Actor Spotlight: Rock Out with Pete the Cat

Backstage Pass | JUNE 2018

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After traveling the country as Crane Truck in our national tour of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, actor Zachary Hasbany is now rehearsing for the title role in Pete the Cat, which opens in Berkeley on June 16. We recently interviewed him about what it’s like to play a rock and roll cat, and what makes Bay Area Children’s Theatre shows and audiences special.

What lessons do you hope kids will take away from Pete the Cat?

Getting to play Pete is such a delightful experience, because we can all learn from his perspective. As a musician cat in the 1960s, Pete has many philosophies, especially that “life is a really really really big adventure.” Even when he gets caught by the cat-catcher, and blunders his way into a chaotic family environment, Pete keeps a positive attitude and adventures on. Another Pete Philosophy is: “Life takes courage; be brave.” On the roads that we take in life, it’s important to try hard with 100 percent effort, but when we get derailed, we can learn, adapt, and enjoy our new path.

You're one tall cat! How has your height (6'7") been an advantage and a challenge as an actor?

The best and worst thing about my height in the world of theatre is that a company will either love it or hate it – there is rarely anything in between. The companies that do not like my height usually want a cast that has one certain "look" to it. I’ll never blend into a crowd, and I can’t fit generic looks, so I don’t work for those companies. BACT has been wonderful about accommodating my height. The character of Crane Truck in Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site was tailored for a tall person, and I was happy to fulfill that need. In Pete the Cat, the fantastic design team decided to embrace the idea of a giant cat, so all the set pieces and props have been resized and warped. My personal favorite is a gigantic couch that makes me feel like I’m in the Big Comfy Couch TV show. It all adds to the delightful and peculiar feel of our story.

Was it hard to learn how to behave like a cat?

Cats are so funny to me. They are walking oxymorons: cuddly, but with sharp claws; independent, but needy; friendly, but they could not care less about your personal space. Naturally, it has been tremendously entertaining to play one. Pete hogs the bed and sheds his hair everywhere, but also cares deeply about everyone he meets. As a talking cat, Pete has many more human qualities than a typical feline, but finding the balance between person and kitty has been an amusing challenge.

What lessons have you learned from the young audience members at Bay Area Children’s Theatre?

I love knowing that every show I share will be someone’s first introduction to theatre. Youthful audiences don’t hide their feelings nearly as much as adults, and their reactions remind me of how powerful a live story can be. Stories teach us empathy, compassion, worldliness, honesty, and countless morals. Perhaps most of all, though, we crave stories that make us happy, and that is vital in our lives. The children in BACT audiences actively show me the power of storytelling, and that inspires me.

What path brought you to the world of children’s theatre?

I actually stumbled into children’s theatre by happenstance, but it has already had a profound effect on me. BACT hired my girlfriend, Brittany Law, for the Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site national tour. As a couple of working actors, we are accustomed to spending months apart when we have contracts that take us away from home. Joining the tour was an opportunity to secure a few months with her, and see the country. Luckily, BACT had a need for a tall actor to play Crane Truck, and I was hired as well! On the tour, I fell in love with children’s theatre. My experience with BACT has inspired me to pursue a Master’s in Theatre Education, so that I can better share my love of theatre with Bay Area youth.

How is working with BACT different from other acting you’ve done?

BACT brings overflowing joy into my acting work. Perhaps it’s the friendliness of the company members, the amazing young audiences, or the nostalgia-inducing stories (I’d guess it’s all three and much more!), but I tend to have glorious, goofy, rewarding fun when I work here.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Pete the Cat is going to be a wonderfully fun show, so put on your best, most colorful ‘60s clothes, and we can enjoy Pete’s “groovalicious beautiful adventure” together!

Get your tickets to Pete the Cat now »


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