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Two actors bring 18 characters to life in Tuna Does Vegas

Vegas, baby! Let's go to Arrow Rock

George Varney

Quin Gresham and Daryl Vaughan rehearse the upcoming play, Tuna Does Vegas, which opens Saturday. The two have worked together for nearly 20 years.

September 19, 2013 | 12:00 a.m. CST

The cast of the stage production Tuna Does Vegas is not your average lineup. There are only two men, but a combination of costume changes, voice alterations and personality adaptations help them create an entire town’s worth of characters. “We play a married couple, and often in life, we treat each other the same way,” says Daryl Vaughan, one of the two actors. Vaughan, of Kansas City, and his acting partner Quin Gresham, of Arrow Rock, have been working together for nearly two decades, so it’s no surprise that their friendship extends beyond the theater. Tuna Does Vegas follows the life of conservative radio host Arles Struvie. When he mentions that he and his wife are traveling to Las Vegas to renew their wedding vows, word travels faster than you can lose $20 playing slots, and the entire town decides to join them. So grab your boa and some sequins — we’re going to Vegas!

Tuna Does Vegas

Where: Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre
When: Sept. 21-28
Cost: $15, kids; $35, adults; $20, students; $31, seniors; group rates for 20+
Call: 660-837-3311

A count down to the show

2-3 days before the show: the “glib”
Daryl Vaughan and Quin Gresham run through lines as quickly as they can, bringing the production down to 30 minutes.

30 minutes before the house opens:
Mic check. Vaughan and Gresham get on stage and say some lines. “If I feel like there’s a place in the show that needs to be tightened, I’ll run through it once or twice, flowing on the stage and getting it into my kinetic memory,” Vaughan says.

Five minutes to show time:

Time for deep breathing; shake it out!

Cue the lights:
“As long as you get that first line out and that first laugh out, you can go with the flow,” Vaughan says.

--Lindsay Pierce

Daryl Vaughan

Inspiration: The Benny Hill Show
Favorite character to play: Aunt Pearl Burras, an elderly chicken farmer
Favorite line in Tuna Does Vegas: Bertha Bumiller: “And Pearl meant well, but I have trouble sleeping when there’s a borrowed cake pan in the house.”

What is it like to play so many characters?
I try to find something to glom onto the character, like physicality, so you don’t look the same on stage. I also try to find a place in my speaking to make the voice sound different. The costumes really help out. Sometimes the costume changes happen within 15 seconds.

How do you tap into the psyche of a character?
You stay true to the character. It’s a whole package. It’s the outfit. I love Bertha because she wears pantsuits. She’s not a dress kind of gal. You sort of have to let the lines and the circumstance and the whole topic of the scene do the work for you and just be there and be present.

What does it feel like to hear audience responses, such as laughter?
It’s that feeling, the thought, of people having a good time because of what you’re giving them. It’s not manipulative; it’s just a humbling and gratifying experience. That’s when it’s really rich and wonderful because you feel like you’re sharing a part of yourself. It’s like falling in love, but you’re not taking anyone home and washing the dishes.

Quin Gresham

Inspiration: Tootsie
Favorite character to play: Didi Snavley, the owner of Didi’s Used Weapons
Favorite line in Tuna Does Vegas: Didi Snavley: “It’s like we always say at Didi’s, ‘Don’t just hang up on telemarketers, track them down and shoot them!’”

What is it like to play female roles?
Put anybody in a tight dress and high heels, and it affects the way you move around. It’s not as though I’m suddenly a woman, but it just sort of tells you how to behave. It’s not a studied approach, but just by virtue of going through it, all of those things come forth.

How do you identify with a character?
It’s basic text analysis. You look at the script and find out what the character wants in a larger sense and in the immediate sense. When you identify those things and play them, that really is most of the work in terms of establishing personality. Different characters have different obstacles. Arles probably drinks too much, but he hides it. Vera Carp is righteously Christian but not at all in practice.

Describe your relationship with Daryl Vaughan.

Daryl and I have known each other since the late 1990s. There is something special that happens when the right people work together. You’re working in a fast and furious way to make sure that when a show is in front of an audience, it’s everything they want and more. Sense of humor will either draw people together or push people apart, and the things Daryl and I find amusing in the world match.

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