Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
by Tennessee Williams
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
- Cat was widely criticized for having no clear protagonist, no clear team or cause to support. Each character seems to show us both his/her goodness and his/her ugly underbelly (with the exception of the annoyingness that is the Gooper clan). Do you agree with this criticism? To whom are we meant to relate in this play?
- Some people feel Cat is about a man who struggles with his sexuality. Others disagree completely and feel that it is a commentary on the changing American concept of family. Still others believe Cat comments on American history. Tennessee Williams says in a stage note in Act II, "the bird that I hope to catch in the net of this play is not the solution of one man's psychological problem. I'm trying to catch the true quality of experience in a group of people, that cloudy, flickering, evanescent—fiercely charged!—interplay of live human beings in the thundercloud of a common crisis" (II.1135-1140). Do you believe Tennessee Williams here? What do you think this play is about?
- Maggie the Cat definitely knows how to get what she wants through manipulation, flirtation, and insinuation. However, she tells Brick at the end of Act One, "I'm honest! Give me credit for just that, will you please?"(II.1146) Is Maggie honest?
- Cat has two prominent alternative endings. Director Elia Kazan suggested that Tennessee Williams craft a more redemptive ending to the play. In this, the original version of Cat, how do you feel when you end the play? Do you agree with Kazan that it needs a different ending?
- Wowsa, we almost drown in a sea of stage notes when reading this version of Cat. What role do Tennessee Williams' stage notes play in shaping the story and characters? Are these stage notes important? Choose one of Williams' stage notes and discuss how you would translate it to the stage (in other words, how would you make this stage note come alive in a play?).
- You have 60 seconds to pick an all-star cast of Hollywood actors to perform in Cat. Whom do you choose? How come?
- We think that we can all agree that Cat on a Hot Tin Roof could very well be a campaign for why it's good not to have babies. Really, we can't even tell the no-neck monsters apart. And yet, Maggie still is dying to have one, as though having a baby would be the solution to all of her problems. If Brick and Maggie do have a baby, will the birth of this baby really change things in the Pollitt family?
- The maids, Sookey and Lacey, and field hands have almost no lines, practically no stage time, and most do not have names. What story do these characters tell? How does their presence comment on the themes of the play?
- We are constantly reminded of race and racism (that spawned and fed the concept of slavery and that was still alive and well in the 1950s) through the Pollitt family conversations. We hear them use racist, bigoted language. We see them live off of the wealth that slavery enabled. We watch as black characters are stereotyped and pushed to the periphery of the Pollitt house and play. In a play that deals explicitly with societal disapproval of homosexuality, racism is explored more indirectly and subtly, or maybe not at all. How do we understand racism and the (at the time) burgeoning concept of civil rights in the context of this play? What questions are left unanswered?
- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is one of the most frequently revived and most popular plays to produce. In March of 2008, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opened at the Broadhurst Theater in New York City with (for the first time in its history) an all-black cast. The producer, Stephen C. Byrd, told the Canadian Press, "Are certain plays only reserved or preserved for white actors? The play is the thing, and this one is about family." How has this revival been received, and how does its reception compare to that of its premiere in 1955?
- If you could act in one scene from the play, which scene would you choose and why?
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