Friday, November 4, 2011

The Surprising Andrew Rogalny, Jr. on SIRENS, Italian and Long Island

In my continuing series of interviews with the players in Heartland Theatre's SIRENS, I now present Andrew Rogalny, Jr., a sophomore at ISU, who plays a character called Richard Miller in SIRENS. He is a blast from Rose's past and something of a surprise. Andrew himself is also something of a surprise, since he showed up at rehearsal, jumped right in and took the role by the horns. He is turning in a vivid, polished performance that seems anything but sophomoric.

Andrew, you are currently a sophomore at Illinois State University, right? (Are you, indeed, 20, just like the line in the play about your character?)

Not 20 yet. It’s true that I am a sophomore, but my birthday isn’t for another few months.

(Note: This makes him 19 and me aghast. He is really a very mature actor for 19.)

What is your exact major? Are you looking ahead towards a career as an actor or in some other area of theater? Or something completely different?

Right now, I’m a double major in Political Science and Theatre with an emphasis on acting. We’ll see what happens. I worry often enough, although I try not to. But ideally, yes, I would like to be a professional actor one day.

When did you know you wanted to be an actor?

Well, for the longest time, I wanted to study law enforcement but I’ve loved the theatre for as far back as I can remember. There was a point when I realized that I wasn’t threatening enough to be a police officer and actually, desperately longed to be a better actor.

(Note: I can't imagine Andrew as a cop. I can sort of imagine him as a lawyer -- he reminds me a bit of a younger version of actor Victor Garber, who has played a lawyer often enough. But my most vivid memory of young Victor Garber is with a 'fro in "Godspell" and Andrew doesn't seem like the Hippie Jesus type, either. He's more Clark Kent. I guess that means, if he's not an actor, he should be a reporter. Or a superhero. Okay, I will let you draw your own conclusions and take you back to your regularly scheduled interview.)

What brought you to ISU?

I was at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival during my sophomore year of high school, and we all came here to ISU. I got such a great energy here, I knew I’d have to come back. So I did.

I saw you as Antonio, the merchant in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, a few weeks ago, at ISU’s Westhoff Theater. What are the most memorable roles on your acting resume thus far?

Wow, yeah, it’s hard for me to believe how recent that was. That show, along with THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, were my favorites probably because of what I’ve learned and taken from them. I did a lot of performances before college, but here I’ve been experimenting, and I’m very content with what I’ve been doing.

Is there a role or a play you’d really love to do someday?

In thinking of future roles that I’d love to tackle one day, I honestly have too many. I’d like to do something with a little more grit. That’s an opportunity that I haven’t been given much yet, and I’d like to open myself up to something like that.

I recall you have also done dramaturgy. Did you enjoy that off-stage/back-stage role?

I have done dramaturgy work, but only for MERCHANT. It was fun. I usually put in the same effort to research any show I’m working on. I’m not sure I’d do it again; I’d rather tell the story from on-stage.

Richard Miller, the would-be Lothario in SIRENS, is your first role with Heartland Theatre. How are you finding this kind of theater as opposed to the university theater experience or other shows you’ve done elsewhere?

Yes, it is my first role here. I’m having a terrific time and the atmosphere is truly wonderful, and I’ve gotten the great opportunity to work with a great group of people that I’ve grown to respect and enjoy. Something else that I like about Heartland is the space -- I like smaller venues like this, it makes it very effortless to be honest with the text.

Richard Miller strikes me as a difficult role because he seems to be one thing, but may actually be another. He’s kind of hard to figure out in some ways, and I’m pretty sure he’s different from what else you’ve done. What do you think? Has the part been a challenge for you?

I’m not sure if I would call the whole role a challenge. There have been small complications in playing Richard, but it doesn’t take all too much time with the script to realize why he’s here. I enjoy the role that he plays. He’s been written to serve the needs of Rose’s character, so I do my best to accommodate what I think her character needs in a guy like him. It’s a fun part though, really, and for anyone who sees the show, there will be no question why I’m having such a blast.

You’re doing very well with the Italian lines and phrases in the script. Do you have a vocal or singing background or some other reason that you’ve run into a little Italian before?

I’m not vocally trained, actually. My whole understanding of this beautiful language is mostly based on music that I’ve heard or my excessive watching of HBO. You could say that I just speak Paulie Walnuts-ian.

Connie de Veer, the actor you share the most time with on stage in SIRENS, is also your teacher. How has that worked out? Is it daunting at all?

It’s been great, actually. No matter what the circumstances are, it’s always great to work with someone so talented. However, I do try to get past the fact that she’s a professor, for a number of reasons, many of which would be obvious to audience members. It’s been hilarious.

This question is only going to make sense to people who have seen the play, but… Have you ever been to Long Island?

Ha! Unfortunately, I haven’t. But if anyone would like to join me…

Anything else you would like to say about yourself or the SIRENS experience? Are you asking any of your fellow students to come and see you?

I’ve told everyone I know to come, hopefully most of them will. I just adore this little play, I think it will really hit home for a lot of different kinds of people. I personally find it all so incredibly familiar and fun. It will be something that people won’t want to miss.

Andrew is a quite excellent in the role of Richard Miller in SIRENS and a great addition to the Heartland Theatre family. I'm hoping he will come back and do more roles at Heartland in the future. But in the meantime, everybody should come out and enjoy his performance in SIRENS. He's awesome!

SIRENS continues at Heartland Theatre tonight through Sunday, with performances scheduled through November 20th. To read more about the play, click here, or if you are ready to make reservations, you can click here. See you at SIRENS!

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