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Actors bring personal touch

If you’ve seen “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”  before, you won’t recognize the Clarksville Community Players production as the same show. The script may be the same, but Tennessee Williams’ characters run so deep that each actor brings a personal experience to each role.

The interpretation of those characters is different for every actor because we all have different experiences to draw from when we bring the character to life, said Kim Demetriades, who plays Maggie in the show being staged Sept. 21-23 at the Clarksville Fine Arts Center.

Likewise, members of the audience are likely to see elements of themselves or people they have known in the family drama that won a Pulitzer Prize for the famous playwright.

“When the actors use Mr. Williams’ words effectively, they create imagery and sound for the audience so that all theatergoers have their own version of Big Daddy based on their own experiences,” said Director Fred Motley.

In the play, two brothers are at odds over the favoritism shown by their father and mother toward one son, who is steadily drinking himself into oblivion. Their wives, too, fight over their roles in the family as they struggle over whether to tell the father on his birthday that he is dying,

“It is a wonderful feeling to take an audience on an emotional journey each night of the show,” said Demetriades.

Interpreting Big Daddy in his own way is Rich Henderson, who sees his character as “multifaceted and larger than life as an old-fashioned Mississippi redneck.”

“As an actor in his late 60s, I am drawn to strong characters in plays which are classics of the Broadway stage,” Henderson said.

He has been involved with the group since 2000, when he and his wife, Carol, moved to Clarksville.

He played Christmas Present in “Scrooge the Musical.” Henderson has produced or directed many plays for Clarksville Community Theater and Granville Little Theater including “The Sunshine Boys,” “The Dinner Party,” “Lend Me A Tenor,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Love’s Labors Lost” and “Nutcrackers.”  

His favorite role was that of Norman in “On Golden Pond” with The Kirby Theater Works in Roxboro, N.C.

He was most recently seen as Grandpa in the Granville production of “You Can’t Take It With You.”

Playing Brick is Chris Bailey, who last appeared on the Clarksville stage as Bob Cratchitt in the 2008 production of “Scrooge the Musical” and “Driving Miss Daisy.”

He has also appeared locally recently in “On Golden Pond” and “Almost Maine.” Bailey traces his love of theater back to the time when he was a member of his high school drama team, which placed second in state competition. One of his favorite roles was as the male lead in “Natalie Needs a Nightie” with the Chase City Players back in 1996. 

Appearing on numerous stages in North Carolina and Virginia, Demetriades said her favorite roles have been Viola in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” Maggie in “Lend Me a Tenor” and Annelle in “Steel Magnolias.” She also chairs the Players’ Production Committee and has worked backstage doing costumes, props and sets on numerous productions.

To direct the play, the Players reached out to Danville and brought in Motley, who has managed plays in Baltimore, Bel Air, Md., Lynchburg and Danville. Among his favorites have been “Steel Magnolias,” “The Secret Garden” and “Ten Little Indians.”

Also in the cast are Merilyn Newell as Big Mama, Tammy Tillotson as Mae, Gus Demetriades as Gooper, Mary Sprewell as Daisy, Karla Mitchell as Sookey, Barry Roberts as Dr. Baugh and Dennis Lockard as Rev Tooker.

The theater group hopes to draw a wide variety of showgoers, beyond those who have enjoyed lighter fare at the venue in the past.

Demetriades said, “It will attract our loyal theater going patrons but also will attract those who have an appreciation for the writings of Tennesee Williams and other great literary works.”

“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” will be seen at the Clarksville Fine Arts Center, 914 Virginia Ave., Clarksville. Times: Sept. 21-22, 7:30 p.m.; Sept. 23, 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

Reserved tickets can be picked up at the box office from noon to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday beginning Sept. 17. For reservations, call 434-374-0058 during box office hours. 

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