“I’ll be delivering the longest soliloquy from any Shakespeare play,” Mr. de Rogatis explained about the substitution of Richard III’s celebrated opening line for a speech from Henry VI, Part 3 that comes 25 minutes in. “It makes total sense. It’s ten times better. It will show a more vulnerable and innocent Richard who perhaps only really loved his father. After his tragic death that sets him into a very unstable place. That soliloquy gives birth to the Richard III we all know. To compare it to Star Wars, that’s the moment Anakin becomes Darth Vader.”
“I’m not like other actors. I don’t have headshots and I don’t audition. I control my own destiny,” said the burly, soft-spoken but animated New Jersey native about his unique New York City stage career. He took some years off from acting following becoming burnt out by a lack of career progress. The Kean University graduate who majored in psychology had little formal acting training by choice, developing his talent while onstage. Between his theater turns he sustains himself as a bartender.
Since 2014 he has only appeared in plays that he has produced as he does for Wars of the Roses. Last year he instigated a successful revival of James McLure’s one-act play Lone Star that moved from the East Village to an extended run at an Upper West Side cabaret. Next year he will produce and play a leading role in a revival of a classic American play.
Three years ago, he presented two-one act plays at The Bridge Theatre in midtown. In The Exhibition, he played John Merrick in this alternative take on “The Elephant Man.” In Flowers for Algernon, he was Charlie Gordon, the mentally challenged young man who becomes a genius due to a scientific experiment.
Legendary actor, teacher and director Austin Pendleton was in the audience and being very impressed by de Rogatis’ performances congratulated him after the show. A close professional relationship developed with Mr. Pendleton coaching him for the title role in a well-received Hamlet. de Rogatis told Pendleton that a logical follow-up would be Richard III. It was never a dream role for him and Laurence Oliver’s 1955 film adaptation is the only version he’s seen.
Pendleton was quite enthusiastic about this proposal as he had long wanted to combine portions of the two plays, having appeared twice in Richard III himself. Planning for Wars of the Roses began last year with Pendleton directing and playing Henry VI. “The House of Austin” and The House of Matt” joked de Rogatis about assembling the large cast drawn from the orbit of those they’ve worked separately with.
The 124 Bank Street Theatre was deemed by Pendleton to be the ideal venue due to its logistics and his familiarity with it. He’s directed numerous works there as it’s adjacent to the historic HB Studio where he’s taught acting for many years. His vision includes the absence of scenery and traditional modern wear costumes that are created by former Project Runway contestant and fashion designer Maya Luz.
Referred to as “a lump of foul deformity” due to his hunchback, Richard III’s handicap is a grand challenge for the actor portraying him and a benchmark for judging the performance. De Rogatis is working out a series of flawed physical characteristics as rehearsals intensify.
‘A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!’ will be in it!” confirmed de Rogatis before the conclusion of our lunch-time interview at a Greenwich Village Italian restaurant as he headed off to a rehearsal nearby.
Wars of the Roses: Henry VI & Richard III (August 1 – 19th, 2018)
The 124 Bank Street Theatre, 124 Bank Street, in Manhattan
For tickets and information, visit http://www.proveavillain.com