The Cat Provides a Venue for Community Arts in Carmel
Writer / Jane VanOsdol
Photographer / Amy Payne
What began as a search for a building to host a one-year theatre production in Carmel, turned in to something so much more than director Will Wood and his wife Deborah ever expected.
The couple had come up empty in finding a suitable, affordable space. That discouraging reality was settling in when they happened upon the Warehouse, a 150-seat concert venue in Carmel Arts & Design District. In this opportunity, the Woods saw their chance to realize Will’s dream of having his own community theatre and providing a venue for others to share their talents. They jumped at the chance, signed a three-year lease and named the building The Cat.
Today, The Cat serves a dual purpose: it offers residency to theatre companies without a home, and it serves as a rental venue for artistic shows, classes, recitals and private events.
It didn’t take long for word to get out about The Cat, and Woods soon found himself with seven theatre companies in residence (all with different artistic styles) who call The Cat home:
• Carmel Theatre Company
• Approxima Productions
• Carmel Apprentice Theatre
• Amalgamated Stage Productions (the Woods’ company)
• Improbable Fiction Theatre Company
• Ashton Wolf Productions
• 4 Way Stop
Carmel Apprentice Theatre
Lisa Williams, artistic director of Carmel Apprentice Theatre, has set a goal to draw in as many novice performers as possible, pairing them with veteran actors on stage. Williams puts an innovative spin on theatre by making performing open to anyone who wants to be in the show. She follows a new style called AfterWork Theatre introduced in New York.
“If you’ve ever been turned down for a part, come here,” she says.
Once a new production has been announced to the community, here is how the casting process works:
1. Anyone (adults and kids included) who wants to be a cast member attends planning night to fill out a form and pay a membership fee that applies to just that show. “Once they pay the fee, they are in the show, period,” Williams says.
2. Next, the cast comes to a peer evaluation night with the directing team. All the cast gets into a circle and reads through the script while the directors listen to voice tones and inflections.
3. The team then deliberates and hands out the parts.
“We are one of the few theatre companies in the area that casts people of all ages,” Williams says. In their first production, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” the cast ranged in age from 12 to 25 years old.
Approxima Productions, owned by local actors and directors, husband and wife team Christine and Steve Kruze, follows a style opposite that of Carmel Apprentice Theatre. This company is comprised of a group of experienced performers using original works that are unproduced or have not been seen in a long time. All their productions are naturalistic in style, so everything must mimic reality as closely as possible.
Christine loves the freedom of working with Woods.
“He gives me the freedom to do a show the way I see it in my head,” she says.
Ultimately, she sums up what it means to the resident companies and the community to have this venue.
“This is a real theatre. It’s very well appointed. It’s comfortable for our patrons,” Christine says. “When they come in, there’s a nice lobby, comfortable seats and clean bathrooms. It’s a rare thing. Having this available to us as a small theatre company is such a bonus as we get started.”
Ultimately what the Woods love is this very act of giving wings to the theatre community.
“We love it when people walk in and say, ‘Umm, we’ve got this stupid idea,’ Wood says. “And we nod our heads and say. ‘Okay, let’s look at the calendar.’”
For more information and to see what’s currently playing at The Cat, visit them online at thecattheatre.com.