If you are part of the 21st century, you've probably spent the last few years of your life lost in the world of Internet cat memes. Well it's high time you traded in your LOLcats for the real things -- the kind with fur, not pixels.
On Wednesday, July 25, through Sunday, July 29, at Boxcar Theatre Studios, the cat(s) are out of the bag, as Samantha Martin and the Acro-Cats come pawing their way through San Francisco. When I caught up with Martin on the phone, she explained that she began her company 20 years ago, only then she was training rats and her troupe was called Acro-Rats. "I gave it up because people just don't take to rats. There's never been a rats-to-riches story." She then moved into wildlife education, but her true love was always the challenge that came with training animals. As everyone knows, cats are often self-centered jerkfaces (my allergies make me biased), but Martin informed me it's a myth that cats are untrainable. "People have a misconception that you can't train cats," she says. "If you have a cat with a behavioral problem, the truth is that they're just bored." With only 10 minutes a day, she reassured me, any cat will blossom. Martin began by training a cat to play the piano, and then decided to form a kitty rock band. Originally they just worked for tips but people were so endeared that she took the show on the road. She told me, "If cats aren't out there working constantly, they lose their edge, so we needed a rigorous touring schedule."During the show you'll see the troupe of 13 cats climb ladders, jump through hoops, ride skateboards, roll on balls, and push each other around in shopping carts. You'll even get a musical show put on by the Rock Cats -- a band of five cats and a chicken. There's a cat on drums, piano, guitar, chimes, and cowbell. And what does the chicken do? Pecks the tambourine, of course. Martin adds, "We're trying to incorporate a groundhog into playing a gong, but we just haven't found the right size gong yet." But it's not all about tricks -- Martin's show has a social justice component to it as well. She brings along foster cats on tour, and she's found homes for 90 cats in the last three years. I ask her if any of the cats have, well, cattitude. Apparently Tuna, the ringleader and inspiration for the show, does. "She takes her work very seriously," Martin notes. "If people try to touch her after the show or ask for her autograph she will slap them. But the band all has private quarters, so they get their alone time." The Acro-Cats website, where you can read cat bios that say things like, "If Fiji could do it, she'd throw cell phones at people's heads," is also where you can buy tickets to the shows. See the cats in purr-son on July 25-29 at the Boxcar Theatre Studios, 125 Hyde (at Golden Gate), S.F. Admission is $15-$20.