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'Tuna' Surprise

Joe Sears and Jaston Williams to receive Texas Medal of Arts
Robert Faires, 9:00am, Wed. Jan. 16, 2013
Photo by Suzanne Ebner
Joe Sears and Jaston Williams in the first days of their "Tuna" success

God … damn!! – as gun-store owner Didi Snaveley would say. Jaston Williams and Joe Sears, the gents responsible for Didi and all the other denizens of Tuna, Tex., have gone and gotten themselves honored by the Texas Cultural Trust. When the next Texas Medal of Arts are handed out, they'll be the 2013 honorees for theatre.

That's some welcome recognition for the pair, who introduced the "third smallest town in Texas" onstage in 1981 and kept it going for almost 30 years, playing dozens of different characters all by themselves in what became a phenomenally popular series across the country. And when the two weren't touring the land in Greater Tuna or one of its three sequels, Sears and Williams made memorable marks in all sorts of other stage vehicles, together and separately, as playwrights as well as performers. (Case in point: Williams has just opened a revival of the one-man show Tru, in which he portrays Truman Capote, at Zach Theatre.) The two theatre artists have received some notable recognition locally – the Austin Arts Hall of Fame, "Walk of Fame" stars in the sidewalk in front of the Paramount Theatre – but this honor for notable Texans places them in the company of Horton Foote, Tommy Tune, Robert Wilson, Betty Buckley, Dr. Paul Baker, and Judith Ivey – and that's just in theatre. Among the medal recipients since their inauguration in 2001 are Walter Cronkite, Robert Rauschenberg, Van Cliburn, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Marcia Gay Harden, Ornette Coleman, Vikki Carr, and Charley Pride. That's some pretty tall cotton.

The 2013 honorees were announced today at a luncheon at the Houston Ballet Center for Dance. They are:

* Individual Arts Patron: Gene Jones and Charlotte Jones Anderson

* Foundation Arts Patron: Kimbell Arts Foundation

* Corporate Arts Patron: Texas Monthly

* Arts Education: Big Thought | Gigi Antoni

* Visual Arts: James Surls

* Dance: Houston Ballet

* Theatre: Joe Sears and Jaston Williams

* Music : Steve Miller

* Television/Film: Ricardo Chavira

The 2013 TMA Awards will be presented at a gala dinner and awards show Tuesday, March 5, 8pm, at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 W. Riverside, and will include graphic inspiration from the paintings of Houston artist Aaron Parazette; installations by the Art Guys; and live performances by Ray Benson, Blue Lapis Light, 2004 Young Master recipient violinist Charles Yang, and more. The Starlight After Party begins at 10pm with a performance by local band Skyrocket!. For more information, visit www.txculturaltrust.org.

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