By Bill Hirschman
Mad Cat Theatre Company, the Miami troupe that has been obliterating Florida’s reputation for safe mainstream theater for 13 years, is moving to the intimate black box space at Miami Theater Center in Miami Shores.
MTC, previously known as the Playground Theatre, will become Mad Cat’s future home with the August 16 production of Blow Me, a fleshed out version of Jessica Farr’s biography of fashion icon Isabella Blow that bowed this month at the South Beach Comedy Festival under the title Charming Acts of Misery.
Mad Cat has been partnered since its inception in 2000 as a resident theater tenant of the inter-disciplinary Miami Light Project in its tiny, funky space on Biscayne Boulevard. But the Light Project moved in 2011 to a renovated warehouse in a debatably dicey section of the Wynwood Arts District. Mad Cat went with it, but its members have never felt quite comfortable in its considerably larger venue.
MTC’s storefront space at 9816 NE 2nd Avenue called the Sand Box with only 50 seats is closer to the Mad Cat’s intimate vibe and marks a return to the company’s artistic roots, said founder and Artistic Director Paul Tei. With tiny budgets, Mad Cat has produced primarily edgy, thought-provoking work with a bent for stylized staging that appeals to a younger audience.
A Mad Cat news release stated, “After a successful 13 years with The Miami Light Project, Mad Cat Theatre Company is extremely grateful for our opportunities. But it is time to look to the future, and part of that future is moving to a space which lends itself to our artistic growth. With our move to Miami Theater Center in Miami Shores, we are allowing for a more accessible environment for our audience that lends itself to an experience only Mad Cat can bring.”
The move also raises the profile even further of MTC. The company reorganized itself last year from a nationally-recognized producer of sophisticated children’s theater, to encompass performance art and adult-oriented fare such as a new Three Sisters in its main space, a converted movie house. Part of its vision has been to rent its space out to other troupes. One of the most frequently articulated concerns of smaller companies’ artistic directors is a difficulty finding a reasonably-price space with the right number of seats.
Elaiza Irizarry, MTC’s executive director, said, “That’s why when Mad Cat approached us, we thought, ‘Yes, we have space available, and if another theater could benefit from it, that makes sense for everyone.’ It’s really a win-win situation for both organizations, and we would do the same for anyone who needed space.”
“We are grateful for the open doors The Miami Light Project has given us to allow for a collection of artists to form. At this point we look toward the future, but that future wouldn’t be possible without the foundations we have built within the community. We will continue to explore opportunities as they present themselves as we have in the past at venues such as The Fillmore and The Arsht Center. With a move to Miami Theater Center as our core venue, we look to return to our roots and expand on our mission. It’s a prospect we are all looking very forward to. A new homecoming,” said Tei.