BWW Interview: NJ Native Matt de Rogatis Stars in LONE STAR at 13th Street Repertory Theater in NYC
Ruth Stage will present Lone Star by James McLure for eight performances from June 6 to June 16 at the 13th Street Repertory Theater in New York City.
Broadwayworld.com interviewed New Jersey native, Matt de Rogatis who stars as Roy in the production.
James McLure's iconic story takes place in the cluttered backyard of a small-town Texas bar in 1972. Roy, a brawny, macho type who had once been a local high-school hero, is back in town after a hitch in Vietnam and realizes that about all he has left are memories of his glory days, his adoring younger brother Ray, his wife Elizabeth and his now-crumbling 1959 pink Thunderbird.
de Rogatis most recently appeared as Richard III in Austin Pendleton's Shakespearean mashup of King Henry VI Part III and Richard III entitled Wars of the Roses: Henry VI & Richard III. Some previous Off Broadway and New York credits include Roy in Lone Star, the title role inHamlet, The Elephant Man in The Exhibition, Charlie Gordon in Flowers for Algernon, Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, Ken in Red, revived and uniquely staged at the Jim Kempner Fine Art Gallery, and Frederick Clegg in the United States Premiere of The Collector at 59E59 Theaters.
We know you are New Jersey born and bred. What have been some of your theatrical experiences in the Garden State?
Yes. I've lived at the Jersey Shore for most of my life and my acting career got started in Freehold, New Jersey at The Center Playhouse. That small theater will always be a special place for me as the first few shows I ever did were all in that venue, produced by various organizations. The very first show I ever did was The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie. I played Detective Sergeant Trotter. After that I played Tom in The Glass Menagerie, followed by some leading roles in Arsenic and Old Lace and Dracula. All four of these productions, albeit community theater, were some of the strongest shows I'd ever been a part of. My mentor, the late Bob Lamb, directed them all.
Who has inspired or supported your theatrical career?
Many people have inspired and supported my career. However, Bob Lamb has been the most influential. As a kid, acting was something I always knew I wanted to do, but I didn't have the guts to start pursuing it until my mid 20's. I went to an audition one summer evening for The Mousetrap and was asked to attend a callback. Bob Lamb was one of the directors on the project. He offered me the role of Sergeant Trotter and I learned so much from him, not only in that production, but also in the many years that followed. He passed away very recently but his memory will forever live on. He has always been my biggest supporter and has done so much to help me with my career, not only as a director but also as a co-star on the stage with me, and later as a producer. I was blessed to have his friendship and his mentorship and if I can keep climbing the ranks, my hope is that one day I can tell the world about this unique friendship and how he selflessly gave so much to help me in the pursuit of my life's passion. His knowledge was invaluable and far more beneficial than anything I could've ever learned in an over crowded New York City class.
Tell us a little about your recent work with Austin Pendelton in his recent Shakespearean mash-up.
More recently, Austin Pendleton is certainly someone that has helped my career. What a joy it is to work with him not only artistically but he's also a really sweet man and a legend. I was so fortunate to be able to be a part of Wars of the Roses: Henry VI & Richard III; the mashup you refer to. Austin and I had been talking about doing a show together for years and we finally got together last summer and made it happen. The concept was to combine large parts of Henry VI Part III with parts of Richard III to create, essentially, a new play by Shakespeare. The modus operandi of that production was to show how Richard III ascended into madness and became the evil tyrant he is most known for in Shakespeare lure. He wasn't always evil, as witnessed in Henry VI, III. I played Richard III and so it was a lot of fun to Take That journey every night, starting more innocent and evolving into a monster. The show was a great success and we had another, shorter run, in December, which, in my opinion was even more impressive than our summer run. The show still has legs and we are working on yet another, more extended run, likely in 2020. This was all due in part to our wonderful press agent, Glenna Freedman, who was instrumental in giving that show tremendous exposure and the attention that it deserved. As I said, we'll be back. New York City hasn't heard the last of Wars of the Roses.
Your production of Lone Star has appeared on several NYC stages. What makes the upcoming production different?
Of course I'm going to say this but, the truth is, I really mean it: This is going to be the best run of Lone Star yet for so many reasons. I think the biggest reason this is going to be such an exciting show is because of the vibe we are crafting for the play. Lone Star, by James McLure, is typically paired with its sister show, Laundry and Bourbon. We are mixing things up a bit though and adding live music instead. We did it in 2017 at The Triad during our last run but we are going much further with the concept this time. Lone Star takes place outside of Angel's Bar on a summer night in 1972. However, this time we are letting everyone in on what's happening inside the bar on this same night. In creating an immersive experience with our audience, we are implementing an actual bar room setting with live music and competitive drinking contests. Patrons should feel as though they are inside an actual bar. Our attending barkeeps and wait staff will serve food and drinks prior to intermission, wherein, following a change of set, the audience's orientation shifts to the back of Angel's Bar. This will be a unique manipulation, an original concept, both in design and in execution. Fun for all!
Can you give us some insight into your character of Roy in Lone Star?
I love playing Roy and it's the reason I keep coming back to him. He's so well written and so layered and such a wonderful character to play. At the start of the show we learn that Roy is a returning home Vietnam Vet struggling with PTSD. He's turned to alcohol and junk food and he just can't seem to get his life together after what he experienced in war. Every night, for two years, he goes out back behind Angel's bar and gets trashed and talks about the past he's still so attached to. On this particular night though, events happen between him and his brother Ray, as well as Cletis, the son of the local hardware store owner, that makes Roy realize it's time to move forward and let go of the past. It's superb storytelling.
We'd love to know a little about the team that is making Lone Star happen again.
If you go to http://www.lonestarplay.com/ (designed by Lou Gutowski Jr of BrandMark), you can learn more about everyone involved in a more in depth manner. Our director Joe John Battista is really doing a wonderful job at creating this unique night of theater. He's got such an interesting eye and adds so much to the creative process. Chris Loupos is back to play Ray, and aside from being a very skilled actor, he's a leading celebrity photographer. Mike Villastrigo plays our psychopathic Cletis and his 20-minute scene with Ray is worth the price of admission. The all-female band, The Chalks, performs our live music. Broadway's Leenya Rideout is one of the musicians along with Mary Brienza and Kathryn Markey. They are a fictional Oklahoma based band and have been playing all over New York City for more than a decade. They've also been featured on Comedy Central and are just a really fun group of ladies. They are going to be such an important element to the evening. Tony del Bono and John Constantine are featured and Allison Hohman, Kerrielle Sollecito, Roslyn McKay and Wendy Tonken also deserve mention for their tremendous behind the scenes work.
Can you share any of your future plans?
Ah yes, some very exciting things coming up after Lone Star but I'm sworn to secrecy at the moment. What I will say is, "I have tricks in my pocket."
In the meantime, I hope everyone gets a chance to see Lone Star at the 13th Street Repertory Theater in NYC from June 6th through June 16th. We are a limited engagement for eight performances only.
Lone Star will be performed at the 13th Street Repertory Theater at 50 West 13th Street in New York City from June 6th to June 16th. The performance schedule is Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 3pm. Visit the Lone Star web site at http://www.lonestarplay.com/ and on Facebook @lonestarplay
Photo Credit: Chris Loupos