Nola Productions, a Los Angeles-based theater company, will present a limited engagement of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Center Stage Theater, 751 Paseo Nuevo in Santa Barbara, for five performances July 14-17.
Although the show has been inspired by producer Gordon Carmadelle’s own family and roots, he feels that every audience member will see some part of their own lives or their own families onstage while watching this play.
“I decided to produce this show to honor the brilliant work of Tennessee Williams, and to honor how the written word and theater itself can create moments that truly do bring two people together in unexpected ways,” Carmadelle said.
Carmadelle’s personal connection to the show dates back a few years when he was working on a scene from the show in an acting class and had it with him while on a trip home to Louisiana to visit his family.
“My father is the definition of a ‘blue-collar’ worker — someone who has worked with his hands his whole life, almost entirely under the scorching Louisiana sun — so the theater was never something that we really talked about,” he said. “But he saw the play in my hands and asked, ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof — that’s the play about mendacity, isn’t it?’”
That comment lead to the only conversation about a play Carmadelle and his father have ever shared.
“We talked about the play and its characters, Big Daddy and Brick, and of course, Maggie the Cat,” Carmadelle said. “That always meant the world to me, and I knew that one day I would have to speak Williams’ lines on stage, in honor of that moment and my own roots.
“Being from the South, I connected in many ways to the characters and the story, and to Tennessee’s writing. It was always one of my favorites, and I always wanted to play Brick … to have a chance to say those words.”
Instead of waiting around, he decided that if he wanted to play this role, it was up to him to make it happen. Upon applying for the rights, he found that permission to do this show was restricted in the Los Angeles area, and in scouting locations outside the limited vicinity, he came across the coastal town of Santa Barbara and the Center Stage Theater.
He then approached friend and fellow thespian Carol Becker to direct, and in early spring, the two cast Megan Blakeley (Maggie), Oh Rhyne (Big Daddy), Kenlyn Kanouse (Big Mama), Jeffrey Olin (Gooper), Ariella Fiore (Mae), Perry Shields (Rev. Tooker) and George Lofland (Doc Baugh). Carmadelle and Becker also worked with Kathy Kelley of Santa Barbara’s Big Stage Productions to audition local children for their “no-neck monsters” (aka Gooper and Mae’s kids). They then cast Bella Elena Garcia Holland (Dixie), Mac Claytor (Buster), Riley Bream (Trixie) and Brandon Tyler Holland (Sonny) to round out the cast.
Carmadelle and Becker agree that there is a reason Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is as popular today as ever.
“The themes that Williams wrote about — family, truth, greed, sexuality, alcoholism, deception — are just as vivid and present in people’s everyday lives in one form or another as they were in 1955,” Carmadelle said, adding that “most have only seen the film version, which had to edit much of the story Williams wanted to tell due to Motion Picture Association codes in place at the time. We have a chance to show new audiences a play that perhaps they know of, but have never actually seen.”
And their hope is that many people in both the Los Angeles and Santa Barbara areas take advantage of their staging the play to see that story.
Show dates/times for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof are 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $25 for general admission, and $20 for seniors and students.
Click here for more information, including links to purchase tickets online. Tickets may also be purchased by calling the Center Stage Box Office at 805.963.0408.
— Liz Reinhardt is the publicity/promotions coordinator for Nola Productions’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.