Christmas comedy 'Tuna' to be served as South Park library fundraiser

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Three years ago, South Park Township Public Library decided to stage "A Christmas Carol" in a dinner theater format as a fundraiser. The event was so successful the library has followed through with a reprise every year since.

This year the library is staging "A Tuna Christmas," a comedy set in a fictitious Texas town that calls for a cast that can tackle a whopping 22 roles.

"Normally, 'A Tuna Christmas' uses two male actors who play both male and female characters of various ages," said Jill Stiteler, secretary of the Heritage Players, a theater troupe that usually performs in the Bethel Park Community Center.

"But, we're doing the play with four actors -- two men and two women," she said.

The curtain rises Dec. 14 in the Broughton Volunteer Fire Hall, 1030 Cochrans Mill Road, South Park. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with dinner at 7 p.m., followed by the comedy. Tim Cassidy Catering of Bethel Park will prepare a traditional holiday dinner buffet. The event is BYOB and the bar at the fire hall will provide mixers, wine glasses and set ups.

"People tell us how much they appreciate this year-end party to get together, laugh and make a contribution to the library all at the same time," said Sharon Bruni, library director.

The production marks the first time Heritage Players and the library have teamed up. Library staff learned about the local troupe from notices sent to the bulletin board.

"Originally, the library wanted us to do 'Nun Crackers,' a spinoff of the hit 'Nunsense,' " Mrs. Stiteler said. "I knew the rights to stage the show would have been way beyond their budget, so I suggested 'Tuna' instead."

The second of a series of comedies set in Tuna, Texas, the play focuses on the small town's annual Christmas yard display contest, won by the same resident 14 years in a row. The most recent contest is different because a Christmas phantom is vandalizing the yard displays.

Starring in the show, which is under the direction of Chuck Penick of Monroeville, are Elizabeth Chappel, John Flaherty, Valerie DeCesar and Denny Harris.

The library schedules a number of fundraisers throughout the year. Recently, the staff hosted Sara Shepard, author of the "Pretty Little Liars" series, works that are geared to young adults and have become a popular television show.

Currently, the library is offering free yoga classes, but expects soon to charge a modest fee.

The tea committee at the library also stages an elaborate tea three times a year. Held in the Bethel Park Community Center, the teas feature live entertainment, small gifts and a full array of finger food, desserts and assorted teas.

"The teas are very well-attended," Ms. Bruni said. "About 100 people signed up for our Southern Belle Tea [Nov. 8]."

The Friends of the Library also organizes an annual appeal for donations and two book sales a year and offers exercise classes several times a week at the Bethel Park Community Center.

"One of the strengths of our library is having a large number of programs for people of all ages," Ms. Bruni said. "In an average week, we can schedule as many as a dozen different events."

Tickets to "Tuna" are $30 and reservations are required. Call 412-833-5585.

Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer:

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