Skip to content

A Tuna Christmas

Overview of “A Tuna Christmas”


“A Tuna Christmas” is a hilarious and heartwarming play written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard. First performed in 1989, it is the second installment in the “Tuna” series, which centers around the fictional town of Tuna, Texas. Known for its witty dialogue and colorful characters, the play has become a beloved classic in the world of theater.


The play is set in the small, fictional town of Tuna, Texas, during the Christmas season. Tuna is a close-knit community, where everyone knows everyone else’s business. The play unfolds over the course of one day, providing a snapshot of life in this quirky and eccentric town.


The characters in “A Tuna Christmas” are what truly bring the story to life. The play features only two actors, who skillfully portray over twenty characters between them. From the uptight Bertha Bumiller to the flamboyant Vera Carp, each character is distinct and creates a delightful tapestry of personalities.


The plot of “A Tuna Christmas” revolves around the annual Christmas yard display contest in Tuna. As the town prepares for the competition, chaos ensues, and long-held secrets begin to unravel. The play takes a comedic and satirical approach to the various eccentricities of small-town life, providing plenty of laughs along the way.


While “A Tuna Christmas” is primarily a comedy, it touches on several deeper themes. One prominent theme is the importance of community and found family. Despite their differences, the characters in Tuna come together in times of need and support one another. The play also explores the notion of authenticity and acceptance, as characters struggle to be true to themselves in a town that often values conformity.

Plot Summary of “A Tuna Christmas”

In this section, we will delve into the plot of “A Tuna Christmas,” a comedic play written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard. Set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas, the play takes place during the holiday season and offers a hilarious glimpse into the eccentric lives of its residents.

Introduction to “A Tuna Christmas”

“A Tuna Christmas” brings forth a cast of memorable characters, all portrayed by just two actors. The play showcases the preparations for the annual Christmas Yard Display Contest, which creates a sense of excitement and anticipation within the community. Amidst the festive cheer, the residents of Tuna find themselves embroiled in various comedic escapades.

Chaos and Festivities Unfold

The plot revolves around radio station personalities, local politicians, and ordinary townsfolk, each grappling with their own unique challenges and dreams. As the play progresses, the audience is introduced to a colorful array of characters including Bertha Bumiller, an exhausted mother of two unruly children, and her overbearing sister, Pearl Burras. Other notable characters include Arles Struvie, the radio station manager, and his love-struck assistant, Didi Snavely, who runs the local gun shop.

A Woven Web of Hilarious Situations

Throughout the play, the audience is treated to a series of humorous vignettes that highlight the absurdity of small-town life. From a disastrous production of “A Christmas Carol” to a mysteriously disappearing Christmas tree, “A Tuna Christmas” promises non-stop laughter. The tight-knit community of Tuna is faced with dilemmas and predicaments, leading to unexpected twists and turns that keep the audience engrossed.

Unveiling the Climactic Events

As the residents of Tuna work fervently to outshine each other in the yard display competition, the tensions rise, and the comedic chaos reaches a crescendo. The play brings to light issues such as societal pressures, family dynamics, and the desire for recognition. The hilarious mishaps and heartfelt moments combine to create a heartwarming and entertaining theatrical experience.

A Memorable

Analysis of the Characters in “A Tuna Christmas”

In the play “A Tuna Christmas,” written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard, the small town of Tuna, Texas comes to life through a colorful cast of characters. Set during the holiday season, the play showcases the quirky and eccentric residents of Tuna as they prepare for the annual Christmas Yard Display Contest.

Bertha Bumiller:

Bertha Bumiller is the beleaguered mother of three children, who often finds herself overwhelmed by the chaos of her life. She is known for her strong southern accent and her constant battle with her weight. Bertha is a loving and caring character who tries her best to keep her family together, despite the challenges she faces.

Thurston Wheelis and Arles Struvie:

Thurston Wheelis and Arles Struvie are the radio announcers for the local radio station in Tuna, OKKK. They provide the audience with news and updates about the town, often acting as a Greek chorus, commenting on the events and gossip that unfold. Arles is a kind-hearted and somewhat naive character, while Thurston is more cynical and sarcastic.

Aunt Pearl Burras:

Aunt Pearl Burras is Bertha’s nosy and opinionated aunt, who loves to meddle in everyone’s business. She is known for her outrageous clothing and eccentric personality. Aunt Pearl constantly stirs the pot in Tuna, spreading rumors and causing drama within the community.

Vera Carp:

Vera Carp is the town snob and the head of the Smut-Snatchers of the New Order. She is obsessed with maintaining the moral fabric of the community and policing any behavior she deems inappropriate. Vera is a larger-than-life character, known for her over-the-top outfits and dramatic flair.

Helen Bedd:

Helen Bedd is a waitress at the local diner and a former beauty queen. She dreams of escaping Tuna and finding a better life for herself. Helen is a strong-willed and determined character, who is often at odds with the expectations placed upon her by the town.

Didi Snavely:

Didi Snavely is the owner of the local gun shop, known as Didi’s Used Weapons. She is a no-nonsense businesswoman, who takes pride in her unconventional inventory. Didi often serves as a source of comic relief, delivering humorous one-liners and providing a unique perspective on the events in Tuna.

Inga Olsen:

Inga Olsen is a German tourist who finds herself stuck in Tuna over the holidays. She is perplexed by the town’s eccentricities and struggles to understand the customs and traditions of the locals. Inga’s outsider perspective provides a fresh and comedic take on the events of the play.

Through the diverse and memorable characters of “A Tuna Christmas,” the play explores themes of family, community, and the importance of embracing one’s own uniqueness. Each character brings a distinct personality and perspective to the story, creating a rich tapestry of small-town life. From Bertha’s love for her family to Vera’s obsession with morality, the characters of Tuna leave a lasting impression on the audience, reminding us of the complexities and humor that can be found in everyday life.

Themes and Messages in “A Tuna Christmas”

Small Town Values

In the play “A Tuna Christmas,” one of the prominent themes is the portrayal of small town values. The story is set in Tuna, Texas, a fictional small town where everyone knows each other’s business. The characters in the play, such as Bertha Bumiller and Pearl Burras, exemplify the importance of community and the close-knit nature of small towns. The play highlights the simplicity and sincerity of these values, as the characters come together to celebrate Christmas despite their differences.

Acceptance and Individuality

Another theme explored in “A Tuna Christmas” is the importance of acceptance and embracing individuality. The play features a variety of eccentric characters, each with their quirks and idiosyncrasies. From the over-the-top Vera Carp to the quirky Didi Snavely, the play celebrates the uniqueness of each character and emphasizes the need for tolerance and understanding. This theme resonates with audiences as it encourages them to embrace their own quirks and accept others for who they are.

The Power of Laughter

One of the central messages in “A Tuna Christmas” is the power of laughter in bringing people together. The play infuses humor in every scene and uses it as a vehicle to explore deeper issues. The absurd situations and comedic dialogues not only provide entertainment but also offer a cathartic release for the characters and the audience. Laughter becomes a unifying force, breaking down barriers and fostering connections among the characters in Tuna.

Challenges of Tradition

The play also addresses the challenges of traditional values and the pressures individuals may face to conform to societal expectations. The characters’ struggles with keeping up appearances, maintaining traditions, and dealing with family dynamics highlight the tension between individual desires and societal norms. “A Tuna Christmas” prompts reflection on the importance of finding a balance between honoring tradition and embracing personal growth.

Celebrating the Holidays

Lastly, “A Tuna Christmas” explores the significance of celebrating the holiday season. The play captures the essence of Christmas spirit, showcasing the joy, warmth, and togetherness associated with the festive season. Through humorous and heartfelt moments, the play reminds audiences of the importance of coming together as a community to celebrate and cherish the holidays, despite the challenges and differences that may arise.

Reception and Legacy of “A Tuna Christmas”

“A Tuna Christmas” is a wildly popular play that has captivated audiences since its debut in 1989. This comedic gem, written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears, and Ed Howard, has garnered a dedicated fan base and left a lasting impact on the world of theater. Let’s delve into the reception and legacy of this holiday classic.

Broadway Success and Critical Acclaim

Upon its Broadway premiere, “A Tuna Christmas” received widespread praise from both critics and theatergoers alike. The play’s unique blend of humor and heart resonated with audiences, earning it a place among the Christmas canon. The hilarious and endearing characters brought to life onstage left an indelible impression, showcasing the immense talents of the actors and the brilliance of the script.

National and International Tours

Fuelled by its success on Broadway, “A Tuna Christmas” embarked on numerous national and international tours, bringing the merry madness of Tuna, Texas to audiences far and wide. The play’s popularity transcended geographical boundaries, enchanting theater enthusiasts around the globe. Audiences were captivated by the eccentric townsfolk and their comical holiday escapades, ensuring that “A Tuna Christmas” would become a beloved theatrical experience for years to come.

Cultural Impact

Over the years, “A Tuna Christmas” has become synonymous with holiday cheer and laughter. It has firmly established itself as a beloved part of the Christmas tradition, drawing audiences who seek a lighthearted escape during the festive season. Its enduring popularity has resulted in numerous revivals and adaptations, further solidifying its place in the theatrical pantheon.

Legacy of Laughter

The lasting legacy of “A Tuna Christmas” lies in its ability to bring joy and laughter to audiences. The play’s sharp wit, memorable characters, and heartwarming moments continue to resonate with theater lovers of all ages. Its enduring appeal can be attributed to its ability to capture the essence of the holiday spirit while infusing it with a healthy dose of humor.

Continual Celebration

As time goes on, “A Tuna Christmas” remains a perennial favorite in the world of theater. Its timeless themes and timeless comedy ensure that it will continue to be celebrated and performed for generations to come. This cherished play has firmly established itself as a holiday classic, spreading laughter and holiday cheer throughout the theatrical landscape.


In conclusion, “A Tuna Christmas” is a hilarious and heartwarming play that has captivated audiences for decades. With its unique small-town setting and memorable characters, the play offers a delightful escape into the quirky world of Tuna, Texas. The plot provides a rollercoaster of laughs and surprises, all centered around the annual Christmas Yard Display Contest.

Throughout the play, the audience is introduced to a myriad of colorful characters, each with their own distinct personalities and quirks. From the loveable and scatterbrained Bertha Bumiller to the eccentric Vera Carp, the ensemble cast brings the town of Tuna to life in a way that is both entertaining and relatable. The play’s clever writing and sharp dialogue allow for a deep exploration of each character, showcasing the strengths and flaws that make them so endearing.

Beneath the humor and wit, “A Tuna Christmas” also touches on important themes and messages. The play highlights the importance of community and the power of overcoming adversity. It explores the complexities of family relationships and the struggles faced by individuals in small towns. The themes of acceptance, tolerance, and the search for happiness resonate with audiences of all backgrounds, making “A Tuna Christmas” a truly universal experience.

“A Tuna Christmas” has received widespread acclaim and has become a beloved holiday tradition for many theater-goers. The play’s comedic timing and well-crafted script continue to garner praise, while its relatable characters and heartwarming themes strike a chord with audiences year after year. Its popularity has led to numerous revivals and adaptations, ensuring its enduring legacy within the theater community.

In addition to its success on stage, “A Tuna Christmas” has also been adapted for television and film, further cementing its place in popular culture. Its enduring appeal can be attributed to its timeless humor and genuine portrayal of small-town life. Whether experienced in a local theater or enjoyed from the comfort of one’s living room, “A Tuna Christmas” is a holiday treat that never fails to deliver laughter and joy.

In conclusion, “A Tuna Christmas” is a must-see play that combines a delightful plot, memorable characters, and meaningful themes. Its impact on both the theater world and popular culture is a testament to its enduring appeal. Whether you are seeking a good laugh or a heartwarming holiday experience, “A Tuna Christmas” is sure to leave you feeling uplifted and entertained. So gather your loved ones, prepare to be transported to the charming town of Tuna, and let the holiday cheer of “A Tuna Christmas” wash over you.