Lead Performer Matt de Rogatis chatted with #Powerjournalist Markos Papadatos about the upcoming Ruth Stage production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” which will have its opening night on Sunday, March 5, 2023.
The play is directed by Joe Rosario, and de Rogatis stars as Brick.
How does it feel to be returning Off-Broadway next month with “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”?
It feels great for so many reasons. By now anyone who has followed this show knows it was canceled 5 times due to Covid. We hung in there though and kept being patient knowing our time would come. And then it did. And it went by so fast and audiences really seemed to love it. We waited years to do this and then in a flash it was gone.
It really felt like there was more to be gained from this production and that it ended too soon. So we got permission from the Tennessee Williams estate to bring it back and we have made some exciting changes to the cast and crew. It is not often that you get a chance to A) even do this show but B) get the opportunity to do it again and make it even better. Most productions only get one chance at it. The fact that we have gotten two (and maybe more) makes this very exciting, very compelling and certainly part of history.
This has been unprecedented… how did it feel to get the okay from the Tennessee Williams Estate to do it for another round?
We were told that the estate was “very happy” with our summer production and that they were “behind us.” I mean, what more can you ask for? Tennessee Williams is arguably the greatest playwright of all time and certainly one of my favorites. To be able to do Cat on a Hot Tin Roof anywhere is a honor but to be the first group to ever stage it Off Broadway and then be the first group to ever get a re-engagement license for the show is the cherry on top. This is New York City. The theatre capital of the world.
To be right in midtown, steps from Times Square – it’s very special and certainly an achievement that I know we are all very proud of. The estate also granted us the Off Broadway rights to The Glass Menagerie in 2019. I’m hoping they’ll give us Streetcar one day too and then we can say we did the Triple Crown, haha. Regardless, we all know what a tremendous gift this is. I’m indebted to the Williams estate. No matter where my career takes me, I know I’ll look back on this production as one of the most special times of my life. The Williams Estate made that happen.
How does it feel to have cast Courtney Henggeler as Maggie the Cat?
Courtney is the missing ingredient to this production and will shine in ways that other Maggie’s have not.
The show has had other changes such as a new Big Daddy (Frederick Weller) and other actors… how does that feel?
We’re still in the rehearsal process but I can say, for myself, the one thing I hope to have in a scene partner is a feeling of safety. Not physical safety but just feeling safe on the stage – knowing my scene partner will be with me, remember his lines, give the scene what it needs, continue to do new things, consistency…Fred brings all of that. I know when I go out there every night he and I can tear the house down. He’s a pro. I completely trust him. I hope he feels the same.
In addition to Fred we have some other exciting cast members. Two-time Tony nominee Alison Fraser is back as Big Mama. Alison and I have gotten pretty close during this whole process and she’s just awesome. On the stage and off. Plus she’s a Red Sox fan which gives her bonus points.
Ruth Stage has a repertory feel to it without calling ourselves a repertory company. Adam Dodway, Milton Elliott, Jim Kempner, Christine Copley – they are all solid actors whom I am fortunate enough to call my friends for years.
There were some issues in the first production that I’ll have to keep to myself until my tell all book comes out, but this second run of Cat is filled with people I enjoy being around. I think the show is going to be frighteningly good and that’s because there’s alot more camaraderie this time. Just an overall healthier environment.
Also, Ruth Stage has had a new facelift (new chairs, etc.) Can you tell us more about that?
Yea Ruth Stage is always evolving. I run the company with our director Joe Rosario and we have alot of exciting things planned for the group after Cat. We’re looking to open a theatre in Asbury Park, New Jersey and another in Miami, Florida in addition to some Broadway plans we have in the works.
Like all great championship teams, it takes time to find the right roster but it feels like the right people are falling into place and I’d be remiss to not mention our web designer Lou Gutowski who is a gigantic part of our group. He is the one most responsible for the aesthetics of the face lift as he designs everything you see that our group puts out. To see his work just visit my personal page, www.mattderogatis.com and www.ruthstage.org.
What would you like to tell our readers about this run? What’s the one thing you want them to get out of it?
I want the readers to know that this is an entirely different production from our summer run. We are not continuing what we did. We are re-imagining it all over again. New major cast members. Some new crew. New concept. New designs. If you saw it over the summer and liked it, please don’t have the “I saw it already” mentality because I can promise you – you did not see this. For those who did not get a chance to see the show last summer – a show like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof comes around once every decade or so in Manhattan. Do you really wanna wait til 2033?
The main takeaway that I want people to get from this is that this show is every bit as relevant today in 2023 as it was in 1955 despite what some people may believe. Anyone who believes the characters of “Brick” and “Skipper” (who are suspected of having a secret romance) would have it any easier today as professional athletes if the rumors were true doesn’t quite get it. Not to mention the themes of lying, corruption, a dysfunctional family, religion, infidelity…it goes on. We are modernizing the show. It is set in 2023. It’s not the standard 1950’s production. I think people will be astounded by just how relevant this play is when brought into a contemporary setting. It’s all still there – the themes, the characters, Williams’ words – it all works in 2023.
Is there anything else you would like to say or add that we did not cover?
If you don’t know the play, come experience it for the first time. If you do know the play, let go of what you know and come in with fresh eyes. Of course, the only way to do that is to get your tickets! For all things Ruth Stage and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof go to our website. And if you’d like to get a little discount, visit telechargeoffers.com and use the discount code CAT23. Any questions, find us on Instagram @officialruthstage.