By Greg Carannante
City & Shore Magazine
“I’m a walking contradiction, man, that’s what I am,” Paul Tei says.
There’s one thing, though, the actor and director is definitely not conflicted about: edgy, avant-garde theater, the kind of way-way-off-Broadway productions not easily found in South Florida other than at his Mad Cat Theatre Company in Miami Shores. Last month’s Black Sabbath Vol. 4 performed by the Mad Cat Live! band would be one example. Another is Vaclev Havel’s oppression-bashing Protest and Audience from earlier this year.
Artistic director since founding Mad Cat in 2000, the Hollywood native has written and directed the lion’s share of the shows at the resident company of Miami Theater Center, as well as scores of others around the country. His acting credits also extend beyond South Florida, including Burn Notice, American Horror Story and, most recently, two Netflix series — the animated Legend Quest and the Keys-based Bloodline, in which he plays two roles.
Tei, 48, lives in Miami with the company’s associate director, Jessica Farr, who wrote Cassie, “a one-woman space epic” that’ll have its world premiere March 1-18. For info on the show and the not-for-profit company, visit madcattheatre.org
Aside from the weather, what do you enjoy most
about living in South Florida?
Gulfstream Park, Cuban food, Cuban coffee, Churchill’s pub — that got me through my younger years. The fact that South Florida encourages you to be a degenerate. It’s open 24-7 and it is the party capital of America. I love that — it also scares me.
Aside from the weather, what do you dislike most
about living in South Florida?
You can’t really afford to live in Dade County unless you’re really rich or really poor. It’s squeezed the middle class out of here. Most people who live in South Florida are not from South Florida so they don’t care about South Florida.
Are you a beach person or a pool person?
When in your life are you or have you been the happiest?
When the Miami Heat won their first championship in ’06. I was so happy I went skinny-dipping in the ocean that night and then went to the Arena and ran up and down the steps and hugged the building.
What do you do when you’re stuck in a traffic
jam on I-95?
I turn the music up louder and just try to enjoy the weather. I try to find the zen in the jam.
What music are you listening to now?
A lot of Black Sabbath, [Frank] Zappa, the Allman Brothers. I like the Allman Brothers when I’m driving because those long jams really help. You can’t listen to Zappa in the car, though — it’s not safe.
Are you a fan, and if so, of what?
I’m a fan of fans.
Do you do social media?
Who is your real-life hero or heroine?
Probably my cats. They teach me how to be a better person.
If you had to choose: Rocky or Raging Bull?
Raging Bull because it’s about respect. Raging Bull’s
so good we didn’t need a sequel.
What car are you driving now?
A 2006 Nissan Murano.
What do you like most about yourself?
My drive. I’m still thirsty.
What places in South Florida do you recommend
to out-of-town guests?
Going to the Everglades, No. 1. No. 2, you have to experience Joe’s Stone Crabs. As cliché as that sounds, it’s the best restaurant in Miami for a reason. Also Delaware Chicken Farm [in Hollywood] and The Field in Dania.
If you could change one thing about yourself,
what would it be?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?