Interview: Sarah Gorden of TIN CAT SHOES at Nutley Little Theatre

through April 29th.

By: Apr. 24, 2023
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Interview: Sarah Gorden of TIN CAT SHOES at Nutley Little Theatre

Nutley Little Theatre presents Tin Cat Shoes, written by Trish Harnetiaux and directed by Sarah Gorden. I had the pleasure of interview Sarah. Tin Cat Shoes is a madcap odyssey through a wilderness of corporate bureaucracy and crippling human dependencies. Blessed with the can-do American spirit, a troop of dedicated shoe store employees embark on a journey of personal expansion. But when "work is your life" and systems breakdown, all that remains is you, a casino, and the truth.

Please tell us about yourself.

I am an actor, director, and producer living in Nutley, NJ! I actually grew up in Scranton, PA and studied theatre there under Charles Gorden and Michele Privette. I moved to Nutley with my partner and two cats in 2019 and have been making theatre in NYC and local NJ ever since.

We'd love to know all about your involvement in theater.

I am really lucky to say I've been involved in so many fun projects. I started acting in monologue competitions at a young age and starred in my first plays in high school. I continued acting while getting my BA in theatre and that's when I learned about acting as a craft as well as processes for script analysis and directing. I also worked for the Scranton Local of IATSE for about five years - I even got to work wardrobe for some touring Broadway shows and that was SO fun.

Since moving, I've directed one-acts at different off-off Broadway venues. I started my own production company during Covid (Drawing Cats Productions), and was able to produce and direct some amazing new work through that. I got to work as a child guardian at Soho-Repertory Theatre and that was definitely a highlight. Acting wise, I starred in a horror short film about OCD called Sit With Fear by Jason Blackman that premiered at LA shorts International Film Festival and that was a truly incredible experience. Currently, I am Company Administrator at Luna-Stage/">Luna Stage in West Orange, NJ and I wake up every day grateful that I work in a theatre.

What inspired you to direct this piece?

Oh wow. Okay, so Tin Cat Shoes is absolutely delightful. It is weird, but in the most delightful way. I love cats (as I mentioned I have two) and one day I was wandering through Drama Book Shop and saw a play with the word "cat" in the title and snatched it up. Spoiler alert: there are actually no cats in Tin Cat Shoes (there are bears though!) I wasn't too disappointed about the lack of cats because this play is FUNNY. I don't normally laugh out loud while reading a play- I usually need to hear it, you know?- but I just got Tin Cat. The characters have such delightful banter. They are each storytellers and are so passionate about their own thoughts and beliefs. I immediately heard it in my head and became impassioned myself to bring it all to life.

It wasn't until Summer 22' that started getting in-depth with the metaphor of it all. I giggle to myself how I always have a habit of picking some of the most difficult projects. But I think the layers of this piece makes it all the more intriguing. I was well into my twentieth read through of the script and still going "OMG! This means this!" Trish is a genius. I think it can be easy to reduce the humor of this play to "just funny," but it is so intelligent too. Everything is a statement about something else.

I also was immediately drawn to this piece because it gave me such a freedom to play. All of my directing role models have these incredibly free processes that encourage playfulness and exploration in the rehearsal room- and I wanted so badly to create a space like that. Some scripts can be quite rigid- they are super realistic and "thislight happens here" and "that sound happens here"- and it looks like a room in a house. Tin Cat is not like this. It is very expressionistic and I wholeheartedly embraced that in my approach. I was so lucky (I am a very lucky person) to have a team who embraced this as well. My first meeting with the designers and my auditions with the actors all included a call to play. My sound designer (Mak Koran) composed these underscoring tracks using plant sounds- which I think is just the coolest thing. My lighting designer (Tiffany Atkins) really embraced my love of color and has everything from this slow sunset fades to these spinning color lights that affect the whole space. I could go on and on, but in essence I foresaw that this could be an opportunity to embrace the creative and I am really happy with how it all turned out.

What do you want your audiences to take away from this show?

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. This play is not realism in the traditional sense, it is really quite expressionistic, but that doesn't mean it's not honest. Tin Cat Shoeshas been one of the most honest reflections on our modern day society that I've come across. Tin Cat Shoes is a play about compliance and acclimation. We've had some audience members leave the show wondering what they just watched. The characters think things are weird at first too- but they adjust to their circumstances so quickly. Look at how weird our world is and how quickly we've acclimated to it.

Please tell us about the Sensory Friendly Performance.

Oh, I am so excited and proud of our sensory friendly performance. I love this play and, at the end of the day, it's not about the loud sounds or the flashing lights, it's about the words and the moment to moment journeys of these characters. I wanted to make sure anyone who wanted to experience this play could do so. The theatre should be open to everyone. More than anything, I wanted this performance to be a safe space for all audiences.

What we are doing:

(please note we are not wheelchair accessible and audience members will have to climb stairs to enter the theatre).

- During this showing, we invite the audience members to verbally respond to the action on stage and move around when needed in a judgement free space.

- Our house lights will remain on throughout our showing.

- We have cut all sound cues and replaced them with verbal descriptions.

- We have cut our strobe light, fog machine, and any sudden light changes or blackouts.

- We will supply foam ear plugs for those who wish to have them.

- We will have verbal warnings before any section of the piece that may be triggering to certain audiences.

Any upcoming projects you will be working on after this? (Directing, acting, etc.)

There are some things in the works as far as acting and directing, but I can't say anything about it just yet.

What I can say is that I am a producer on a brilliant play written by Denisse Estefany Mendoza. It's also a dark comedy about resilience and I am obsessed with it. We are having a staged reading at The Vino Theatre in Brooklyn on 5/15, 5/17, and 5/20 in conjunction with Sour Grapes Production'sDown To Clown Festival. This is the beginning of a year-long plan to develop and fundraise and I am so excited to be supporting this piece.

Anything additional you would like to add?

This show would not be possible without my amazing team. Every single person worked so hard and with such commitment to this world we were creating. I am especially grateful for Trish Harnetiaux. She has written something I find truly inspiring and she has been so kind and supportive of me throughout this journey.

The cast:

Lee DeCecco as Lunch/Danny

Arthur Carlson as Narrator/911 Operator/ Roger

Haley Karlich as Pepper

Orlando Rodriguez as Cheddar

Kayla Torres as Gemma

Richard Frohman as Rex/The Bear/Croupier

The crew includes:

Sarah Gorden - Director

Kimberely Gonzalez - Assistant Director

Olivia Brennan - Assistant Director

Markis Blackwell - Vocal Coach

Thomas J. Donohoe II - Production Stage Manager

Shaena Kate - Choreographer

Jim Brown - Scenic Designer

Stephen Crooks - Scenic Artist/Poster Design

Tiffany Atkins - Lighting Designer

Mak Koran - Sound Designer

Julia Sharp - Costume Designer

Beatriz Estaban-Messina - Production Liason/ Props

Warning: This performance uses strobing lights and low-hanging fog effects.

Nutley Little Theatre is located at 47 Erie Place in Nutley New Jersey

To buy tickets ahead of time, please visit:

For more information, please visit

Photo Credit: Olivia Brennan


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