BWW Interviews: Director Michael-Anthony Nozzi on Presenting Tennessee Williams' Original CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF Script
Theatre Palisades is presenting Tennessee Williams' original script of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF opening June 6. Since this script is rarely produced and differs from the well-known movie version featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman, I decided to speak with the show's director, Michael-Anthony Nozzi, for more information about the production, the first time the original script is being presented in Los Angeles.
Q: I understand the production of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at Theatre Palisades is going to be a different version than has been seen in Los Angeles before. Can you tell me more about the version you are directing?
A: We are doing the original version of the script as written by Tennessee Williams before Eli Kazan, who was already hired to direct both Broadway and the film version, forced him to re-write the script. The highly homophobic Kazan insisted on 3 major corrections to Williams' original script, and Williams had no choice but to comply as the McCarty Blacklisting just beginning.
The changes he was forced to make included (1) He wanted the character of Maggie to be more likable to the audience. (2) He wanted the role of Big Daddy expanded to Act 3 feeling the role was to important to be just in one Act 1. This change would mean Big Mamma, Sister Woman and Gooper would be much smaller roles, and (3) He wanted the role of Brick to go through a complete change during the play, changing his "Disposition" to accept Maggie's advances thus "saving" him. Mr. Williams only agreed to the first one but was forced to make all 3 changes or fear not getting the play produced.
Theatre Palisades has the rights to do the original script, which I am directing, and this version is very seldom done. The only major performances of this original script were done in 1958 in London (where Kazan did not direct it) and in 1974 on Broadway with Elizabeth Ashley, Keir Dullea and Fred Gwyne. This version had many changes done to the original script made by Williams himself as it was being rehearsed.
I did the original version in 2004 at the Vanguard Theatre ensemble and now 10 years later, I am lucky to be doing it again. I am on the list of approved directors with the Literary Agents of Tennessee Williams to direct Tennessee Williams anywhere.
The set may seem strange, but in the notes to the Designer from Tennessee Williams he wrote, "Although it is a bedroom in a southern Antebellum mansion along the Mississippi Delta, it should evoke a Victorian design with the ghosts of the two gentlemen, Jack Straw and Peter Ochello, who lived together and shared the same bed for their entire lives. It should reflect a soft unconventional design to the bedroom of two men who shared an uncommon style of life."
I am directing this version differently than any play I have ever directed before. I actually have 3 stages going on at the same time like a three-ring circus (much like the family itself). There is the main stage of the bedroom, stage 2 is the Widow's walk around the bedroom, and stage 3 is the balcony on the side of the audience. Scenes will be going on at times on all 3 set areas. The audience won't be watching the play as much as being inside the drama.
Enjoy this once in a lifetime experience by seeing the original Tennessee Williams script of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at Theatre Palisades Pierson Playhouse, located at 941 Temescal Canyon Rd., Pacific Palisades 90272. Show dates are June 6-July13, 2014, on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Adults $20, Seniors & Students $18, free onsite parking. Box Office (310) 454-1970. www.theatrepalisades.org
Due to a family emergency, there has been change to the original cast announced. Brother Man Gooper will now be played by Michael Willens and the role of Doc Baugh is now played by Michael-Anthony Nozzi .
Featured in the cast are:
Joanna Churgin - Big Mama
Ted Detwiler - Brick
Sienna Farall - Maggie
Brian Harris - Big Daddy
Peter Miller - Rev. Tooker
Maria O'Connor - Mae (Sister Woman)
Michael Willens - Gooper (Brother Man)
Makayla Rowles - Dixie (sharing role)
Ryanna Rowles - Dixie (sharing role)
Michael-Anthony Nozzi - Doc. Baugh
Photo credit: Brian Foyster
The cast of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF - from left: Michael-Anthnoy Nozzi, Joanna Churgin, Brian Harris, Ted Detwiler, Sienna Farall, Maria O'Connor, Makayla Rowles, Michael Willens, Peter Miller
Ted Detwiler plays Brick
Sienna Farall and Ted Detwiler play Maggie and Brick