For Cats’ Sake!

For Cats’ Sake!

'Auntie Mame’ production to raise money for King Street Cats.

Boo was found wondering around an apartment complex in Annandale. He was a black-and-white “tuxedo” cat, probably about three years old. Neighbors found the cat to be very friendly, and several would leave food out on the stoop for him. But he seemed to be homeless and lost in the shuffle, always begging for food and roaming around the apartment complex.

“He was obviously a throw away,” said Brenda Reed, president of King Street Cats. “A lot of people will move and just leave their cats behind. This seems to be what happened to this one.”

One of the neighbors who cared for Boo contacted King Street Cats, the rescue operation in the 200 block of King Street over the Unique Store. A volunteer drove out to Annandale to get Boo and bring him to “the room,” where the nonprofit organization keeps cats before adopting them to good homes. But Boo’s problems were not over.

“He immediately got sick,” Reed said. “He stopped eating and started coughing.”

In the late summer months, when King Street Cats has to deal with the yearly influx of abandoned cats, the room is packed to capacity. The dense environment can be difficult for cats that don’t have strong immune systems. In Boo’s case, an upper respiratory infection quickly turned into pneumonia for a cat that had suffered months of poor nutrition. He was rushed to an emergency room, where a team of veterinarians put it in an intensive care unit — fashioning a breathing tube as its only tie to life. But there was nothing the veterinarians could do, and Boo died on Aug. 20.

“Right now, we’ve got a particularly nasty outbreak,” Reed said. “It hit fast. By the time we recognized what was happening, we had already rushed several cats to the emergency room.”

King Street Cats is currently in the process of sending all of its resident cats to temporary foster homes so it can engage in a deep cleaning of its facilities. In the next few weeks, after the cleaning, the cats will return to the room on the second floor and wait for prospective owners to adopt them. Meanwhile, the organization has been left with more than $15,000 in vet bills — including the $1,000 spent trying to save Boo. Enter “Auntie Mame.”

AUNTIE MAME is the star of a 1955 novel chronicling the Depression-era story of a fun-loving, eccentric Manhattan woman who takes in her young orphaned nephew. The book was written by Edward Everett Tanner III under the pseudonym Patrick Dennis, but “Auntie Mame” is probably more popularly known as a highly successful Broadway play and 1958 movie starring Broadway legend Rosalind Russell. Later the story returned to Broadway as a musical. On Aug. 8, the original stage production will hit the stage at the Little Theatre of Alexandria for a special fundraising event to pay the vet bills for King Street Cats.

“I wanted to capture the spirit of the movie,” said director Charles Boyington. “But at the same time, I wanted to make sure that it had a little more heart and a little more interaction with the audience.”

To foster the spirit of the play, Boyington decided to open the play in a most unusual manner. Actors will walk out into the audience and begin a sing-along. The words to Cole Porter’s song “Let’s Misbehave” will be projected on a screen — inviting a sense of participation to the madcap comedy about to unfold.

“It’s a smart script,” Boyington said. “The lies are witty and intelligent.”

Most of the play is set in Auntie Mame’s New York apartment, which undergoes a series of changes as the action of the play moves from 1927 to 1946. Boyington said that the apartment becomes somewhat of a character in its own right, transforming from the popular Japanese prints of the 1920 to the modernism of the 1930. As Auntie Mame changes, the decorations of her apartment reflect the evolution of the character.

“She is an amazing woman, confident and self-made,” Boyington said. “And the play is a wonderful comedy filled with fabulous characters. There’s lots of drinking and partying.”

THE PARALLELS between Auntie Mame’s quest to teach her nephew how to live and the mission of King Street Cats offers a perfect platform for the organization’s annual fund-raising effort. Last year’s event at the Little Theatre of Alexandria brought in about $10,000. But because of the sudden viral outbreak, the bills this year are higher — and the need to raise money for the health of the cats is more pronounced now than it has ever been.

“It’s not just a donation,” said Ethel Beun, founder of King Street Cats. “There’s a lot of value for the price of the ticket.”

For $30 or $50 — the cost of the tickets — patrons will get an evening of entertainment that includes wine, cheese and chocolate. A silent auction before the play will include a wide variety of items: a boat trip on the Potomac River, a spy tour of Washington, a massage, a salon visit, a haircut and original art by local artists to name a few. And all patrons will receive a special treat for their own cat.

“This would be a great date or a girls’ night out,” Beun said. “It’s for a good cause, but it will also be a lot of fun.”