The Virgin Valley Theatre Group thought they were set for their last show of the season but when it comes to theater, things can change at a moments’ notice and they did.
The show was originally cast in January and Matt McDonald and Denis Feehan were the two actors chosen to portray all the characters in Tuna, the third smallest town in Texas. The play was originally written and produced with two men playing both men and women’s roles.
Director Diana McKinney decided from the start to mix things up a bit for the Virgin Valley Theatre Group production and cast Teri Nehrenz in a cameo role as Anna Conda, the Las Vegas Hula Chateau Resort’s desk clerk. Rehearsals commenced for the next several weeks with Nehrenz having only attended a few of them due to the very small role she played as opposed to the massive roles of both McDonald and Feehan.
Three and a half weeks before opening night things changed drastically.
Feehan had some health concerns that left a question as to whether he would be able to go on with rehearsals and most especially with a performance during the scheduled shows. In the best interest of the production it was decided that it would be better if a change was made in casting. McKinney and Feehan approached Nehrenz about taking on Feehan’s original role of 9 characters as well as keeping the role of Anna Conda. Yes, there are 18 characters, 17 of which are played by two actors; talk about quick changes.
Nehrenz said the first thing that came to mind was, “Holy crap!” as she, in her mind, began counting the number of days until opening night. Her second thought was just a little stronger than the first when she only got to 26. She said the third thought was completely selfish. The opportunity of her Mesquite theatre experience had just landed in her lap and when she pulled it off it would be quite an achievement. She felt confident that she’d had some great directing along the way that prepared her to take on the challenge.
Nehrenz says she’s a glutton for punishment when it comes to accepting the seemingly impossible and she just can’t turn down a challenge or a great opportunity especially when it comes to showcasing something you are so passionate about.
“I love the opportunity that I’ve had to grow under the direction of Glen Bjornson in so many different productions. He’s brought me a long way as an actress and that holds great value for me personally. Glen is a serious director and depending on what show we’re doing, it’s a lot of work.
“It’s still fun because I love to do it but not much of it is silly, random fun even when it’s a comedy. Doing good comedy is very hard work and there isn’t much room for having a lot of playful fun. I joined Tuna because it’s a show that screams outrageous fun. Because of the people involved, the script and experimenting with the characters, this show is just the epitome of something to have fun with but it’s even more so now that things have changed,” said Nehrenz.
She says things have changed in the past week just a bit more as well. Feehan will have a cameo playing two characters Maurice and Wu-hu. “He plays those two characters so well and they are so funny that Diana, Denis, Matt and I felt that it would just be an injustice to the audience if they didn’t get to see it,” said Nehrenz.
Feehan is now understudying Nehrenz but will be doing the show on March 17 with Nehrenz playing Anna Conda.
Taking on Feehan’s roles doesn’t detract from the comedy in this case as Nehrenz plays a few male characters and McDonald plays a few females. The two most adorable of the characters being Arlis Struvie played by five foot four inch Nehrenz and his dearest wife Bertha played by the six foot five inch McDonald. “Matt and I have great chemistry and the characters are so much fun, I’m sure the audience will adore them,” Nehrenz said.
Join Arlis and Bertha on March 10, 11, 17, 18, 24 or 25 at 7 p.m. or on March 12 and 19 at 2 p.m. as they take pretty much the entire town of Tuna, TX with them to work on their tans and renew their wedding vows; you’ll have a good time, you will.