In Part Two of a series of interviews with the cast of Castaways Repertory Theatre’s production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, meet Lisa Arnold (Dixie) and Zell Murphy (Reverend Tooker).
Joel: 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?
Lisa: My name is Lisa and I’m 14 years old. I only started acting a couple of years ago. My first role was Michael Darling in Castaways Repertory Theatre’s production of Peter Pan the play. I was also in the ensemble of Castaways Repertory Theatre’s production of Hello, Dolly!, and I played Costard in a variation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, produced by a program at George Mason called “Acting for Young People.” My most recent role was Gracie Shinn in Castaways Repertory Theatre’s The Music Man.
Zell: My name is Zell Murphy and I have been involved in local theatre working both on and offstage over the past 20 or so years. Most recently, I played the role of Sidney Bruhl in The Arlington Players’ production of Deathtrap. Castaways’ production of The Lion in Winter was the first show I performed in after moving back to the DC area in 1993. And now, 23 years later, I’m very excited to be back on the Castaways’ stage.
Joel: 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?
Lisa: I have never performed in a Tennessee Williams production before.
Zell: I have always wanted to be in a Tennessee Williams production but have never had the opportunity until now.
Joel: Who do you play in this production and how do you relate and not relate to your character?
Lisa: In this production, I play Dixie (one of the “no-neck monsters”). I actually don’t relate to my character at all because she is the opposite of who I am. She is a major brat, and she doesn’t keep her nose out of anything (she probably learned that from her parents), and she has so much hate in her.
Zell: I play Reverend Tooker, the town’s church pastor. He is a difficult character to relate to because, in Tennessee Williams’ own words, he is “the living embodiment of the pious, conventional lie.” His presence in the play extends the idea of mendacity to include the social and religious establishment in the South. Reverend Tooker keeps up social appearances, but he is insincere. I think that most of us have experienced or been witness to social and/or religious hypocrisy. And, I dare say, most of us have probably, at one time or another, exhibited some form of pretense or insincerity in order to get something that we want. There’s a little bit of Reverend Tooker in all of us.
Joel: What is the play about from the point of view of your character?
Lisa: In the play, my character’s family cancels their annual family vacation so they could go celebrate her cranky grandpa’s birthday with him. She is determined to make the most fun out of her boring grandparents’ house.
Zell: For the Reverend, this story is about coming into the home of a wealthy family in the hopes of securing church gifts from the family of a dying man. He knows that Big Daddy is dying, but he is more interested in the material outcomes of Big Daddy’s death rather than providing comfort and spiritual support to the family.
Joel: How did you prepare for your role?
Lisa: Before I go onstage, I try to get into the mindset of a typical bratty, spoiled 10-year-old. I also remember to go onstage and have fun because my job is to ease the intensity of the play, but it won’t be possible to lighten the mood if I’m not enjoying myself.
Zell: I did some research on Tennessee Williams’ point of view on religion to better understand the character I’m portraying. And, of course, I worked on my Southern drawl.
Joel: What scene did you find the most challenging to perform, and why?
Lisa: The most difficult scene for me is a scene where I disrupt a very tense discussion between Maggie and Brick. It’s hard for me because I struggle to stay in character and have the major attitude that is a huge part of who Dixie is.
Zell: For me, there are points during the show in which I am onstage with relatively long gaps in time in which I’m not speaking or directly involved in the major action. Making sure that those moments remain real and honest by constantly being “in the moment” can be difficult and challenging at times. Because even when a character is not speaking, he or she is still “saying something.”
Joel: What’s next for you on the stage?
Lisa: I currently go to a high school that has a specialty program for performing arts, so I’ll be doing quite a few performances with that school, and I’ll probably stick with Castaways Repertory Theatre for a while.
Zell: I don’t have anything definite in mind for onstage work. It has been a while since I’ve worked behind the scenes, so, for my next role, l will look to “get my hands dirty” again backstage.