Thursday, March 6, 2008

Panel to Debate Relevance of the All African-American Cast of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Posted by Billy Christopher Maupin
There has been quite a bit of buzz surrounding the revival of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Tin Roof, which opens tonight at the Broadhurst Theatre. Why? It's been seen on Broadway in four different productions before:

1955- Director Elia Kazaan, Starring Burl Ives and Ben Gazzara

1974- Director Michael Kahn, Starring Elizabeth Ashley

1990- Director Howard Davies, Starring Polly Holliday, Charles Durning, and Kathleen Turner

2003- Director Anthony Page, Starring Ashley Judd

This is the first of these five productions to feature an all African-American cast. However, in many of the articles about the show, TheatreVirginia is mentioned as having produced what is considered to be the ONLY all African-American production prior to this revival.

The revival boasts a spectacularly talented cast with three Tony Award winners (Phylicia Rashad for A Raisin in the Sun, James Earl Jones for The Great White Hope and Fences, and Anika Noni Rose for Caroline, or Change, also recently seen in the motion picture adaptation of Dreamgirls), as well as the Oscar-nominated Terrence Howard. But the buzz doesn't center on all that prestige.

Today on a headline caught my eye: Ashley and Lahr Will Debate Cat Revival on March 8 "Theater Talk". They are to "debate the relevance and implications of doing Tennessee Williams' fifties Southern family drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with an all-Black cast."

There are four panelists in this discussion.

Elizabeth Ashley, star of the 1974 revival. (You may also remember her from Evening Shade or perhaps as the original Corrie in Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park.)

John Lahr, critic for The New Yorker

Susan Haskins, Executive Producer of Theatre Talk.

Michael Riedel, a writer for the New York Post.

These four people will be debating the relevance of an all African-American cast of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

What are your thoughts? The floor is open for comments!

(Oh, and if you would like to contact Theater Talk, you can click here. Their email address is
--Billy Christopher Maupin


Matthew said...

An all-white panel discusses an all-black play. Hmmmm.

hoosier steve said...

I find it offensive that an all white panel will talk about this. I however am not surprised.

cwithers88 said...

I don't see what the big fuss is just because the show is an all black cast. If they did an all-white Dreamgirls, would anyone be debating it this much?

Just my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

If there were an all-white Dreamgirls, it would probably get shut down.

Susan Haskins said...

We invited the ENTIRE cast of Cat on our program, through their publicist Joe Trentacosta. He told us that Howard and others would be on the program. Then, they all backed out.

Susan Haskins
Theater Talk