April 12, 2019
Robbie Goodrich, arts information director

NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” comes to W.M. Turner Auditorium April 30 through May 4 as part of the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Theatre’s Mainstage Series. Directed by SFA’s Playwright-in-Residence Jack Heifner, the play is about a southern family in crisis.

Set in the plantation home in the Mississippi Delta of Big Daddy Pollitt, a wealthy cotton tycoon, the play examines the relationships among members of Big Daddy's family, primarily between his son Brick and “Maggie the Cat,” Brick's wife.

“‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ is one of Williams’ most famous plays, winning him his second Pulitzer Prize,” Heifner said, adding the other Pulitzer was for “A Streetcar Named Desire.” “The production is about a night that changes the lives of the characters, and it involves many tense emotional situations.

“It was Williams’ favorite play,” Heifner said. “It hasn’t been performed at SFA since 1989 – 30 years ago. I’ve always loved the play and have taught it in classes for 20 years, but I’ve never directed it. I thought it was about time. The themes of the play are universal, but most of all, it’s a play about a family in crisis.”

Brick, the alcoholic son and former athlete, is haunted by the death of his best friend and his guilt about their relationship. Maggie, his wife, longs for the husband who doesn’t ignore her and craves financial security after a life of struggle. Big Daddy, his father who is unaware he is dying of cancer, has a passion for living and is proud of the accomplishments he has made in his life. Gathered for the celebration of Big Daddy’s 65th birthday, the family’s conflicts are suddenly exposed in an explosive series of confrontations about money that forces the family to part with the lies that have shielded them from reality.

The play takes place in real time, and the action is continuous, Heifner said. Although there are two intermissions, the play takes place in exactly the same time span as the characters that are living it. Overlapping sounds and actions create some challenges in directing, Heifner explained.

“Another challenge is dealing with iconic characters from the world of Tennessee Williams,” he said. “They are well known; audiences know the names ‘Big Daddy’ and ‘Big Mama.’ ‘Maggie the Cat’ is probably one of the hardest and most famous roles Williams ever wrote for an actor. The play is a challenge for the actors involved, both emotionally and physically.”

The Southern accents and the physicality of the production, including a character that is pregnant, another with a broken foot and another with a terminal disease, provide additional challenges for the student actors.

Heifner describes the play as “an American theatre classic” that should be seen by anyone who is interested in good theatre. However, it is for mature audiences, meaning there is strong language, the use of alcohol, a discussion of sexual situations and an impending death.

“Audiences will gain a greater appreciation for Tennessee Williams and experience excitement from watching our young actors grow and learn,” Heifner said.

“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, April 30 through May 4, in Turner Auditorium in the Griffith Fine Arts Building, 2222 Alumni Drive, on the SFA campus.

Single tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7.50 for youth. Tickets for SFA students are $5. For tickets or more information, call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or visit www.theatre.sfasu.edu.