It Takes A Village: Going Mad with Mad Cat Theatre

The Egret’s Senior Columnist Raquel V. Reyes explores a timely – or timeless – topic of interest to the greater Miami Shores community. Enjoy!

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Mad Cat Theatre is the resident company of MTC, Miami Theater Center. Jessica Farr, Mad Cat’s marketing director, and Paul Tei, founder, are my guests this month. Singular titles do not do this duo justice as they wear many hats— playwright, actor, director, promoter, and the list could go on. Mad Cat came to MTC’s The Sandbox in 2013. Since then, they have collected accolades for their edgy and quality productions.

Let’s get this question out of the way first. Why Mad Cat and is your logo an avatar for Paul?

JF: The logo is Paul’s spirit animal as far as I’m concerned. It used to have an eyebrow ring like Paul had, so I’m assuming that wasn’t just a coincidence. We are all pretty mad here. But in the best way!

PT: Mad Cat…I wanted something that had more than one meaning like Cheap Trick or The Sex Pistols. I wanted a name that didn’t sound like most other theatre companies. Which quite frankly, always sound a little stiff or like something that smells bad. Avatar?  I don’t know if he’s my avatar. We needed a logo. We had ideas like Top Cat or Felix the Cat then a friend drew our Mad Cat. We’ve been letting it lead the way ever since.

You don’t steer away from touchy subject matter—climate change, communism, and Nixon. This season’s plays have a very political bent to them. Can you tell us a little bit about Why Not? With Richard Nixon, your current show?
JF: Several of us, worked on a play called Gerald Ford Superfreak! for Comedy Central’s South Beach Comedy Festival. It followed Ford in a crisis right before his decision to pardon Nixon. The Nixon character was so popular in that show we decided to write a spin off for him.

PT: Nixon is a polarizing individual. Most people in their life will come to some conclusion of what they think Nixon is all about. I wanted Mad Cat to mess with people’s opinions of the guy. I want to challenge the notion that you already know everything there is to know about a person or a subject. Why Not?

JF: In the play, Nixon, the ousted president tries to run a public access late night television show out of his house on Key Biscayne. With the help of his best friend, Bebe Rebozo, and his daughter, Tricia, the trio put on a colorful variety show. Guests on the show include Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio. Nixon challenges his guests mercilessly on their behavior in the current presidential election. The characters exist outside of space and time because—Why Not? We wanted to deal with this insane presidential election in an absurd fashion, just as it is playing out in real life. It’s a fun show.

How has your humorous yet provoking material been received by Miami Shores residents? Are they the majority of your audience?

JF: Our Miami Shores audience has been very receptive! This season has been especially welcoming. We’ve thrown a variety of options at them- from the Pulitzer Prize winning play The Flick, to an evening of Samuel Beckett’s short plays, to a night of comedy, to a dark new play reading, to a theatrical reimagining of an album live in concert. It’s been a fun year exploring and the audience has been right there with us. That’s trust. We love this location!

PT: I think Miami Shores is a bright and active community that represents a lot of what is great about Miami, diversity in taste being at the top of the great things.

Your productions are usually in the evenings, 8 pm to 10 pm. What changes to downtown Miami Shores’ nightlife would you like to see?

JF: Seeing an influx of restaurants and bars would be great. Things quiet down and it’s hard for patrons to find a place to sit and eat and talk or just grab a quick drink. I don’t think disrupting the neighborhood would be the goal, just a little bit more activity. Options for our audience would be great. Most of our shows end before 10:00 pm and everything is closed.

PT: I believe once The Shores has a few restaurants people will be looking to combine that with a bit of entertainment. Mad Cat wants to be a part of that experience. We want to slip into the subconscious of Miami Shores patrons. We want people to go — ‘Wait, I saw that at Mad Cat!’

If you could educate the public about one misconception of live theater, what would it be?

JF: I’d like to address the absurd notion that theater isn’t for everyone. It should be and can be! We really aim for that at Mad Cat. The art form is by no means dead, it just needs active participation. We like to find new modes of live storytelling, especially in the digital age where we have lost some of that human bond. Let’s undo some of our day to day programming and experience live performance in a room together, shall we? Maybe afterwards it will spark a conversation. And we can have a laugh or several while we’re at it.

PT: Mad Cat is not like most theatres. So, if you have a negative stigma attached to the word Theatre then think of it like I do when someone says cucumber to me. Not all cucumber is bad just because I ate it once and didn’t like it.

Yea, sometimes a cucumber can be a pickle.

PT: Exactly.

Thank you, both. This has been fun.

JF: I agree. Thanks for the opportunity.

PT: Meow.

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Is there someone in your neighborhood that needs to be publicly recognized for their contribution to the community? Do you have an idea for this column? Please email your feedback to: rreyes@miamishores.com.

Raquel Reyes is a writer living in Miami Shores. Check out www.rvreyes.com for more information about her.

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