Inside the Actor's Studio with Paul Tei
|Bad boy Paul Tei|
What's really fair? Who's really foul? Find out yourself when Miami's Mad Cat Theater Company kicks off its 12th season with a production of MacBeth and the Monster. The plot of the all-ages show revolves around little MacBeth. All he wants to do is fall asleep, but when his mother recants a bedtime story about a monster, the little guy gets more than he bargained for.
Paul Tei is the show's director and founder of the Mad Cat Theater Company. Brash, punk-rock, hardworking, yet introspective, Tei has been an anchor of South Florida theater for years. Receiving national recognition for his recurring role on Burn Notice, he is also the very definition of a local boy coming up into success. We caught up with the fast talking, whiskey-drinking Tei fresh off a plane from L.A.
New Times: Congratulations on 12 years of Mad Cat! Any perspective? Regrets?
Paul Tei: It's been a very rewarding 12 years, let me start by saying that. I have very little [sic] regrets, which I feel is part of the reason why I feel so rewarded. The only regrets I have are involving certain relationships with actors who were friends that I no longer have. I wish I would've handled certain situations a little differently.
That's not to say that I regret what I was defending in those moments, but rather my choice of actions or words. I definitely had a helluva temper and it was not in control at times, and for that I am remorseful. When I look back at all the shows we've done I love all of them, warts and all. I feel that our work has gone terribly under-appreciated by the critics and the theater community at times, but I don't lose any sleep over it. I just wonder if we had done these past 11 years in LA or Chicago, how much further we'd be along at this point.
We fill a huge void in the theatrical community here, but it feels like Mad Cat is the lone punk band that shows up to a battle of the bands showdown and all the other groups are cover bands, ya know? You just never feel accepted. Which has its pros and cons. I love our fan base, they really have stuck with us, and I feel a great sense of pride when I see familiar faces at our shows. That sense of community we have with our fans is really vital to the pulse of this group. It lets you know that you are appreciated by the people who matter the most, the fans. Through thick and thin, Mad Cat is always there for me.
What attracted you to this current script?
The fresh take on Shakespeare and the concept of all-ages as opposed to children's theater. This is a play that will spark conversations between kids and their parents. It's a great take on the original, it's funny for both kids and adults, it's highly theatrical and the opportunity to work with puppets was a big key for me. This will be the first time I've done a show with puppets since I was a student at Barry. I've always pondered how Mad Cat could pull off an all-ages show and/or a Shakespeare play without it seeming like we were coming out of left field. This play, for me, falls within our mission statement about taking a fresh approach to old plays. Plus with the holidays, and this time slot I wanted to do something that everyone could get something out of.
Did you catch the West Coast world premiere?
I did see the West Coast production in LA at the Bootleg, and it was awesome, so much fun. Watching the kids drink the whole thing in really turned my head around to when I was in the 7th grade and I saw my first play, and how the theatricality just swept me up into a new world.
Can you give us any spoilers? What are we in for?
Let me think... (goes to re-fill glass with more Jameson) Okay, the three witches will sing all of their lines and they closely resemble a mash up of The Andrew Sisters/The Supremes/Destiny's Child and any other three-piece girl group you can think of from World War Two to present day. Our production takes place in Scotland as well. Not only is the Loch Ness monster in here but so is the Chupacabra.
Sounds like fun. Are there challenges directing an all-ages show?
I have to be careful that I don't freak people out. I have to remember to walk that fine line between something like Return to Witch Mountain and H.R Pufnstuf -- that's my goal, with three awesome singing witches. Never let it be boring.
You're a Barry guy, right? Any advice for up-and-coming thespians?
I am a Barry alum, yes. My advice is this: Take care of yourself. Stay, or get, in shape. Go see as much art, film, theatre, dance, music as you can. Understand why you like something, and why something or someone is successful. How did they get there?
Learn some skills: languages, dialects, combat, whatever you can to fill up your bag o' tricks. There are two cities to have a career in this country where the sky is the limit; you know which two they are. There are several cities where you can carve out a spot and make a living, but you'll just keep hitting the ceiling; figure out which ones those are, and maybe get your start there, build up a resume, or a reel, and move on. You can always go back there, but never let yourself feel stuck. We're all just making it, till we either give up or make it, so you're not alone. It's hard to be an artist, but it's harder to work in a coal mine.
Brad Pitt. Seth Rogan. The Rolling Stones. Banksy. Reese Witherspoon. The happiest person in the room. The person who loves more than hates. The one who understands that most likely, we get one chance at all this, so have a good time.
Anything else you want to say?
Yes. Wilco is my favorite band. Soccer is my favorite sport. Thai is my favorite food. Purple is the greatest color. David Lee Roth should have never been let go by Van Halen. The National League is the only league. 60 degrees is perfect. I love my cats Derby & Julep. America needs to embrace Socialism. Miami is the best party town in America!
MacBeth and the Monster is running from Dec. 28 to Jan. 8 at the Light Box at the Goldman Warehouse (404 NW 26th Street). Tickets range from $5 for kids under 12, $12 for students, $25 general admission. For more info visit madcattheater.org
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