Lone Star: Interview with Actor Matt de Rogatis

Lone Star
The cast of "Lone Star." Photos courtesy of Chris Loupos, used with permission.

“Lone Star” is a play that is funny, powerful, and timeless. Written in the 1970s, the show was revived in 2017 to critical acclaim. Now, in the Summer of 2019, the play is being revived once again at the 13th Street Repertory Theatre in NYC and will feature an all-female band called The Chalks

“Lone Star” takes place in a rowdy Texas bar during the early 1970s. As the music plays, a Vietnam veteran named Roy bonds with his brother, Ray, over memories and musings towards the future…which is not so easy for Roy to decipher since he is coping with PTSD that is not well-known or understood during the time period in which he exists.

Recently, actor Matt de Rogatis discussed his experiences depicting the character of Roy in “Lone Star” via an exclusive interview.

Lone Star
Actor Matt de Rogatis plays the role of Roy in “Lone Star.”
Photo courtesy of Chris Loupos, used with permission.

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get involved with “Lone Star” and what most intrigued you about the character that you portray?

Matt de Rogatis (MdR): I have a habit of finding my own projects these days and working on them with a team of artists, creators, other producers and non-profits. “Lone Star” was my project in the Spring of 2010 in New York City, for a very limited run. Then two years ago we re-booted the production with a different cast member as “Cletis” and performed it throughout 2017 at various venues, most notably The Triad in NYC. Reviews were great and now we are back for a return engagement at the 13th Street Repertory Theater. This time we are back to our original 2010 cast with Mike Villastrigo as “Cletis.” I play Roy, a returning home Vietnam Vet suffering from PTSD. He’s a great character to delve into. With my background in psychology, I’m always approaching the roles I portray from a psychological point of view. This has proved to be an exciting and daunting challenge.

MM: How did you prepare for the role and how, if at all, did the music help inspire you?

MdR: Preparing to play Roy has been great fun. As a professional wrestling fan there’s definitely an air of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin that I bring to the character. He was an inspiration for my creation for sure.

I’ve read some great memoirs on Vietnam and have watched many movies and documentaries on the topic. I am also spending time learning more about Texas including perfecting my Texas accent. I’m doing whatever I can do to keep fleshing this man out so that he is as a real and authentic as possible. I’m even doing subtle things, like drinking Lone Star Beer and eating Vietnamese food.

Certainly, listening to music of the time period has aided in the process. I like to imagine the kind of music”Roy would’ve listened to in Vietnam during downtime with his platoon or the music he listens to when he’s at Angel’s Bar, where “Lone Star” takes place. In the script, his brother Ray, performed by Chris Loupos, talks about the jukebox inside the bar and how it plays all of “Roy’s” favorites … A5 “You’re Cheatin’ Heart,” B6 “Return to Sender,” C8 “Get Off of My Cloud.” That gives me lots of insight into the kind of music he likes.

Lone Star
The Chalks play live music during the production of “Lone Star.”
Photo courtesy of Ben Strothmann, used with permission.

MM: What were the challenges of staging the piece and getting it ready for production?

MdR:  Knock on wood. There haven’t been many challenges in staging our current production. The stage at the Triad was small and even though we had a great time at that venue, our set design was limited.  At the 13th Street Repertory Theater, we perform on a larger stage and our brilliant director, Joe Battista, added many more elements to this production.

The “Lone Star” Joe is staging now will be preceded by live music from Broadway’s Leenya Rideout and her fictional Oklahoma based female band, The Chalks. Replete with original music, drinking games, projections, and our terrific team, this production is going to be very exciting. There is a wonderful a collective atmosphere with the same goal in mind– “Let’s top our 2017 run.” I think we will, triumphantly. It’s great fun.

MM: What is it about this play that you think will most intrigue audiences and make them remember it?

MdR: I tell people this all the time, and it is probably sacrilege but, in my opinion, Roy, is a better, more developed character than Stanley Kowalski. But the problem is, “A Streetcar Named Desire” is much more well-known than “Lone Star.” Even though this show was written in the 70’s, we feel we are going to expose New York audiences to a show and three characters that they very likely have never seen before. “Lone Star” is a great play with many wonderful dramatic and comedic elements to it.

In our production of “Lone Star,” real things are happening to real people. I believe that’s why our run in 2017 was so successful. We did away with that whole “yee haw, ride ’em Cowboy!” trap that you can fall into with this show and focused on what is happening to these individuals on one certain night. I think that’s what people will relate to. I remember one night after one of our Triad performances my Dad came up to me after the show, still laughing, and said, “Yup, this is what happens to people.” So, yea, it’s Texas, but the circumstances are universal.

MM: This show focuses on a Vietnam veteran who reconnects with his brother after witnessing the horrors of war, so how parallel is that to our own times and the endless war in the Middle East?

MdR: Well, for sure the show has many elements of Vietnam and PTSD, which, actually, wasn’t totally identified when this show was written. So yes, there are those parallels to the war in the middle east and war in general.  There are also many ways someone might suffer from PTSD and war is just one of them. Roy happens to be having this experience as a result of war but I’ll keep going back to what I just said. This is not a show about Texas or a show about Vietnam. This is a show about life and deciding to pick yourself up and make your situation better. Whether it’s PTSD from war or depression, loss or alcoholism, we are all suffering in some way. Some people are unable to work through those issues. However, in “Lone Star,” Roy becomes fortunate enough to be able to say “ok, enough is enough, it’s time to get my life back together.”

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Leenya Rideout. Photo courtesy of Carol Rosegg, used with permission.

 MM: What other theatrical projects are you working on later in 2019?

MdR:  I have some exciting projects lined up after this but right now I’m only focused on making Roy and “Lone Star” as great as possible.

MM: Is there anything in addition that you would like to mention or talk about?

MdR: James McLure wrote this play and these wonderful characters and a group of hardworking creative types are going to bring it all to life. But that’s not until June 6th. In the meantime, I urge everyone to visit lonestarplay.com and poke around. You can see everyone involved in this production both on and off the stage. You can learn more about our musical act, The Chalks. You can read features and interviews and reviews from our 2017 production as well as the current run. And most importantly, YOU CAN BUY TICKETS! If you use the discount code: THUNDERBIRD you can save a few bucks.

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“Lone Star” is presented by Ruth Stage and the 13th Street Repertory Theater. Tickets are $20. For tickets and further information visit the show’s website at www.lonestarplay.com