In part 1 in a series of interviews with the cast of Castaways Repertory Theatre’s production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, meet Matthew Scarborough and Jay Tilley.
Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform on our local stages. What shows and roles you have played?
Matthew: My name is Matthew Scarborough, and I’ve most recently been more active offstage than onstage. I composed a one-act musical entitled Fish In A Barrel, a staged reading directed by Caroline Simpson that was performed at NextStop Theatre Company. I also directed and music directed a production of Cabaret with Prince William Little Theatre. I last appeared onstage as Oscar Wilde (and offstage as the sound designer) for a production of Sherlock Holmes & The West End Horror (also directed by Caroline Simpson and also with PWLT).
Jay: My name is Jay Tilley and I have been acting in the DC area theatre scene for over 17 years now. Most recently I portrayed the Rev. Shaw Moore in Footloose with the McLean Community Players and Falstaff in , Part 1 with Britches and Hose Theatre Company. I believe I’ve appeared in nearly 80 productions to this point, ranging from light operas and musicals to contemporary dramas and comedies to classical theatre, including Shakespeare, with various professional, dinner and community theatres in the Potomac Region. I’ve also appeared at the Maryland Renaissance Festival and, occasionally, I do improv with ComedySportz, The Blue Show and The StageCoach Bandits. In addition, I’ve dabbled in some local TV, film and voice over work, most recently the web series Shotgun Mythos and the independent film A Clean Exit with the West Virginia-based production company Growth Media Productions.
Have you performed in a Tennessee Williams production and/or Cat On A Hot Tin Roof before? If yes, where and who did you play?
Matthew: This is my first crack at a Tennessee Williams show.
Jay: This is my first time performing in a Tennessee Williams production, but I’ve been a fan of Mr. Williams’ work for years, especially Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar Named Desire, and The Glass Menagerie. The role of Big Daddy is definitely one of my “bucket list” roles. I remember watching a production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof on TV with my parents when I was a kid. I believe it was on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre one night. I was too young to understand what was going on, but I just remember being blown away by these powerful actors saying these great words in this sultry and passionate production, and Big Daddy stood out to me in particular. Once I decided to get into acting back in late 90s, I always felt like Big Daddy would be a great role for me to play one day. It’s definitely the kind of character that gets my blood boiling. Those are the types of roles I love to pursue.
Who do you play in this production and how do you relate and not relate to your character?
Matthew: I play Brick Pollitt, husband to Maggie, son to Big Daddy and Big Mama, and brother to Gooper. I relate to Brick because he and I are not always the best communicators or listeners. I do not relate to Brick because I am blessed with loving, trusting, respectful relationships with my real-life better half and family.
Jay: I play Big Daddy. I can definitely relate to Big Daddy’s size and the fact that he can be the life of the party as well as a hard worker. Big Daddy came from nothing, but over time he was able to build the old Straw and Ochello plantation into his “kingdom” – “twenty-eight thousand acres of the richest land this side of the Valley Nile.” This may be kind of a lame comparison, but that’s how I see my acting career. Like many actors, I had to start at the bottom and constantly audition and work and work and work to build up my resume, experience, training and, most importantly, reputation. While Big Daddy has a very contentious relationship with his family and can sometimes be downright cruel, I’m blessed to have very healthy relationships with my closest family and friends. I may give people close to me a hard time (that’s apparently how I show love! LOL!), but I don’t normally take things too far as Big Daddy is guilty of doing at times during the play.
Big Daddy also has difficulty just talking, really talking to his family, whereas I’ve never had any difficulty having open and honest relationships with those nearest and dearest to me. I can also relate to some of Big Daddy’s health issues. I definitely know what it’s like to be in pain and have used some of that experience in my performance. What I’ve mostly relied on in expressing those moments when Big Daddy is clearly in pain is the memory of having a kidney stone. In fact, that happened the last time I performed with Castaways Repertory Theatre 10 years ago when I played Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came To Dinner. I would also say that while Big Daddy shows a certain level of “tolerance” for social taboos of his time, such as homosexuality, I’m fortunate to have been raised by a family and in a time to see our differences as something that should be celebrated and loved, not feared and loathed.
What is the play about from the point of view of your character?
Matthew: Brick is disgusted with mendacity. Lying and liars. No one single person and no one lie; rather, the whole thing. He had one clean friendship with one person who dared speak their truth to him, and he will never have the opportunity to respond with his truth.
Jay: Even though Big Daddy has been told that he does not have cancer but merely a “spastic colon,” I think deep down he knows the end is near. With this realization, he wants to hand over his “kingdom” to Brick, the son he truly loves as much as “being a success as a planter.” But he knows Brick has a drinking problem and that he must discover the root of Brick’s alcoholism and help him to move past the need to drink because he does not want to “subsidize a goddam fool on the bottle.” Like Brick, he is also tired of all the lies and pretenses that he has had to endure throughout his life, especially lately from his wife Big Mama, his son Gooper and Gooper’s wife Mae, among others. While I believe, despite his constant bickering, that he loves his family deep down, he is determined to confront their “mendacity.”
How did you prepare for your role?
Matthew: I prepared for my role by reading the script and a number of other supplemental materials, running lines with myself (through the power of sound recording) and others, and engaging in character development discussions with fellow cast and crew members.
Jay: Learning and understanding all of Big Daddy’s lines as quickly as possible was vital, but before I even started memorizing anything, I created a backstory for Big Daddy through table discussions with Director Erin DeCaprio, Assistant Director Stella Sklar, and the rest of the cast. That then helped me to map out his overarching goal and immediate goals for each scene as well as his emotions for each situation and how he relates to all of the characters in the play, especially Brick, Big Mama, Gooper, Mae, and Maggie. I have to say that Erin, Stella, and the cast were extremely helpful in helping me prepare to play Big Daddy. I can’t say enough about my castmates being so fun and easy to work with as well.
What scene did you find the most challenging to perform, and why?
Matthew: The characters that I usually portray tend to be a great deal more verbose than Brick, who has extended “conversations” with Maggie (most of Act I) and Big Daddy (most of Act II) wherein he is mostly listening (or not listening) and only occasionally responding. This required my being extremely familiar with other characters’ lines as well as my own in order to successfully convey Brick’s reactions and/or tangential thoughts non-verbally.
Jay: Without a doubt, Act 2! Big Daddy does not appear in Act 1 and only appears in part of Act 3, but in Act 2, it’s all Big Daddy from beginning to end, roughly 65 pages of dialogue, including several long monologues. And roughly 75% of that is with Brick alone. The moments with Brick, and the entire act in general, really do run the emotional and physical gamut. It’s absolutely exhausting, but it’s also very rewarding and, again, the reward mostly comes from working with such a dynamite cast and crew. If I’m doing great work and succeeding in my portrayal of Big Daddy, it’s mostly because I’m working with great people onstage and behind the scenes.
What’s next for you on the stage?
Matthew: I will be taking a school year hiatus for nuptials and honeymooning, and then revising, revamping, and remounting Fish In A Barrel in some incarnation(s) next summer.
Jay: I don’t know what my next theatre production will be, but I will be shooting a new local independent film next year with Growth Media Productions in Martinsburg, WV called Fat Guy With A Shotgun. I will play Otis, a country preacher who is very slimy and very evil. Should be fun! I definitely hope to work with Castaways Repertory Theatre again in the near future.
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof plays from September 23 through October 9, 2016, at Castaways Repertory Theatre performing at the A.J. Ferlazzo Building Auditorium – 15941 Donald Curtis Drive, in Woodbridge, VA. For tickets, call (703) 232-1710, or purchase them online.