Among the many parts Dennis Elkins will play in “A Tuna Christmas,” a waitress is but one.
He and fellow actor Dan Morrison are appearing for a short run in Pagosa Springs at Thingamajig Theatre, through Dec. 28.
Elkins is well known in the area as former chairman of the Fort Lewis College Department of Drama. He’s an Equity actor and director who resigned his position last summer to throw himself full time into acting, directing and writing.
After the final performance of “Big River” in Pagosa last August, in which he played many parts, Elkins said, “If not now, when?”
The plan then, he said, was first to work on a piece he calls the “box,” a one-man show he’s been thinking about a long time. He also said he would selectively perform and direct when projects appealed to him.
The two-actor, 22-role comedy, “A Tuna Christmas,” must have appealed to him because Elkins decided to return to Colorado for Christmas.
“I love being back in this part of the world,” he said this week in an interview. “I love working with Tim and Laura (Moore, the actor/managers of Thingamajig) and Melissa (Firlit, visiting director for “Tuna”).”
The Moores have created a rep company of sorts with a congenial revolving cast. Elkins has become a go-to actor for his talent and range. He’s portrayed Mark Rothko, Pablo Picasso, military tyrants and southern rednecks in Thingamajig productions.
Last winter for the Tuesday Lit Club’s holiday party, he accepted Suzanne Zerbe’s invitation to portray O’Henry reading “The Gift of the Magi.” On Dec. 13, 2016, Elkins arrived at the Durango Public Library as the American author dressed in formal, 1905 style: wool suit, vest, silk tie and stick pin. With a North Carolina accent appropriate for the author’s persona, Elkins as O’Henry charmed the audience with an animated reading.
A solo show about O’Henry is but one of Elkins’ self-initiated programs.
“I’ll be back here in Colorado for the next show at Thingamajig, ‘Circle Mirror Transformation,’” he said. “And I’m planning to produce my one-man show, ‘box,’ here in April.”
In May, Elkins will play the role of Robert, father and mathematical genius in David Auburn’s “Proof.”
Have I conjured the image of a rep company in Pagosa?
For students of the human imagination and great acting, all of this is good news.
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theater Critics Association.