and I will be hoofin’ it on the stage, playing all the characters, this show is a real labor of love of a whole BUNCH of people.  The director, Pat Flick, stage management, dressers, costumers, lighting, sound, set builders, technicians, ect., all help to make the town of Tuna, Texas come to life.

ML – Come on down and see us, y’all!

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