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Aunt Pearl & A Tuna Christmas Return to Galveston's The Grand 1894 Opera

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Besides taking in its annual dose of silliness and satire, the other reason you might want to catch A Tuna Christmas at The Grand 1894 Opera in Galveston this month is because Joe Sears, the co-author and Tony Award nominated actor who handles Aunt Pearl among several other roles, says he's getting tired of being on the road.

"It may be the last time they see us doing Tuna Christmas for a long time," Sears told Art Attack. He said he and writing partner and fellow actor Jaston Williams may either take the show up north or do other things entirely in coming months.

The plot of A Tuna Christmas goes in a lot of directions at once, somewhat centered on who is going to win the Christmas Yard Display Contest in Tuna, Texas, the third-smallest town in the state. Sears and Williams play all the roles in the play, switching gender, age and viewpoints from one moment to the next.

Sears says he's modeled himself on actors like Charlie Weaver and Jonathan Winters who played also played women. "We let the characters go to an absurd place but it's a real place to them."

He doesn't go out on the town as Aunt Pearl; he keeps her on the stage, although increasingly that "stage" has included all kinds of benefits and charitable events. As Sears he is a sometimes professor and makes frequent appearances at career nights, talking about what it takes to succeed in show business.

The character of Aunt Pearl, Sears says, has an immense appeal that not even politics can come between. "There was a big art show in Oklahoma. I was asked to make an appearance. Aunt Pearl is a Democrat. It was full of Republicans. A roomful of banking Republicans and I had them all on the floor."

But after years of doing the show and traveling, Sears says he's starting to slow down.

"Thirty years ago I was 32 years old. I can't travel the way I used to. After 9/11 I took a beating at the airports," he says, "I'm looking for ways and so is Jaston to do other things and then still keep Tuna out there because it is special, you're always going to have fans wanting to see it. And Galveston and Houston always comes to see Tuna Christmas."

"People pay a lot of money to see us and they're seeing a Broadway performance, a Broadway show and I've just been in the business too long, you don't let anything down," he says.

"We're the same show we've always been. I like to say the only changes is Bertha's put on weight. There's not a better laugh in the holidays. We'll get the spirit going."

Performances of A Tuna Christmas run December 13-23 at 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m .Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m .Sundays at The Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Post Office, Galveston. For information, call 409-765-1894 or visit www.thegrand.com.

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