Actor and producer Matt de Rogatis chatted with Digital Journal’s Markos Papadatos about starring and producing the upcoming Off-Broadway production “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’
On playing Brick in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” he said, “Well, I’m not sure I’ll ever get to play him seeing as though the show has been postponed now five times. No, we all have a pact; even if the bubonic plague breaks out this summer – we are going up. No more postponements.”
“As for ‘Brick,’ this is definitely one of my dream roles. I have wanted to play him for about 15 years now and getting this opportunity is something I’m greatly looking forward to. I can’t thank the Tennessee Williams estate enough for allowing us to do this show. For the first time ever, Off-Broadway – mind you,” he said.
He continued, “I’ve been fortunate enough to play ‘Tom’ in ‘The Glass Menagerie’ twice now as well as ‘Stanley’ in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire.’ Brick is the hat trick for me as it concerns iconic Tennessee Williams characters. What I love about him the most, and why I think he is the best-written character in comparison to the others I’ve just mentioned, is that he’s ambiguous.”
“Williams wrote a man that is tortured and suffering, no doubt, but exactly what it is that’s causing this torment is not completely clear,” he acknowledged.
“People like to put this character in a box and say ‘Oh, he’s this. That’s why he drinks.’ But he is a lot more conflicted than that. And for me, that makes Brick almost like ‘Hamlet’ in the sense that he’s open to infinite interpretations. As someone who comes from a background in psychology, I am really exploring this character from all angles. ‘Brick’ is a mess and it’s been really fun to explore all the reasons why,” he explained.
“Also, we were supposed to do this show for the first time back in January of 2020. When we finally go up in July I will have been living with ‘Brick’ for two and a half years now. That’s a long time,” he said.
Working with director Joe Rosario
He opened up about working with director Joe Rosario. “Joe and I go back to 2010, I think. He is on a very short list of people whom I would consider a mentor. He has coached me before as well as directed me in two prior productions. We work very well together and come from similar backgrounds,” he said.
“We’ve done so much work on this show and in our talks, it’s like we both know when something isn’t working or doesn’t feel right. And we quickly correct it to the point of almost finishing each other’s thoughts. It’s good to be in sync like that with the director,” he said.
“Joe has such a wealth of knowledge too when it comes to film and books, television, plays, etc. He’s an encyclopedia. We also co-host a podcast together called Ruth Stage After Dark. I encourage people to check it out on our website, Apple Podcasts or Spotify. It’s a lot of fun,” he elaborated.
Christian Jules LeBlanc
On working with Emmy winner Christian Jules LeBlanc (who stars as Big Daddy) and the rest of the cast, he said, “What impresses me most about Christian is his work ethic. Someone of his stature could just mail it in and say ‘call me a week before we open.’ But that’s not the case at all.”
“Christian is working really hard on this role and even with the show being six months away we are still working on it and talking regularly. He’s also a really cool guy and we joke around a lot. He says our company logo makes us look like a biker gang. The rest of the cast is equally as motivated and that’s what makes this so special,” he said.
“Everyone knows this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and they are treating it as such. We have stars like Alison Fraser and Austin Pendleton. And then we have really talented rising stars like Tiffan Borelli, Sonoya Mizuno, and Spencer Scott. Spencer is also a co-host on our podcast and you will not find many young actors who work as hard as him,” he elaborated.
On his favorite part of this experience, he said, ” The whole thing. Even when it seemed like Covid was going to kill the show. Those moments. You rally. The good, the bad. It’s all been memorable. Our group, Ruth Stage, has been given this incredible opportunity and we have literally been working on this show every day for over a year now. The casting process took ten months and the fundraising is nonstop.”
“We have done cancer benefits, raffles, football pools. The whole thing has been insane. Also, every time we thought we were going to do the show and postponed it another six months, somehow the show got bigger,” he said.
“Since 2019 we’ve changed venues, directors, and actors,” he said. “This thing really needs a documentary because what’s been going on behind the scenes is every bit as interesting as what the final product will be on the stage. At this point, the whole thing feels like some supernatural event. I can’t imagine what it will feel like to finally do it after so many heartbreaking postponements.”
On his daily motivations as an actor and filmmaker, he said, “I just want to be the best that I can possibly be.”
He remarked about the Off-Broadway production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “This dysfunctional family is timeless. This is going to be a modern production and audiences can expect to see these iconic characters in ways they’ve never seen before. Tickets are selling great too, even with six months to go before our first performance. Anyone interested in coming should go to our website to get their seats. It’s going to be the hottest show of the summer.”